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Functional Notional Syllabus I would like to ask about the Functional Notional Syllabus but first I can provide you with its definition mentioned by Brown: A notional-functional syllabus is a way of organizing a language-learning curriculum, rather than a method or an approach to teaching. In a notional-functional syllabus, instruction is not organized in terms of grammatical structure, as had often been done with the Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), but instead in terms of "notions" and "functions." In this model, a "notion" is a particular context in which people communicate. A "function" is a specific purpose for a speaker in a given context. For example, the "notion," of shopping requires numerous language "functions," such as asking about prices or features of a product and bargaining. Proponents of the notional-functional syllabus[who?] claimed that it addressed the deficiencies they found in the ALM by helping students develop their ability to effectively communicate in a variety of real-life contexts. Now, my question is: how can we differentiate between the "notions" and the "functions"? I mean for example, can I say that "shopping" is the conceptual idea, andn the functions that can be applied in that context are like "bargining, asking about the features of something.." are the "functions"? or I should say that the notion is "bargining" and the differnt ways in asking about prices are the functions? Many thanks.

The notional / functional approach

The Notional Functional Approach - based on speech act theory which categorizes the social purpose of utterances within given settings
The term "notional syllabus" embraces any strategy of language teaching that derives the content of learning from an initial analysis of the learner's need to express three different kinds of meaning: The three different types of meaning the learner needs to express are: 1. Functional (i.e. the social purpose of the utterance) 2. Modal (the degree of likelihood) 3. Conceptual - the meaning relations expressed by forms within the sentence (categories of communicative function)

Sample question: Is it at all possible to grade a language course purely on notional / functional criteria. How far do any two of the language courses you know which are based on structural grading meet notional / functional demands?
Below are the stuctures that you graded before. What functions can you ascribe to them and in what order would you teach them in a functionally oriented course.

started the questioning of the synthetic approach. Present Simple + ing .Failure to relate form to meaning. Adj/adv . Can . Do you Qs . Pronoun objects . The typical aim is to teach a new linguistic structure. 7. Failure to prioritize vocabulary relevant to learners' communicative needs.possession. Comparison of adverbs . Q-word + do you . habits.1. A. Can read an xyz text at this speed with Y% comprehension. Synthetic language teaching . Have/have got possession/description 14. stating destinations / future reference 5. your name/his name 3. Some questions concerning different designs of language syllabus: Why does language developed through a "grammatical syllabus" fail to measure up to communicative needs? Why are grammatical syllabuses and so-called sitiational syllabuses often unmotivating? e. series of analogous sentences designed to promote inductive learning. which had been a feature of many language syllabuses in the 1960s and early 1970s.some shortcomings 1. likes/dislikes 8.Getting/giving information. Prepositions of place -stating position/destination 4.Describing actions. which also existed during the 1960s? In what way is a Notional / Functional syllabus superior to these? . Possessives . Present Perf . Present Continuous . Is language learning complete when the content of a grammatical syllabus has been mastered i. Present Simple (neg) . paradigms. The kind of criteria used in vocabulary selection needed were questionable. In "Notional Syllabuses" [Oxford 1976].habits/routines/timetables 11. There isn't a one-to-one relationship between form and meaning.e. Methods include explanation of rules.g. The content of synthetic syllabuses is a limitation and ordering of linguistic forms.comparison 13. Wilkins questioned the synthetic approach. D.A highly desirable lexical item may cause grammatical difficulties (How do you do?) 3. Forms are taught because they are there rather than because they are of value to the learner . contextualization in dialogues. jobs.dislikes 10. Lexical & grammatical criteria for selecting and grading language can complement one another or they can conflict .Asking for information: job/hobbies/likes 9.describe manner 12. asking personal information 2. 2.Introductions. Why should this be all the more true in the English-speaking environment? Behavioural not behaviourist: proficiency assessed in degrees of capacity to perform terminal behaviour e.ordering/offering/naming 6.g. Unit 1 The Definite Article.interest in past events / state experiences. after you've covered the subjunctives? Clearly not. Wilkins' "Notional Syllabuses" Ways of structuring courses reflect different underlying approaches to language learning.possibility/request/ability knowledge. To be + noun . What was wrong with the "situational syllabuses".

