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Functional-notional syllabus

Group members:


1 2
33 3

Theoretical assumptions Main components

Merits Merits

Theoretical assumptions

Sociolinguistic and Communicative view of Language

Basic claim:
Language is used to realize communicative functions and convey meanings. So language teaching should focus more on: the purposes (functions) of using the language and the meanings (notions) expressed through the language rather than grammatical forms.
(Harlow & Linda L., 1980: 12)

2 Main components
F-N Syllabus Functions & Notions

1. what people want to do with the language

e. g. making invitation, asking questions, expressing opinions, expressing wishes, making suggestions, inquiring, complaining, and apologizing etc.

2. what ideas and meanings people want to say

Notions are the vocabulary items that might answer who, where, when, why, how long, how far, how much, how big etc. can be expressed through nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, adjectives, or adverbs.
(Finocchiaro, M. & Brumfit, C. 1983: 12-14)


the notion of location can be expressed by various prepositions

e.g. behind, near, up, down, on, under, etc.

the notion of time can be expressed by different forms of verbs.

e.g. He is leaving. He left. He will leave in two days.

How are functions and notions organized in textbooks?

1. Functions are classified and put into units.

2. Title of each unit indicating the core

function in each unit. Dialogues reading passages Centering the communicative expressions around functions Notions (structures and vocabulary) learning tasks and activities

Main features of F-N units:

3. Cyclical order-the same function may repeatedly occur in different situations at succeeding units
(Valdman, 1978)



Social language How to



8 id like to make a reservation

Kinds of hotel rooms Real conditional make a reservation Would rather make a complaint decoration of the hotel rooms express preference How to talk about future money and banking possibility and obligation Social activities ask sb. for money Will be able to Will have to

10 well have to make a deposit right away


(Finoccharo, M. & Brumfit, C. 1983: 38)

U Functions n i t 7 Requesting Directions





At a bus stop

Modal-could Could you tell me Must: Must I get off/on?

Bus number get to get off /on take

Reading Cloze Dictation

8 Asking for In a post office Modal-can information

stamps savings account sell buy open

Expanding sentences Role play



(Harlow & Linda L., 1978: 561)

By perceiving language as a real means of

communication, learners would feel more motivated to learn. Language functions in a real-life setting would generate a special kind of excitement for learning and leads to productive learning. Students needs are taken into most consideration. They are able to see from the beginning how what they learn relates to their language needs.

learners have the opportunity to use the target language

much earlier than in traditional approaches. compared to the structural syllabus where elements of language are learned in an isolated way from real life, students communicative competence and confidence can be well developed. teachers can revitalize teaching materials to meet learning objectives.

An alternative to the grammatically-oriented textbook may not solve all of the problems in language teaching.
(David Nunan, 1988:37)

1. The grading of functional items becomes more complex

Functions can hardly be classified by the principles of simplicity, frequency etc. e.g. Should apologizing be simpler than requesting?

2.The lists of functions and notions do not reflect the way languages are learned
Dividing language into discrete units of functions may misrepresent the nature of language as communication.
(Widdowson H. G.1979, cited in Nuna, D. 1988: 37)

Harlow & Linda L., 1978. An alternative to structurally oriented

textbooks. Foreign Language Annals, 11(5) . D.A. Wilkins, 1972. An investigation into the linguistic an situational content of the common core in a unit credit system. Wilkins. D. A., 1981. Notional Syllabus Revisited: a Further Reply, Applied Linguistics, 2. Valdman, 1978. Comunicative use of language and syllabus design, Foreign language Annals , 11(5) . Harlow & Linda L., 1980. Student-perceived communication needs: infrastructure of the functional notional syllabus, Foreign Language Annals, 13(1). David Nunan, 1988. Syllabus Design. Oxford University Press. Finocchiaro, M. & Brumfit, C. 1983. The Functional Notional Approach. From Theory to Practice. Oxford university press.

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