Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

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Communicative competence


The term communicative competence was coined by Canale and Swain in an influential 1980 paper.  The authors set the ability to understand and produce contextually appropriate language contributions - communicative competence - against Chomsky's more restricted definition of linguistic competence, which refers only to the ability to interpret and judge the accuracy of syntactic constructions.

Communicative competence includes at least three additional types of linguistic ability, including skills such as assessing sociolinguistic appropriateness, maintaining coherent discourse, and adjusting to interactional demands.  Many teachers and researchers believe that this type of expanded communicative competence can best be fostered among learners through communicative language teaching (CLT), using methods which encourage the meaningful use of authentic language.


  1. Read more: On communicative competence
  2. Play: Speaking as communication
  3. Read and reflect: Direct versus indirect methods

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