| Originally published in The
Literacy Practitioner (Volume 4, # 1, February, 1997).
Literacy Volunteers of America - New York State
Communicative Competence and Second language Teaching:
A review of N.S. Prabhu (1987) Second Language Pedagogy by N.S. Prabhu. 1987. New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press
N. S Prabhu's objectives in Second Language Pedagogy are twofold: to present the "communicative comptence" theory of second language acquisition, and to describe the Bangalore Project which consisted of a small number of elementary and secondary English classes in India. This five-year project, which illustrates the importance of grounding practice in theory, is relevant for adult ESL programs like Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) because of its transition from direct instruction to communicative competence through "meaning making" in real contexts. Prabhu's book is full with provocative insight about second language acquisition (SLA) that practitioners and theorists would do well to explore whether or not they agree with all of Prabhu's assumptions.
One purpose of the Bangalore Project was to develop a methodology in a "sustained teaching" environment consistent with theory in part as a way of refining the theory, but also to shape practice according to a specific theoretical framework. This kind of interaction between theory and practice is a special concern among teacher researchers in the United States (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993). If the theory comes out of a struggle to make sense of perplexing realities it can provide a pathway to more effective action because it satisfies the longing for coherence. In second language acquisition, the theory of communicative competence maintains that language learning takes place in an integrative manner through an emphasis on making meaning, in large part by unconscious assimilation of knowledge through much practice in real contexts over time.