ELF 5 Part 6 – Jagdish Kaur on Reconceptualising Competence

I came to this session partly because I had read papers by the speaker Jagdish Kaur for my dissertation and found them relevant and interesting, and was curious to see her in person, and to hear more.

What surprised me was the fact that she was the same person that was seated beside me during the opening plenary, and suddenly I felt rude for not having said hello.

Here is her very interesting and well-presented talk.

 Reconceptualising Competence – Lessons from English as a Lingua Franca

What is competence?

Taylor calls competence a controversial and confusing term (1988), Widdowson says it’s a fussy concept (1989).

Is it just knowledge (as in Chomsky)? Or is it about the ability to use knowledge?

Confusion arises when a term intended to refer to a state is now exnded to include a process, when a term intended to refer to something absolute now includes relative dimension (Taylor, 1988)

Chomsy’s Competence

  • Knowledge of language, a mental state, characterized in the form of rules of grammar (linguistic knowledge)
  • Concerned with idealization – ‘the ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogenous speech community, who knows its language perfectly’. Chomsky (1965)

Hymes’ Communicative Competence

  • Considers various aspects of language use which may be systematically accounted for by rules;
  • Includes the knowledge of how to use language appropriately;
  • Introduces a social element rather than a merely cognitive or individual one;
  • Does not merely expand the conception of competence but rather changes it as his notion of communicative competence conveys something quite different from what Chomsky intended.

Communicative Competence of the second language speaker

Researchers concerned with the competence of the L2 speaker have reconceptualised the idea further to suit the context.

Necessary given the  multilingual reality of the today’s world in which individuals are increasingly becoming ‘users of multiple linguistics resources and (as) members of multiples communities of practice (Pavlenko)

Cook talks about multiple competencies.

We can’t just talk about the knowledge of linguistic forms, but a

Kim (1991) introduces intercultural communicative competence = an additional level of metacompetence involving explicit awareness of differential usages and ability to adapt communicative strategies to a variety of cultural situations.

Researchers working with post-structuralist ideas and sociocultural perspectives in language learning and use view competences as resulting from actual use of the language, rather than the contrary. It is by doing through engagement with others that competence is co-created in interaction.

Competences as socially constructed and the L2 Speakers’ competence as active and dynamic rather than static.

Evidence From ELF

 

  • Empirical research into ELF points to a form of intercultural communication that is both effective and efficient.
  • Participants accommodate to the communicative behaviour of their interlocutors to increase the intelligibility of their communication and to signal cooperation and affiliation (Cogo, 2009)
  • Low incidence of misunderstanding observed in ELF spoken attributed to the widespread use of repetition, reformulation, comprehension checks, confirmation and clarification requests as well as explanation and clarifications (Mauranen, 2006; Watt, 2008, Pitzl 2005)
  • Use of explicitness strategies like self-rephrasing, topic negotiation and discourse reflexivity to enhance explicitness of expressions (Mauranen, 2007, 2010)
  • Use of self-repair practices that reduce ambiguity and vagueness and emphasize explicitness and clarity can result in utterances that are perhaps more intelligible which may in turn contribute to increased comprehensibility (Kaur, 2011)
  • Immediate or fairly immediate repetition of a segment in an ongoing turn seem to contribute towards increasing the clarity of expression and the effectiveness of communication (Kaur, forthcoming)

Thus, as a conclusion:

 

  • Repeating a repaired segment of talk addresses any impairment to the clarity of the utterance caused by the repair move itself.
  • Widdowson (1989) in his conception of ‘communicative competence’ talks of ‘adjustments’ and ‘adaptations’ made to suit the contextual demands of the communicative situation.
  • The extracts reflect the speaker’s awareness of the precarious nature of the communicative situation and the need for greater communicative clarity.
  • Speakers display a ‘lingua franca communicative competence – cognizance of the diversity inherent in the lingua franca situation and the accompanying skills to manage this diversity actively and efficiently.
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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

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