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Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed and complementary methodological organisms

Disclaimer ......................................................................................................................... 2
Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 2
1. The "DNA" of the Communicative Approach........................................................................ 4
2. The "DNA" of the Social Action-Oriented Approach .............................................................. 6
3. The specific "features" of the Social Action-Oriented Approach ............................................. 7
3.1. A new relationship between class-society and external society ........................................ 7
3.2. A new reference learning acting, social acting ............................................................... 8
3.3. A new conception of language competence, "information competence". ........................... 9
3.4. A new primary component of cultural competence, the "co-cultural" component ............. 10
3.5. A new educational challenge: collective autonomy ...................................................... 10
3.6. New L1 ("source language") functions ....................................................................... 11
Conclusion ....................................................................................................................... 12
Bibliography .................................................................................................................... 13
List of abbreviations used in this text
CA: Communicative Approach
IA: Intercultural Approach
CEFRL: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
FFL: French as Foreign Language
L1: Language 1, source language (e.g., French in a Japanese course for French speakers)
L2: Language 2, target language (Japanese, in the example above)
SAOA: Social Action-Oriented Approach perspective actionnelle », in the french version of the
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 2 of 14
At the origin of this text is a resumption of my oral conference at the XIVth colloquium of the
Association of Teachers of Japanese in France (AEJF, Rennes, April 18-19, 2013).
The first title has been changed, and the text has been extensively revised to take into account my
later reflections. I propose here to develop the genetic metaphor used for the first time in an
intervention made one month later, on May 31, 2013, during a pedagogical day at the Alliance
Française de Lima (see in the final bibliography PUREN 2013h), as well as the idea, announced in
the title, a double relationship of opposition-complementarity to be established between the
Communicative Approach (henceforth referred to as "CA"), on the one hand, and on the other hand
a Social Action-Oriented Approach (henceforth referred to as "SAOA") whose practical elaboration
seems to me to be well advanced.
In order to lighten this text, I have also removed the concrete examples I gave in my lecture: they
can be found in my many articles available online, whose references I give here, which will also
allow readers to extend their reading if they wish
Some didacticians, both French and foreign, consider that there is no rupture, but continuity, in CA
and SAOA. This is the case, for example, of J.L.M. TRIM - one of the creators of the Threshold Levels
who, in the early 1970s, launched CA in Europe. He wrote in the User's Guide (ed. 2001) to the
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (henceforth referred to as "CEFRL"):
An action-orientation has marked the Council of Europe approach since the early 1970s,
regarding language learning as preparation for the active use of the language for
communication. (p. 13)
Indeed, the competency descriptors of the CEFRL scales are entirely designed, for the first levels
A1-A2-B1, on the CA mode: they describe the ability to manage communication situations of daily
life by carrying out the relevant speech acts and notions in an adequate manner. Here are a few
examples, taken from the "Common Reference Levels: self-assessment grid" (Table 2, p. 26):
A1 Spoken
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and the people I
A2 Listening
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of
most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information,
shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple
messages and announcements.
B1 Speaking -
Taking part in a
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the
language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are
familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work,
travel and current events).
Nevertheless, the CEFRL also announces a new social reference situation - the multilingual and
multicultural society - and two new reference "acting”
, i.e. no longer just communicating with
On the other hand, the theoretical foundations have yet to be found, even though the sources already exist,
in particular action linguistics (“linguistique actionnelle”), project pedagogy, and all the other components of
what Jean-Pierre BOUTINET calls, in the title of his reference work (2001), "the anthropology of the projet".
I have borrowed this noun ("acting", “l’agir”, in French) from philosophy to cover in the most abstract way
possible all the concepts used in the didactics of languages-cultures to designate what is voluntarily done to
teach and learn: activity, action, task, exercise... See the reorganization I have proposed of the whole of the
"Champ sémantique de l’agir":èque-de-travail/013/.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 3 of 14
foreigners passing through, but (1) living and (2) working on a long-term basis with people partially
or entirely of different languages and cultures, which form the basis of two new didactic
. One of these orientations, which primarily concerns "living together", appeared
already in the early 1990s, and its very diverse forms of implementation are often referred to as
"didactics of plurilingualism
"; the other orientation, which primarily concerns "working together",
is SAOA, whose implementation in textbooks for French as foreign language (FFL) began ten years
ago now, a few years after the publication of the CEFRL
CEFRL authors write in their initial "Notes for the user":
One thing should be made clear right away. We have NOT set out to tell practitioners what
to do, or how to do it. We are raising questions, not answering them. It is not the function
of the Common European Framework to lay down the objectives that users should pursue or
the methods they should employ.
