Second Language Learning More Essential Recently English Language Essay

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The second language learning has been becoming more and more essential in recent years. The different models of second language proficiency offer the guidelines for both instructors as well as students. Various frameworks present the different aspect competences of language. They are not focus on the language itself such as grammar but also how to use the language appropriately in different situation. The first part of this essay will review and summarize three models of second language competence:

Canale & Swain (1980), Canale (1983);

Bachman (1990), Bachman & Palmer (1996)

Chapell, Grabe & Berns (1997).

The second part of paper will compare and contrast the differences as well as similarities of these three models. Although the three models have stated the various aspect of language application but they have the different concentration point of the second language proficiency.

The independent model has own strengthens as well as weakness for language teaching, learning and testing. Thus, the final part of this essay will conclude the synthesis of the models. In other words, how these different models are combine each other to present the second language proficiency fully and completely, which can supply the all-rounded instructions for second language communication.

Canale and Swain (1980), Canale (198))

Canale (1983, P5) has stated that communicative competence was understood as the underlying systems of knowledge and skill required for communication (e.g knowledge of vocabulary and skill in using the sociolinguistic conventions for a given language). Those outlined principles are considered as a set of guidelines in terms of which communicative approaches to second language teaching methodologies and assessment standards. This theoretical analysis is useful to establish a clear statement of the content and boundaries of communicative competence. Efficient and effective second language teaching is fundamentally based on above theoretical methods and leads more valid and reliable assessment of second language communication skills.

The theoretical model for communicative competence stated by Canale and Swain (1980) includes three areas: grammar competence, sociolinguistic competence and strategic competence (as cited Canale and Swain (1980)).

Grammatical competence.

This type of competence is related to accuracy and very crucial for second language learning and communication. Grammar competence Canale (1983, P7) claimed that grammatical competence remains concerned with mastery of the language code (verbal and non-verbal) itself and it has included features and rules of language such as vocabulary, word formation, sentence formation, pronunciation, spelling and linguistic semantics.

Sociolinguistic competence

Canale argue that Canale and Swain (1980) have mentioned that this component included both socialcultural rules of use and rules of discourse (as cited Canale and Swain (1980). Canale (1983, P7) has stated that sociolinguistic competence thus address the extent to which utterances are produced and understood appropriately in different sociolinguistic contexts depending on contextual factors such as status of participants, purpose of interaction, and norms or conventions of interactions. In other words, this kind of competence required the appropriate expression in social linguistic context.

Strategic competence

Canale (1983, P11) refers to this type of component is composed of mastery of verbal and non-verbal communications strategies that may be called into action for two main reasons: (a) to compensate for breakdowns in communication (e.g momentary inability to recall an idea of grammatical form) or to insufficient competence in one or more of other areas of communicative competence; and (b) to enhance the effectiveness of communication (e.g deliberately slow and soft speech for rhetorical effect). Strategic components also play a key role in second language leaning especially in the beginning phase.

Discourse competence

In 1983 Canale updated this model by subdividing sociolinguistic competence, which still relates to sociocultural rules, but he introduced a further competence, that of discourse. Discourse competence concerns mastery of cohesion and coherence in different genres. (Canale (1983, P59)

Canale (1983, P5) has referred to this type of communication competence concerns mastery of how to combine grammatical forms and meanings to achieve a unified spoken or written text in different genre. Canale (1983, P5) also has stated that genre is types of text: for instance, oral and written narrative, an argumentative easy, a scientific report, a business letter, and a set of instructions each represent a different genre.

According to the model stated by Canale and Swain, language knowledge should one of essential part of the communication ability. Although the grammar is important, it is meaningless when the communicator use the second language inappropriately in various situations.

Bachman (1990), Benchman & Plalmer (1996)

Bachman's framework (1990) was an extension of earlier models "in that it attempts to characterize the processes by which the various components interact with each other and with the context in which language use occurs" (Bachman 1990:81). The framework included three components: language competence, strategic competence and psychophysiological mechanisms. This framework is based on the performance on language testes affected by various sections and consideration of those all factors. They are all important to determine how those factors affecting test scores and the use of the language tests.

