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Linguistic Competence

Dr. Lauren McKenzie discusses the nuances of linguistic competence and communication competence.


I had studied Spanish formally in the classroom as an undergrad in high school and in middle school, so almost 10 years I had studied Spanish, and I went to live with a host family in Valencia in southern Spain for a semester, and a couple days into my time--there my host family had left for a few hours--and I was there alone in the apartment and the phone rang. And I remember picking it up and having no idea what to say. So I think again, I would just, I tell that story just to illustrate that linguistic competence and communication competence are not synonymous, right? It's one thing to know what language, to be able to speak it. Quite another to be able to use it appropriately and effectively in conversation. So that's very memorable to me, just because I thought I was so confident in my Spanish. I could conjugate all the verbs. I could read Don Quixote. But I couldn't answer the phone.