Speech Act Theory and Application in the Efl Classroom.

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  • Topic: Speech act, Linguistics, Illocutionary act
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Mahly J. Martinez
(2008)
SPEECH ACT THEORY AND APPLICATION IN THE EFL CLASSROOM.
• Introduction ( Recent interest in teaching speech act theory (beyond the form) (Garcia, M, 2000) • Communicative competence Theory (Sassan, B 2007)
• Speech Act Theory (Overview) (Austin 1962 – Searle, 1965, Yule 1991) • Indirect and Direct Acts (Sassan, B. 2007)
• Practical Activities for Applying the speech act theory in the EFL Classroom (Fujimori, 2004) • Pedagogical implications (Garcia, M. 2000, Vez, J. 2001 and Sassan, B, 2007)

In the process of communication, we usually think that everything we say or write is exactly what we mean, but this is not completely true. In any language, people tend not to speak in a literal way all the time. This is a universal phenomenon that requires from our readers or listeners an extra effort to infer the real intention of our message and that happens in everyday conversations. Sometimes people are not aware of this, or simply, because these processes are unconsciously made by the speaker or writer most of the time we believe that what we understand is exactly what we listen or read.

This assumption has been affecting the linguistic and English teaching fields since linguists and teachers have been putting more attention to language form, neglecting in a way how those forms function in real life situations. The studies on language form and language function have became one of the main objectives in the past three decades when new theories and approaches have emerged to show us how crucial is the real use of forms while communicating in a foreign language (Garcia, M 2000).

It is obvious that knowing a language implies mastering the ability to recognize the correct forms of it; however, it’s important to know whether what we say or write is appropriate according to the context where the communication takes place, the receiver and the situation (Yule G, 1999). In the Language Teaching field, teachers as well as students should be aware about the differences between language forms and their function, so they would develop the ability to master the grammatical rules and structures and how to use them in real communicative situations.

As English teachers, sometimes, we have students who are able to produce grammatically well-formed sentences but they are not appropriate to the context in which they are used. For example, a student who replays to “Could you do me a favor?” with a “Yes, I could” instead of “Sure, I’d be glad to” is an example of a person who has the appropriate grammatical knowledge, but maybe is the second option the one that would be used by a native speaker in a real conversation. So, it is obvious that mastering the grammatical rules is important but they do not guarantee a successful communication (Sassan, B. 2007).

In this sense, we could trace the changes in language conception by describing how it is acquired and taught. One of the conceptions or theories that changed how linguists and eventually teachers saw the language was the Chomsky`s distinction between Competence and Performance.

According to Chomsky a native speaker’s knowledge of his mother tongue known as competence is the unconscious knowledge that enables the speaker to form and interpret words, phrases and sentences in the L1 (Yule, G.1996). This knowledge allows speakers to know that the word “Cat”, for example, is formed by a minimal unit “c” and that it can be replaced with the minimal unit “H” to form a totally new word with a new meaning “hat”. Chomsky distinguished Competence, the knowledge that native speakers have of their language as a system of abstract formal relations, and Performance their actual behavior. It can be said that the speaker’s knowledge of the language was represented by the use given to it (Fromkin and Rodman, 1994). However this conception was debated by Dell Hymes in the early 70`s when he established that linguistic competence...
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