Testing Communicative Competence Essay

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Testing Communicative Competence S. Kathleen, Kitao Doshisha Women's College (Kyoto, Japan) s.kitao [at] lancaster.ac.uk Kenji Kitao, Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) k.kitao [at] lancaster.ac.uk Testing language has traditionally taken the form of testing knowledge about language, usually the testing of knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. However, there is much more to being able to use language than knowledge about it. Dell Hymes proposed the concept of communicative competence. He argued that a speaker can be able to produce grammatical sentences that are completely inappropriate. In communicative competence, he included not only the ability to form correct sentences but to use them at appropriate times. Since Hymes proposed the idea in the early 1970s, it has been expanded considerably, and various types of competencies have been proposed. However, the basic idea of communicative competence remains the ability to use language appropriately, both receptively and productively, in real situations. The Communicative Approach to Testing What Communicative Language Tests Measure Communicative language tests are intended to be a measure of how the testees are able to use language in real life situations. In testing productive skills, emphasis is placed on appropriateness rather than on ability to form grammatically correct sentences. In testing receptive skills, emphasis is placed on understanding the communicative intent of the speaker or writer rather than on picking out specific details. And, in fact, the two are often combined in communicative testing, so that the testee must both comprehend and respond in real time. In real life, the different skills are not often used entirely in isolation. Students in a class may listen to a lecture, but they later need to use information from the lecture in a paper. In taking part in a group discussion, they need to

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