- Basic Communicative Proficiency
Some observations about the different sections of the Behavioural Objectives component and their relationship to each other are in order at this point. The first and largest section is labelled Basic Communicative Proficiency. This builds on the repertory of communicative targets established by the Junior Certificate programme, and indeed it is assumed that the communicative skills acquired in the junior cycle will be maintained and continually reactivated during the senior cycle. The objectives specified in Section 1 are for the most part related in a very obvious way to practical challenges that might be faced by the learner when operating in the target language community. On the other hand, a fair proportion of the objectives in this section may also be seen as relevant to activities and discussion that are likely to take place through the target language in the classroom.
- Language Awareness
The aims of the Junior Certificate syllabus make explicit reference to the development of learners’ language awareness and cultural awareness. These aspects of the Junior Certificate syllabus are developed further in the syllabus for the Leaving Certificate.
The objectives listed under Language Awareness and Cultural Awareness are highly relevant to the communicative challenges of the classroom and the “real world” and are intended to have an important enabling role with regard to the attainment of a reasonable level of communicative proficiency. However, they also have a valuable contribution to make in connection with the wider language education and intercultural consciousness-raising functions of foreign language learning.
The raising of language awareness bout the working of the target language and about his or her own encounter with the language, which is the underlying purpose of the objectives set in Section II (Language Awareness), has direct relevance to the fostering of effective use of the language. Research has shown that developing this kind of awareness – within the context of a rich and interesting target language input – accelerates progress towards grammatical and lexical accuracy and therefore towards communicative efficiency. Talking, reading and writing about the target language in the target language can promote both fluency and accuracy. As far
as the language education dimension is concerned, the various objectives listed in this section are designed to develop awareness not only of a range of aspects of the target language but of relevant aspects of the mother tongue and other languages known to the learner and thus, at least to an extent, the functioning of language in general. Such awareness can be expected to improve the learner’s ability to use the language for a wide range of purposes.
It is clear that certain misunderstandings of the “communicative approach” – in particular the opinion that grammatical understanding and accuracy are no longer relevant – have not been helpful to the learners, and this syllabus (in part through the enhanced role of “language awareness” is designed to produce a more balanced spread of skills.
- Cultural Awareness
Section III of the Behavioural Objectives component Cultural Awareness is similarly versatile in its potential usefulness. Taking into account cultural differences is often absolutely essential for successful communication.
It will be clear too that unfamiliarity with the major cultural reference-points (social, political, historical, etc.) of the target language community on the part of a non-native speaker also can hamper communication. As in the case of the objectives in Section II, a further element in the rationale for the objectives in Section III is their likely favourable impact in terms of encouraging “content-instruction” through the medium of the target language. The intention that the Section III objectives should contribute to cultural and intercultural education generally is reflected in the fact that these objectives focus not only on the target language community but also on its relationship to Ireland and the Irish way of life, and in the fact that they refer not only to culture-specific issues but also to issues which go beyond cultural divisions. Teaching and learning strategies based on a comparative methodology are elaborated in the teaching guidelines by way of suggestions for implementing this section of the syllabus.
The syllabus aims to lead every pupil towards the basic outcome as a result of the experience of modern language learning in the classroom:
(a) a communicative competence in the target language
(b) awareness about language and communication
(c) an understanding of how to go about learning a foreign language
(d) a level of cultural awareness