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Rate An article discussing functional approaches to teaching English. Methods and approaches such as Grammar TranslationAudiolingualism and Situational Language teaching are based on the presentation and practice of grammatical structures and, essentially, a grammar-based syllabus.
Inthe British linguist D.
Wilkins published a document that proposed a radical shift away from using the traditional concepts of grammar and vocabulary to describe language to an analysis of the communicative meanings that learners would need in order to express themselves and to understand effectively. This initial document was followed by his work Notional Syllabuses, which showed how language could be categorized on the basis of notions such as quantity, location and time, and functions such as making requests, making offers and apologizing.
At the end of the s, the first course-books to be based on functional syllabuses began to appear. Typically, they would be organized on the basis of individual functions and the exponents needed to express these functions.
These would often be practised in the form of communicative exercises involving pair work, group work and role plays. It is interesting to compare this approach with a grammatical syllabus. The need to apply a grammatical name or category to the structure is not considered important within the framework of a purely functional syllabus.
Criticisms of functional approaches include the difficulty in deciding the order in which different functions should be presented. Is it more important to be able to complain or to apologize, for example?
In addition, although it is possible to identify hundreds of functions and micro-functions, there are probably no more than ten fundamental communicative functions that are expressed by a range of widely used exponents.
There is also the apparently random nature of the language used, which may frustrate learners used to the more analytical and "building-block" approach that a grammatical syllabus can offer.
Another apparent weakness is the question of what to do at higher levels. Is it simply a case of learning more complex exponents for basic functions or is one required to seek out ever more obscure functions complaining sarcastically, for example? On the positive side, however, there is little doubt that functional approaches have contributed a great deal to the overall store of language teaching methodology.
Most new course-books contain some kind of functional syllabus alongside a focus on grammar and vocabulary, thus providing learners with communicatively useful expressions in tandem with a structured syllabus with a clear sense of progression.
In addition, the focus on communication inherent in the practice of functional exponents has contributed greatly to communicative language teaching in general.
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Write clearly and coherently, including an appropriate level of detail. An article discussing functional approaches to teaching English.