This does not mean that the Council of Europe is indifferent to these issues. Indeed, a great
deal of thought and work has been put into the principles and practice of language learning,
teaching and assessment over the years by colleagues in our member countries working
together in the Council of Europe's Modern Languages Projects.
What is just as clear as their assertion in the first three sentences of the above quote is that the
principles and practice they then refer to in the last sentence are clearly those of CA. As a result,
the least that can be said is that their position is not clear, particularly that of J.L.M TRIM, co-author
of this document and author of the first version, in 1997, of his User's Guide (cf. the passage quoted
earlier in this Guide) .
In any case, there is nothing in the CEFRL about the theoretical elaboration of SAOA and its concrete
implementation in textbooks and classrooms, so that the only question that really arose in the early
2000s was whether one decided to construct this SAOA as a simple extension of CA or as a break
with it.
For my part, since the publication of the CEFRL in 2001
, I have been actively involved in the
development of an SAOA that is as opposed to CA as possible, not because one would be better
than the other in absolute terms and should replace it (applying an "optimization-substitution"
paradigm), but to provide teachers with additional means to develop more diverse teaching
materials, so as to increase their ability to adapt to the diversity of audiences, objectives and
I use the term "orientation" (didactic) when the new social situation of reference and the new social objectives
of reference (linguistic and cultural) have just emerged, and the process of "didactic reconfiguration" will
consequently have to begin, leading to the elaboration of a new "didactic configuration" (on this expression,
see note 10, infra p. 4). Orientation" is the new conception of teaching-learning that the new configuration will
try to organize.
See BEACCO Jean-Claude, BYRAM Michael, CAVALLI Marisa et al., Guide for the development and
implementation of curricula for plurilingual and intercultural education, , Council of Europe, August 2016, 166
for-plurilingual-and-intercultural-education. Appendix 5 pp. 154-162, presents in a table a list of "Learning
methods and activities […] which may help to implement plurilingual and intercultural education".
The symbolic date that I retain for my part is 2004, the year of publication of the first texbook (of FFL)
claiming both the task-based approach and SAOA, Rond-Point 1 (A1-A2), Barcelona: Difusión-Maison des
I then wrote an article, published in 2002, in which I already described what I thought should be the
specificities of the new SAOA compared to the previous methodologies, including the communicative approach.
See PUREN 2002b.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 4 of 14
teaching-learning environments (applying the opposite paradigm of "fit-addition")
: SAOA must be
an addition to AC, not a replacement for it, since (good) communication between actors is essential
for effective joint action.
Hence the meaning of the title of my text: CA and SAOA are to be understood in a way that is both
opposed and complementary, or, more precisely, in an opposed way because they are meant to be
The image I would gladly use to visualize this strategy is that of two puzzle pieces,
which can only fit together perfectly because the "lines" of their assembly faces, their "tracing", are
the exact opposite of each other:
We will see in Chapter 3 that this adjustment does, however, require some modification to the
"features" of CA.
1. The "DNA" of the Communicative Approach
CA was built in Europe in the early 1970s as part of a political project to make it easier for Europeans
to move from one country to another. This is why the social situation of reference for this approach
(the one for which it was proposed to prepare learners) was the tourist trip; and its reference acting
(the action for which it was proposed to prepare them) was the linguistic interaction (which is
speaking with the other), an interaction described linguistically by a "notional-functional grammar",
i.e. in terms of notions related to daily life and speech acts (which are an acting on the other).
This can be seen, for example, in the preface written by J.L.M TRIM for the first English version of
this publication (EK J.A. van, 1975):
Nevertheless, by far the largest single group of learners, everywhere, consists of people who
want to prepare themselves, in a general way, to be able to communicate socially on
straightforward everyday matters with people from other countries who come their way, and
to be able to get around and lead a reasonably normal social life when they visit another
country. This is not simply a matter of buying bread and milk and toothpaste and getting
On these two paradigms, see the conclusion of my article, pp. 8-9. On the necessary diversity of
methodological orientations, see, in my article cited above PUREN 2008e, the entire chapter 4, pp. 10-14.