Can both semantic and structural realizations be indicated in the index of learning units? 3.the realm of the unpredictable. his life's experience . written by Robert O'Neill. 7. What is the advantage of a "notional" syllabus? A notional syllabus takes desired communicative capacity (i. general English) NOT the most effective field of application of the notional approach? 1. but has no comparative control of what he hears. apologizing apply across a whole range of situations. Why is special course design a more effective field of application for the notional approach? On a limited duration course (X hours). physical setting. It is claimed that a "notional syllabus" will produce communicative competence in the learners and motivation will be sustained. requests. a syllabus where language is always presented within a situational context.g. in this article. modality uses of language which are the product of internal processes? Internal processes include the context of the utterance. would equally apply to communicative language teaching syllabuses. pay more attention to receptive competence and the use of authentic materials? 11. The concept of situation is inoperable if we extend the notion to include internal processes. The limits of functional/notional syllabuses . what it is the learner wants to communicate) as its starting point. degrees of probability. "Functions" such as requesting. . Questions concerning "notional" syllabuses 1.e. 8. but in notional syllabus (See Building Strategies) for role play. Why should courses based on the notional synthetic courses: contextualization & sentence-based. Situational analysis predicts lexical need. Will semantic needs correspond with what is grammatically easy? 4. maximum communicative value i. Why are global courses (e. the notional approach is desirable. linguistic context: topic. as does modality i. The individual is the master of what he chooses to say. 10. the state of mind of the speaker. Needs are difficult to define. <="" situational="" a="" within="" taught="" be="" modality=""> Could we merely extend the NOTION of situation to include complaints. Language teaching is then organised in terms of content rather than form.not just robots in situations.e. Language users are real people . 2. in particular. 2.e. What is the linguistic character of language teaching material derived from a notional syllabus? 6. Would grammatical forms be distributed in the same way as on a special course? 9. Is there one simple form to meet each one simple need? 5. The opportunity to actually use language is often deferred. Do the categories of communicative function demand a specific lexicon in general or are they determined by other factors? Which other factors? Situational context.e. complaining. Use of dialogues .The intentions and purposes of the speaker/listener could play havoc with a "situational syllabus" i. Explain the concept of varieties of language (registers).or 'My guinea pig died with its legs crossed' This article. is published in English for Specific Purposes Modern English Publications Limited 1977 ISBN 0 906149 00 2 Robert's criticisms of functional/notional syllabuses.