Bachman (1990) has referred that Language competence comprises two further competences, organizational competence and pragmatic competence, each of which he further breaks down, with organizational competence covering grammatical and textual competence, and pragmatic competence, covering illocutionary and sociolinguistic competence. In Chapelle, Grabe and Berns (1997, P87) have stated that organizational competence comprise those abilities involved in controlling the formal structure of language for producing or recognizing grammatically correct sentences, comprehending their propositional content, and ordering them to form texts. They also have stated that pragmatic competence refers to the ability discussed thus far pertain to organization of the linguistic signals that are used in communication, and how these signals are used to refers to persons, objects, ideas, and feelings. That is, they concern the relationship among signs and their referents.

Bachman (1990, P67) has defined that language ability as involving two components: language competence, or what we called language knowledge, and strategic competence. The areas of language knowledge are showed as follows:

Figure: Areas of Language Knowledge

Organization knowledge

(How utterance or sentences and text are organized)

Grammatical knowledge

(How individual utterance of sentences are organized)

Knowledge of vocabulary

Knowledge of syntax

Knowledge of phonology / graphology

Textual knowledge

(How utterance of sentences are organized to form text)

Knowledge of cohesion

Knowledge of rhetorical or conversational organization

Pragmatic knowledge

(How utterances or sentences and texts are related to the communication goals of the language user and to the features of the language using setting)

Functional knowledge

(How utterance or sentences and texts are related to the communicative goals of language users)

Knowledge of identical function

Knowledge of manipulative function

Knowledge of heuristic function

Knowledge of imaginative function

Sociolinguistic knowledge

(How utterance or sentences and texts are related to features of the language use setting)

Knowledge of dialects

Knowledge of registers

Knowledge of natural or idiomatic expression

Knowledge of cultural references and figures of speech Bachman (1990, P70) conceived of strategic competence as a set of metacognitive components, or strategies, which can be thought of as higher order executive processes that provide a cognitive activities. He also has identify three general areas in which metacognitive components operate: goal-setting, assessment, and planning

Figure: Areas of Metacognitive Strategy Use

Goal setting

(Deciding what one is going to do)

Identifying the test tasks

Choosing one or more tasks form a set of possible tasks (sometime by default, make sure only one task is understandable)

Deciding whether or not to attempt to complete the tasks selected


(Taking stock of what is needed, what one has to work with, and how well one has done)

Assessing the characteristics of the test task to determine the desirability and feasibility of successfully completing it and what is needed to complete it

Assessing our own knowledge (topical, language) components to see if relevant area of knowledge are available for successfully completing the text task


(Deciding how to use what one has)

Selecting elements from the areas of topical knowledge and language knowledge form successfully completing the text task

Formulating one or more plans for implementing these elements in a response to the test and task

Selecting one plan for initial implementation as response to the test task

Chapelle, Grabe and Berns (1997)

Chapelle, Grabe and Berns (1997, P6) have stated the COE models which specifies all language processing is initiated in some way by the context. The following figure shows working model of communication language use in an academic context. According to their statement, the term context refers to the environment of a text. Both concrete and abstract aspects of context are relevant to communicative competence. Concrete aspects of context include the physical setting, the specific places where communication occurs, and those observable features that represent a "concrete" sense of context. Abstract aspects of context refers to such features as the status and roles of the participants (e.g: instructors and students), knowledge that the participants share, the verbal and nonverbal actions of the participants (e.g. a certain step being taken in an experiment, clearer understanding), and the effects of the verbal actions, or the changes they bring about as a result of a participant having said a particular thing (e.g, a certain step being taken in an experiment, clearer understanding as a result of an instructor's answer to a student's question. )

Another important component of COE models stated by Chapelle, Grabe and Berns (1997, P10) are internal operations, which refers to the processing that goes on in the mind during communication language use. As the following chart showed the internal process of the individual, is set within some internal space (referred to as "verbal working memory") that includes internal goal setting, verbal processing and internal processing output.