The idea that the complexity of reality - here the teaching-learning of languages-cultures - can only be
managed by approaches that are both opposed and complementary, is one of the main ideas of what Edgard
Morin calls precisely "complex epistemology". See his Introduction to Complex Thinking (1990). Moreover, I
have shown that all the methods (in the sense of a minimum unit of methodological coherence) that have
emerged in the course of the evolution of the didactics of languages-cultures are classified in opposite pairs:
see « Tableau des oppositions méthodologiques fondamentales » (Table of fundamental methodological
For a general presentation of the didactic evolution of "didactic configurations" based on the successive
modifications of the social situation and the social action of reference, see "Historical evolution of didactic
configurations",èque-de-travail/029/. I borrow the metaphor of
"configuration" from the expression "computer configuration", which designates a computer whose components
have been chosen in such a way as to work together in an optimal way for the type of work that its user
proposes to do. The different "methodological constructions" - I group under this generic concept what is
sometimes called a "methodology" (e.g. "audiovisual methodology"), an "approach" (e.g. "communicative
approach") or a "perspective" (e.g. "perspective") - are all different. The other necessary elements, in particular
a cognitive model (a description of the mental mechanisms of learning a foreign language), a linguistic model
(a description of the foreign language and its functioning mechanisms) and a pedagogical model (a description
of the modes of teaching-learning relationships and learning activities considered most effective), are then
carried out by borrowing from current events.) To remain consistent with the metaphor of "genes", I have, in
the title of this article, called these constructions "organisms", but they are indeed the same objects.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 5 of 14
repairs carried out to a car. People want to be able to make contact with each other as
people, to exchange information and opinion, talk about experiences, likes and dislikes, to
explore our similarities and differences, the unity in diversity of our complicated and crowded
continent. (TRIM J.L.M. 1975, p. 102)
The fundamental characteristics of CA - its "DNA", the set of its genes - are thus originally
determined by this situation and this reference social acting, which are the tourist trip and the
management of its communicative issues through language interaction.
In the table below, I present these different genes, their definition, and some corresponding "genetic
markers" that can be found in communication textbooks:
1. the
The action is
considered at its
2. the
The action ends
3. the
The action lasts a
short time.
4. the
The exchange is
between one
person and
5. the
The action taken
into account is
limited to
interaction, to
"speech acts".
I borrow linguistic concepts to designate some of these CA genes, and, as we will see, the opposite genes
of SAOA: inchoative verbs are verbs that mark in themselves (i.e. include in their semantics) the beginning of
the action (e.g. "to fall asleep", "to understand"); they are opposed to durative verbs (also called progressive),
which inscribe the action in the duration (e.g. "to sleep", "to think"). Perfective verbs are verbs that imply in
themselves the end of the action (e.g. "to discover", "to go out"), whereas imperfective verbs express an action
that can continue (e.g. "to seek", "to visit"). Thus, if we want to reverse what we call the verbal "aspects" of
these verbs, we must, in English, use, for example, verbal periphrases: "to be falling asleep", "to continue not
to understand" (durative aspect); "to begin to visit", "to start to think" (inchoative aspect).
This characteristic of the communicative dialogues in textbooks may seem natural, but it is only the case in
passing encounters. With people with whom you live or work permanently, on the other hand, conversations
are usually part of a previous "déjà dit" (you rarely start a really "new" dialogue), and you can allow yourself
to interrupt them without ending them, because you can resume them later.
But how do you behave when you come across the same colleague in your company for the second, third,
fourth time of the day?... It depends on the culture, but in no culture, no doubt, it happens exactly the same
as the first time.
See note 12 above.
Hence the addition of pages specifically dedicated to foreign culture only at the end of the didactic units of
the communicative textbooks, after the exercises of reuse of the language contents.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 6 of 14
At least in the early stages of CA development, the Intercultural Approach (henceforth referred to
as “IA”)) was designed to serve it: using the concept of "configuration" (cf. If one uses the concept
of "configuration" (see supra note 9), one would say that IA came to be "configured" with respect
to Communicative Approach (henceforth referred to as CA”); if one uses the puzzle metaphor, one
would say that the "features" or "layout" of the IA were designed to fit those of CA; if one uses the
genetic metaphor, one would say that the IA inherited the genes of CA. The idea of an IA at the
service of SAOA is still clearly found in a book published in 2002 by the Council of Europe:
Intercultural competence implies an increase in the internal capacity to process information,
so that communication between people from different cultures is facilitated and improved.
