Teaching Language Functions


Language functions define what the person should say or write in communicative situations. The best way to present these functions is in context, in a conversation.

A conversation lesson plan:

1. Start with reading the whole conversation while students listen.

2. Then divide it into mini dialogues; a stimulus and its response.

3. Draw students’ attention to the choice of particular words or expressions to express a meaning and talk about the speaker‘s intention; i.e. presenting the function.

4. Then ask students to generate sentences of their own to practice this function.

* This keeps the learning process simple and gives students tools to build on.

5. Next Students are given a situation or task with individual roles allotted. They extend practice by asking one another or engaging in role-play.

* The focus here is on a certain function and that function is taken as the cue for the grammar taught in the lesson. Such practice provides opportunities for students to practice a range of real-life spoken language in the classroom.

Most typical language functions are:

1- Inviting

2- Suggesting

3- Promising

4- Apologizing

5- Requesting information

6- Agreeing

7- Disagreeing

8- Offering

Two basic ways of presenting a language function:

1. Inductively: give the learners different examples of the function and ask students to identify it:

What is the speaker’s intention here?

What language or expressions did he use to express his intention?

2. Deductively: present a situation in which the function is needed and ask students to respond to it. You may ask comprehension questions to check understanding.

Two basic ways of practicing language functions:

Receptive practice.

It aims at familiarizing students with a range of examples of the functions. Possible activities for receptive practice include:

– Finding a function in a dialogue or text.

– Classifying a list of functional language. ( which would you use to say  ……..? )

– Classifying a list of sentences according to their precise meaning.

Productive practice.

It may be relatively controlled practice. Possible activities for it include:

– Transformations between different examples of a function

– Question and answer work.

– Situational cues (what would you say in these situations?)

Tips for teaching language functions:

– Create a situation and direct students in a certain activity progressively.

– Learners should conduct the activity to its conclusion

– Make sure that learners understand what they are required to do in an activity.

– Demonstrate the activity with learners.

– Select activities which need comparatively light demands on the learners’ linguistic and creative abilities

– Equip learners with expressions and language forms they need for their activities.