Applied Linguistics

Notional functional approach/Characteristics/roles/activities

Notional-functional approach

In the early 1960s, there was an avalanche of criticism against teaching methods. Audiolingualism was harshly attacked by teachers and students: the objections focused on the automatic practice of the language without understanding what was done, the impossibility of applying what was learned due to the rigidity of the situations and the absence of the exercise of communication and the denial of individual differences in language learning (Rivers, 1964). The validity of this methodology began to be doubted, especially due to the influence of Chomskian ideas, exposed in his two works Syntactic Structures (1957) and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965). Notional functional approach

Chomsky did not accept structural linguistic theory and proposed a new theory, a very novel concept, the creative dimension of language, that is, the protagonism of the creativity of cognitive processes, rejecting the learning of a language as the creation of a habit. . This led to the appearance in the United States of new methodologies that paid attention to the cognitive strategies of the student, such as the Natural Approach, the Silent Method, the Total Physical Response Method, Community Learning, and Suggestopedia.

Similarly, linguists and teaching professionals in Great Britain reproduced this critical spirit in relation to the situational approach (Howatt, 1984). This type of programming posed problems such as the selection of situations, whether the selection criterion should be the frequency of use or the student’s needs, whether it was necessary to consider how many students would actually experience a certain situation and how many of them would be interested in it, not to mention the differences implied by certain cultural connotations and the different communication needs of the students. The change in methodology was due, in the first place, to the new ideas of some British linguists who pointed out a dimension of the language that had not received much attention in the previous methods: the communicative one. In general, with this approach, the possibility of insisting less on grammatical structures is proposed in order to give greater prominence to the student’s abilities compared to the use of language as a vehicle of communication. One more cause of the change in methodological perspective was the new situation that was occurring throughout Europe, mainly at the social and educational level. They began to consider the possibility of learning other European languages ​​and establishing a type of unique teaching methodology that would contribute to their learning and, therefore, to mobility between countries. An official body, the Council of Europe, was created

        In a notional-functional program, teaching is based in terms of notions and functions.

            Notion: context in which people communicate.

            Function: specific intention of the speaker in a given context.

        The various combinations between functions and notions give rise to a series of linguistic exponents, and these constitute the list of expressions that students must be able to use properly to make their communicative intentions effective.

        This model sets its goals in terms of observable behavior. Which is described as a certain level of communicative competence. In the words of D. Hymes, communicative competence is related to knowing “when to talk, when not, and what to talk about, with whom, where, in what way”; that is, it is about the ability to form sentences that are not only grammatically correct but also socially appropriate. N

The teacher’s role:

The teacher is a model, guide, and promoter, but he is not the only protagonist of the class. It must give prominence to the student as responsible for learning and encourage their active participation, through factors such as motivation, awakening interest, etc.

Role of the student Notional functional approach

In this new learning process, the student must become active, it is up to him to interact.

Presence of grammar Notional functional approach

 The grammatical and lexical elements are studied within the functions of the language, and because the practice is carried out through simulations, the correction goes to the background.

        Learning is inductive, but it does not exclude deductive. It is intended to develop the four skills: listening and speaking, reading and writing. Notional functional approach

 Characteristics  Notional functional approach

  1. These programs, more than an approach or teaching method, constitute a way of organizing the language learning curriculum
  2. They promote the learning of selected and organized linguistic elements from what is functionally used in real communication. Notional functional approach
  3. They are not a manual for teaching.
  4. They do not focus on the student as the axis around which the class must revolve. They are quantifiable (in observable terms).
  5. The curriculum aims to achieve a certain number of objectives, through the application of appropriate means.
  6. They do not refer to the procedure to be followed, nor do they include a set of techniques or activities through which the effective achievement of the proposed purposes is promoted.


 Theme: Shopping

Level: B1

General objective:

  • Train students to make purchases.

 Specific objectives:

  • Write fundamental questions on the subject of shopping.
  • Increase the lexicon of the students, starting with new vocabulary related to the topic of shopping.


  1. Students will pair up to go shopping. The teacher will give each one the name of the place where they should make their purchase (ice cream parlor, shoe store, pharmacy, store …) According to this physical space, they must develop a written dialogue, and then represent it before the class.
  2.  After each shopping role play is finished, the questions and vocabulary that stand out for the students will be noted on the board. Notional functional approach

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Back to top button