The following passage from one of the French intercultural specialists, Geneviève ZARATE,
provides a good corpus of analysis of IA genes:
The exercise of civilization cannot be reduced to the study of documents, or the
comprehension of texts. This minimal definition is only operational in a strictly academic
framework. What is proposed is to set up skills that will make it possible to resolve the
dysfunctions inherent in situations where the individual becomes involved in a lived
relationship with the stranger and thus discovers aspects of his identity that he has not yet
had the opportunity to explore; his quality as a stranger that is returned to him by the gaze
of the other, the particularisms of his practices that had hitherto appeared to him as
indisputable evidence. (1993)
The table below presents the results of this analysis:
The inchoatif
-not yet
The inchoatif, perfective and puntual
-set up
The individual/inter-individual
-the individual
-a stranger
-the other
The analysis clearly shows the filiation link between IA and CA (we find the same genes, except of
course for the language gene), a filiation that IA specialists cannot deny, even if they have
subsequently developed IA autonomously, enriching its genetic heritage by borrowing from extra-
didactic disciplines - particularly anthropology and sociology - and by borrowing directly from the
Anglo-Saxon current of intercultural studies.
2. The "DNA" of the Social Action-Oriented Approach
The CEFRL is part of a political project that takes into account the pursuit of European integration
and what it implies: it is no longer simply a question of preparing Europeans to meet foreigners (in
this case Europeans from other countries) on a one-off basis during tourist trips, but, in the
increasingly multilingual and multicultural societies of today's Europe, to prepare them to live with
others over time - hence the emergence of the notion of "plurilingual and pluricultural
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 7 of 14
competence" in this document -, and to act with others over time
- hence the emergence of
SAOA in this same document.
It is this new social situation of reference and this new acting with others - I call this latter "coaction"
to distinguish it from communicative "interaction" - that will transmit their "genes" to SAOA:
Genetic analysis of the social action-oriented approach
of the CA
In the personal, public and educational fields
and professional, most of the actions
that we realize...
the inchoatif
the repetitive
... are repeated more or less identically throughout the day, the
week, the months or even the years;
the punctual
the durative
... are of a certain duration, or at least are part of the duration;
the perfective
... are not completely finished (they are always subject to being
resumed and/or extended later on);
the collective
... are carried out collectively, or at least taking into account the
actions of others16;
the linguistic
the linguistic
and the cultural
... inseparably combine the language dimension and the cultural
We can see, to take up the image of the puzzle, that between SAOA and CA the genes are
"reversed", and this is what allows us to conceive, between the two methodological organisms, a
strong relationship assured by features that are both opposite and complementary.
3. The specific "features" of the Social Action-Oriented Approach
For this chapter, I have chosen the two-column table format. In the left-hand column, I present the
different specific "features" of SAOA as opposed to CA. Opposite, in the right-hand column, I present
the ideas that lead us to also consider the two methodologies in a necessary relationship of
complementarity. This will require, however, rectifying some of the "features" of CA as it has been
elaborated until now in the work of its promoters and in the communicative textbooks, where it has
been elaborated in an autonomous and self-sufficient manner.
3.1. A new relationship between class-society and
external society
Plural relations between class-companies
and external company, between shares and tasks
In CA, there is no homology between the two
societies: we want to train learners, who share the
same mother tongue in their class-society, to
communicate later on in the foreign language with
foreigners in the foreign society. Hence the
systematic use, in this methodology, of simulation,
in which learners are asked to act as if they were not
in the classroom, but abroad; as if they were not
My readers will want to refer to the model I have
proposed to describe all the possible ways of relating
these two pairs of elements (class-society and
external society, actions and tasks), a model entitled
"Intersections between learning acting ("tasks") and
usage acting ("actions")"18;
This action with others corresponds to work in the "professional domain", but also to work in the "educational
domain", to use the categories of the CEFRL, which distinguishes as fields of action the public, personal and
professional domains: the challenge for a class is indeed to succeed in effectively carrying out a joint teaching-
learning action. This action with others also corresponds to "acting as a citizen" in the "public domain": the
challenge here is to "make society" together.
In SAOA, it is the way of communicating that must adapt, and if it must adapt to others, it is primarily as
part of the communication situation.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 8 of 14
among themselves, but with foreigners; or even as
if they were not themselves, but foreigners. This is
why simulation is indispensable in this methodology.
In SAOA, on the contrary, there is a relationship of
natural homology between the two societies: like the
external society in which one wants to train learners
to act socially, the class-society is a multilingual
(there is at least the L1 and L2)17 and multicultural
(there is at least the teaching culture and the
learning culture) micro-society where the learners
and the teacher must act together in the most
effective way, so that there is the best possible
At the end of the commentary on this model, I
present the areas of intersection between these two
pairs of elements with respect to CA and SAOA:
- In the communicative approach, the preferred
area is C (the simulation of actions, in the form of
the presentation of a sketch or role-play by the
students themselves), with support being reduced
(at least in the textbooks that systematize this
approach) to the strict minimum, whether in terms
of preparation (a1), support (a2) or rehearsal (a3).
