Some Meanings of Communicative Competence for Second Language Students

Mary E McGroarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This article discusses three distinct groups of ESL users and considers some of the language skills which the speakers in these groups need in order to participate effectively in their particular situations. A review of data from observational and correlational studies and from needs analyses conducted by curriculum designers suggests that the communicative skills which need to be taught to second language students preparing for, or already in, these situations vary considerably. Occupational students of ESL, for example, need various types of listening comprehension and conversational skills, while university teaching assistants need to produce phonologically acceptable and fluent connected discourse in order to be rated as successful. Students in elementary and secondary schools need more diverse language skills, some related to literacy, in order to make normal progress in school. Of particular importance in the school setting is mastery and use of context‐reduced language, a text‐related type of language observed principally in formal school contexts. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the language skills which elementary and secondary students need can vary developmentally as well as contextually. Thus, communicative competence, as a concept, can mean different things for different groups of students; program planners, administrators, and teachers will be able to provide better instruction only after considering the specific communicative needs of specific learners in terms of the specific purposes for which the language is to be used. 1984 TESOL International Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-272
Number of pages16
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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