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La comunicación en la clase de lengua extranjera: comunicación verbal y no verbal. Estrategias extralingüísticas: reacciones no verbales a mensajes en diferentes contextos.




1. Introduction.

2. Communicative acts.

3. The Communicative Approach.

4. Characteristics of communicative activities.

5. Types and examples of proper communicative activities.

5.1. Non-verbal communication. Extra-linguistic strategies.

5.1.1. Some theoretical foundations.

a) The input hypothesis.

b) Silent periods.

c) The built-in syllabus.

5.1.2. Non-verbal communication activities.

a) Listening and making no explicit response.

b) Gestures: yes, no, I (don’t) like, I (don’t) know, I (don’t mind), etc.

c) Showing flashcards, symbols, objects, pictures…

d) Following instructions.

e) Parallel visual representation.

5.2. Oral communication activities.

a) Reaching a consensus.

b) Relaying instructions.

c) Communication games.

d) Interpersonal exchange.

e) Story construction.

f) Simulation and role play.

5.3. Written communication activities.

a) Relaying instructions.

b) Exchanging letters.

c) Writing games.

d) Fluency writing.

e) Story construction.

f) Writing reports and advertisements.

6. Conclusions.

7. Bibliography.




Communication between humans is an extremely complex and ever-changing phenomenon, and there are certain characteristics that the great majority of communicative events share which have particular relevance for the learning and teaching of languages.

In the present topic, we will have a look at those characteristics and see how they can be applied in the English classroom so as to enable our students to move gradually toward the general goal of acquiring communicative competence in the target language.




When two people are engaged in communication, we can be fairly sure that they are doing so for a reason. We can probably make the following generalisations about the addresser:

a) He/she wants to speak or write:  ‘Want’ is used here in a general way to suggest that a speaker makes a definite decision to address someone. Speaking may be forced on him in some way, but we can still say that he wants or intends to speak, otherwise he would keep silent.

b) He has some communicative purpose: Speakers say things because they want something to happen as a result of what they say. The speaker may want to charm his listener, he/she may want to give some information or to express pleasure. He may decide to be rude or to flatter, to agree or complain. In each of these cases he is interested in achieving a communicative purpose.

c) He selects from his language store: the speaker has an infinite capacity to create new sentences if he is a native speaker. In order to achieve his communicative purpose he will select the language he thinks is appropriate for this purpose.




By 1970, the common feeling among language teaching experts was general dissatisfaction. Even in those cases in which the student succeeded, the proportion effort-result proved to be quite poor and frustrating. 

Present-day trends in language teaching are based on what we know as the Communicative Approach, which apparently receives this name simply because its first aim is real communication.

This Approach bases its teaching procedure on the 8 functions and the 5 notions of Language, as described and analysed by Wilkins and his interdisciplinary team by request of the Council of Europe in 1975: 

-Functions: modality, evaluation, suasion, argument, rational inquiry, personal emotions, emotional relations, and interpersonal relations.

-Notions: duration, frequency, quantity, dimension and location.




a) In pure communicative activities, students should have a desire to communicate. If they do not want to be involved in communication, then that communication will probably not be effective.

b) Students should have some kind of communicative purpose, in other words, they should be using language in some way to achieve an objective, and this objective or purpose should be the reason for communication.

c) If students do have a purpose of this kind, then their attention will be focused on the content of what is being said or written and not on the language forms that are being used.




The use of communicative activities does not imply that other activities, such as drills, should not be used. Drills, mainly pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary activities, are very helpful at the manipulative stage, when introducing new linguistic items, for example. 

They are very useful for familiarisation and accuracy in using new expressions and structures. However, these exercises must be understood and used just as a transitional phase toward communicative meaningful use.

Communicative activities are the most important in the language classroom, since here students can do their best to use language as individuals and achieve a degree of autonomy and competence.


5.1. Non-verbal communication. Extra-linguistic strategies.

      1. Some theoretical foundations.
      2. Non-verbal communication activities.


5.2. Oral communication activities.

Apart from everyday use of classroom language, there are many types of oral communicative activities quite suitable for the English class. A number of them follow the models proposed below.

a) Reaching a consensus.

b) Relaying instructions.

c) Communication games.

d) Interpersonal exchange.

e) Story construction.

f) Simulation and role play.


5.3. Written communication activities.

a) Relaying instructions

One group of students has information for the performance of a task, and they have to get another group to perform the same task by giving them written instructions. 

We will look at the following example:

“Giving directions”: In this activity students write directions which other students have to follow.

b) Exchanging letters.

Students write letters, swap them, and then receive a reply. In the following example, writing is based on simulation and role play:

“An invitation”: Students write letters of invitation and exchange them in pairs. The letters are then answered depending on what the recipient’s plans are.




We have dealt with the nature of communication and the principles of the Communicative Approach to language teaching in order to come to some conclusions about the type of activities students should be involved in

The examples of communicative activities given in this topic does not cover by any means the huge variety of resources, materials and exercises that are available and can be used in the teaching of English as a foreign language. They are simply intended as a sort of brainstorm of ideas that can make us think of the infinite possibilities for the development of communicative competence and strategies.

Finally, we should lay some emphasis on the use of different and innovative resources, especially those based on ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). One of the most remarkable of these resources is, for example, the computer-assisted language laboratory, for its power and possibilities in developing communicative interaction.




-Baddock, B. “Creative Language Use in Communication” Activities. English Language Teaching Journal 35/3, 1981.

-Brumfit, C.J.  and Johnson, K. (eds.). The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1979.

-Corder, S. P. Error Analysis and Interlanguage. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1981.

-Grellet, F. Developing Reading Skills. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981.

-Johnson, K. and Morrow, K. (eds.). Communication in the Classroom. Longman, 1981.

-Revell, J. Teaching Techniques for Communicative English. Macmillan, 1979.

-Richards, J. and Smidt, R. (eds.). Language and Communication. London, Longman, 1983.

-Widdowson, H. “The Teaching of English as Communication”. English Language Teaching Journal 27/7, 1972.

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