Working Model of Communicative Language

Use in Academic Context








-act sequence

-norms of interaction & interpretation












metacognitive processing

on-line processing




-linguistic KNOWLAGE



Compare and contrast three models of second language proficiency

As mentioned above, Canale (1983, P7) has stated that there are four component of communicative competence which is including grammatical competences, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence. These theories were popular in 1980s. However, as the development of theory and language, compared with model of Bachman& Palmer (1996), there are some weaknesses of the model of Canale and Swan (1983). For example, Canale and swain did not state clearly the relationship among these four elements, which is not beneficial for learning and instructors. In other words, Canale and Swan consider English as combination of different part without any connection among them.

As the development of language research, Bachman and Palmer stated different opinion and model of Canale and Swan, they believe communicative language ability combine the usage of language itself with specific context. In addition, the components of language competences (language knowledge and strategic competence) stated by Bachman and Palmer should not consider independently. Instead, this model is more concentrating on dynamic process of language. Compared with the model with Canale and Swain, the model Bachman and Palmer have discussing the inner relationship between second language learning and importance of second language testing. The elements in language knowledge (organizational knowledge, grammatical knowledge, textual knowledge, pragmatic knowledge, function knowledge as well as sociolinguistic knowledge) they mentioned are instructive for assessment of numerous language tests such as IELTS. On other hand, people can not ignore the contribution of the model Canale and Swain, because they lay a solid foundation of Bachman and Palmer's description of a more specific model.

Comparing with model of Canale and Swain as well as Bachman & Plamer, the COE Model discussed by Chapelle, Grabe and Berns are more specific in the setting of second language contest. In other words, the COE Model suggests that test development should begin by examining the nature of the academic context in which the language ability of interest is used. COE model itself is not a definition of the specific language abilities used in academic context, instead, it provide a way of hypothesizing what those ability may be for a specific context of interest. (Chapelle, Grabe and Berns 1997, P21) The application of language knowledge would be specified in particular setting in COE Model, which is not considered in both model of Canale and Swain as well as Bachman & Plamer. There is no doubt that COE Model follow directly from model previously mentioned.

Additionally, the general areas of second language competences of these models are similar but as the focus on context, the language knowledge is specified on how to apply them in language communication setting. Such as sociolinguistic competences in COE Model separate into two elements: language function and language variation. Functions include, for example, knowledge of language for greeting, convincing, apologizing, criticizing and complaining. In any given setting, the language user will need to know some combination of functions to participate. Knowledge of language variation consists of knowledge of dialect diversity of naturalness, of cultural reference and of figures of speech as well as knowledge of numerous configuration of register variation (Chapelle, Grabe and Berns 1997, P15). The more specific descriptions related to language knowlage would offer more concrete and accurate instructions for test design and development.


The development of second language proficiency is aiming to applied language and language testing. From the analysis points of view above, we can indicate that as the development of theory-based models, the tests have become more focused on their intentions. In Canale and Swain's model, second language proficiency is stated as four independent components. Based on their model, Bachman & Plamer improved model as two interrelated parts (language knowledge and strategic competences) and emphases the relationship and combination of those elements together. In other words, Bachman & Plamer hypothesize Canale and Swain's four competencies in context of language using. As for COE model discussed above, Chapelle, Grabe and Berns also concentrate on relationship competences and setting, although this model specify the setting, which means it show how to apply these competences in particular context.

Taking TOEFL 2000 as an example, the test also exam the candidates' communicative competence in Canale and Swain's model and also follow Bachman & Palmer that associate competence with context. But in COE model, the context is specialized in the TOEFL 2000. Chapelle, Grabe and Berns (1997, P21) have mentioned the context of interest is the academic context and seen as two types: 1) those relating to university life and 2) those of scholarship or the classroom. Test takers use their language knowledge as well as strategic competence through four modules (reading, listening, writing and speaking) in academic context. The specific descriptions of the second language knowledge offer the instructions to IELTS designer.

It is to be concluded that, although those models stated by different people are in various views, they are contributing the applied language development and test constructing. The previous theories or models always lay a foundation for the later or advanced theories or models. Compared with model of Canale and Swain's and Bachman & Plamer, COE supply more sufficient guidelines for second language testing design as well as development.