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The three views of Language. Structural view, Functional view.and Interactional view.

What is a language? What does it mean to learn a language? What does one learn when she learns a language? Questions such as these
led to different views and theories of language. In the past century, language teaching and learning practices have been influenced by
three different views of language, namely, the structural view, the functional view and the interactional view. Different views on language generate different teaching methodologies.

The Structural View
This view sees language as a linguistic system made up of various
subsystems, such as phonological units (eg, phonemes) grammatical units (c.g., phrases, clauses, sentences), grammatical operations (e.g.. joining or transforming elements), and lexical items (e.g., function words and content words). Each language has a finite number of
such structural items. To learn a language means to learn these
structural items so as to be able to understand and produce language.

The Audiolingual Method and Total Physical Response embody this particular view of language (Richards and Rodgers, 2001).

The Functional View
This view sees language not only as a linguistic system but also as a
means of doing things. That is, according to this view, "language is a
vehicle for the expression of functional meaning" (ibid, p. 21). Most of our day-to-day language use involves functional activities: inviting, making an appointment, asking for directions, suggesting, disagreeing, advising, apologizing, etc. Therefore, learners learn a language in order to do things with it. To perform functions, learners need to know how to combine the grammatical rules and the vocabulary to express notions that perform the functions. The communicative movement in language teaching as well as the
movement for English for Specific Purposes (ESP) has its genesis in
the functional view of language.

The Interactional View
This view considers language as a communicative tool, whose main use is to build up and maintain social relations and the performance of social transactions between people. Therefore, learners not only need to know the grammar and vocabulary of the language, but also need to know the rules for using them in a whole range of communicative contexts. Interactional theories of language focus on "patterns of moves, acts, negotiation and interaction found in
conversational exchanges” (ibid, p. 21). Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) and Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) draw on this view of language as a basis of their approach.

The understanding of the nature of language is closely related to the understanding of language learning and may provide the basis for a particular teaching method. If language is considered to have a
finite number of structural items, learning the language means
learning these items. If language is seen as a communicative tool, then to learn the language means to use it to perform functions.

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