to come gradually to grips with these difficulties and slowly to master at least some of them. Language teaching theory . words.The gist of the article is that language use can be so personal that no notional/functional or communicative syllabus designer could predict that a child would want to tell a teacher that 'her guinea pig died with its legs crossed'. when I know there are language operations the learner will have to carry out just outside the classroom. Other teachers. "He lives in. yet states Robert O'Neill's experience and beliefs about structural and communicative language teaching very clearly in some of the best of his own writing.. "This is. in the beginning stages there is the need to help the learner feel he or she can actually learn. I defer teaching for these needs in order to meet still greater needs. The learner can reach them without excessive effort and damage to his or her confidence. Wilkins' metalanguage from his seminal work "Notional Syllabuses [ Oxford 1976 ] got carried over into more than a couple of successful coursebooks. However. For instance. the 'communicative situations' you can be pretty sure they will have to deal with.. A. a foreign language seems to the learner like a brutal and wild barrage of strange sounds. often intuitively. noises. when I feel compelled to abandon the claim that what I am doing is going to be of any use I can foresee at the time.. you are more likely to give them a bad case of shell shock than help them to survive.".. This is perhaps the greatest need of all. a constant and often uneasy tension between the desire to teach what I hope will be directly useful to the learner and the desire also to help the learner acquire the generative framework without which no communication is possible.". to be fairly accessible entrypoints into the system. Julian Dakin recounts that this was uttered by an eight-year old girl in a tape-recorded interview. much like Dakin's story. ________________________________________________________ Successful course books based on Notional / Functional design: D. I urge teachers and scholars to seek out the whole of Julian Dakin's book and the whole of Robert's article in the MEP 1977 publication edited by Susan Holden. the following quote (1½ out of 17 paragraphs) is included on this page: ________________________________________________________ There is in my mind. create in their classrooms an atmosphere from which the sound of real action is forever banished. remain concerned with both communication and the problems of learning the system behind it. At the very beginning. Everything is ordered according to some rigid and internal notion of simplicity and learnability. But these are chosen not only brcause they are accessible but also because they are likely to be very useful. By teachers who do not try to predict some of the major phonological and structural problems the learner will have in trying to communicate. letters and stringings-together of structures. they begin with what they feel.".. structural syllabus design fosters the generative use of language and allows speakers to form sentences that have never been uttered previously. For purposes of the current CLT debate.. And huge numbers of those who begin learning a language never get beyond the rudiments because they are defeated at this level. Perhaps at this point they go on to the Present Progressive. They are not helped by teachers who think only of 'communication'. For example. If you simply march your troops into the loudest bits of gunfire. They organise their teaching so that the needs of both the system and the communicative functions it is used for are kept in some kind of equilibrium. These entry-points may be structures like "My name is. Often I have to address myself to other needs than the learner's "communicative" ones. And even. Some teachers.(an introduction)". frankly. And to do this at all there are at times. And from the very beginning they can be manipulated by the learner with some degree of creativity. aware of this danger.. The article draws quite extensively from Julian Dakin's "Language Laboratory and Language Learning" Longman 1973. and in my teaching and writing. in some kind of flexible but orderly fashion. "I live in. and usually the result is that nothing worth learning ever gets learned.. more wisely I think. By teachers who do nothing to help the learner. sometimes.

Successful course books based on more eclectic designs: The most successful coursebooks of the late 1970s and the 1980s were more eclectic than the clearly synthetic designs of the two previous decades.A. Peter Viney's & Hartley's "Streamline Departures" and "Streamline Connections" [ Oxford 1978 and 1979 ] "Streamline Destinations" [ Oxford 1982 ] 3. Wilkins's metalanguage (i. who were good at espousing the theory. Concession was made to language use. . For a chronological account of the important developments in English language teaching methodology from 1400 to the present day. Brian Abbs & Ingrid Freebairn's "Developing Strategies". Leo "Functions of English" Cambridge 1979 3. 1981 & 1982 4.P.G.was moving in a similar direction in the USA and in other parts of Europe.R.e. 1. Michael Swann & Catherine Walter's "The Cambridge English Courses 1 & 2 [ Cambridge 1984 & 1985 ] 5. terminology such as "functions" or "notions"). Wilkins' "Notions" and "Functions" for drawing attention to semantic criteria. "Communicate" Cambridge 1979 2. these multi-syllabus / multi-skill coursebooks clearly retained a structural thread and some continued to lean heavily on drilling: 1. "Studying Strategies" and "Opening Strategies Longman 1980. Jones. though many authors continued to acknowledge John Searle's "Speech Acts" rather than D. which took notions & functions into account as well as syntax. by A. semantics or meaning without necessarily adopting D. N.see TB for description of the N/F Approach. Jones. 2. John & Liz Soars' "Headway Intermediate" & "Headway Upper Intermediate" [ Oxford 1984 and 1986 ] 6. Robert O' Neill's "Kernel One" and "Kernel Two" [ Longman 1978 and 1982 ] 2. Abbs Brian & Ingrid Freebairn "Building Strategies" Longman 1979 . Leo "Notions of English" Cambridge 1982 Less successful course books of the late 1970s and early 1980s by other writers. try A History of ELT (second edition) .Howatt with H. "Approaches" Cambridge 1979. included: 1. links are to the 1990 revisions.Widdowson (OUP).A. Taxonomies with titles such as "Los Actos de Hablar" found their way into school and university collections in Spain. However. Robert O'Neill's (and Patricia Mugglestone's) "Fourth Dimension" & "Third Dimension" [Longman 1986 & 1989 ] It is worth noting the influence on coursebook design [especially at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels] exerted by The Council of Europe's earliest "Waystage" and "Threshold" specifications.1400 to the present.B.