- In the pedagogy of the project and the social-
oriented approach, the privileged area is B and D,
the other areas being mobilized according to the
needs of the learners and the requirements of the
The educational purpose of training a social actor
naturally leads to actions that I will call, for want of
a better term, "serious". But on the one hand
simulation is a very serious training tool (cf. flight
simulators for pilot training, and more generally all
simulation activities in professional training), and on
the other hand there is no reason to do without
creative or playful simulations (which can also be
very "serious" in the sense that they are meant to be
effective: cf. for example, serious games), so as to
vary the forms of action in class and to call on all
possible "learning instances" among learners. 19The
interest of the projects - the most successful form of
implementing SAOA, cf. infra point 3.2 - is that they
can be designed in such a way as to mobilize all the
areas of intersection between these pairs of
elements, including the one favored by SAOA.
3.2. A new reference learning acting, social acting
Communicational acting at the service of social
In all the methodologies that have followed one
another for a century and a half in France, the same
relationship of maximum homology has always been
applied between the reference use acting and the of
reference learning acting. In other words, the task
(learning acting, in the classroom) has always been
what most closely resembled the action for which we
wanted to prepare students (use acting, in external
society)20. Thus, in CA, we want to train learners to
communicate with others in a foreign language, and
for this we make them do exactly the same thing:
communicate with each other in a foreign language
in the classroom.
Whether for social actions limited in time and space
in the classroom, or for real projects that are longer
and open to external society, the collective
dimension, privileged in SAOA, will inevitably require
intense communication between learners. On this
point, too, there is complementarity between CA and
SAOA, from the moment when - and this is where the
"trait" of CA must be modified to adapt to that of
SAOA, like the two inverse tracings of the two pieces
to be assembled in a Lego game:
1) communication is no longer conceived both as a
means and an objective, but only as a means at the
service of action: it is therefore difficult to imagine
In a Japanese language course in a French school or university, for example, the L1 (or "source language")
is French, the L2 (or "target language") is Japanese.
The teacher, in order to stimulate learning, can "appeal" to the learners (hence the legal metaphor of
"instance"...) to Reason, Imitation, Memorization, Emotion, Reaction, Action, or Impregnation. (cf. "Instances
cognitives d’enseignement-apprentissage. Modèle ‘RIMERAI’",èque-de-
On this terminology, see "Le champ sémantique de l’agir en didactique des langues-cultures",èque-de-travail/013/.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 9 of 14
The same relationship of homology makes the
"pedagogical project" (the one we hear in France
when we speak of "project pedagogy") the reference
activity of SAOA, an activity consisting of both
actions (the project is real, it is a real project) and
tasks (the project is also an opportunity to work on
the content and the language and cultural skills
necessary to carry out the project). 21
that a didactic unit ends with a phase of simple
communication, as when each group informs the
whole class of what it has achieved separately (a
terminal device very frequent in communicative
2) the communication activity can no longer be the
only, or the only privileged one, among all the
information management activities that a responsible
and efficient social actor must carry out (see below
point 3.3);
3) work in groups of two, without being excluded, can
no longer be the preferred form of class work (see
point 3.5 below).
The interest of SAOA in its "strong" version, which
calls for project pedagogy22, is that pedagogical
projects function as "methodological integrators", in
other words that they allow the implementation of all
the approaches that the history of language and
culture didactics has bequeathed to us: see the
example of the project designed by a Guatemalan
teacher for his FFL students, which I present in my
2006(e) article, p. 12 and p. 17.
3.3. A new conception of language competence,
"information competence".
Communicative competence,
essential component
informational competence
On this informational competence, I refer my readers
to my 2009(c) article, which is entirely devoted to it.
The implementation of SAOA leads us to move, in
terms of objectives, from communicative
competence to "informational competence", which I
define as the ability to act on and through
information as a social actor. A sequence in SAOA is
characterized in particular by the fact that learners
are asked to perform operations :
- pre-communicative: defining their information
needs, searching for it, selecting, evaluating and
prioritizing it; deciding to whom, when it will be
transmitted and for what purpose, ... ;
- and post-communication: evaluate the relevance of
the information transmitted, the timing and the
recipient; decide whether to delete the information,
or to keep it because it could be useful later to
oneself or to others, and then decide whether to
keep it as is or to update it periodically, ... This is
what we call "information management", which a
social actor must, in today's societies, have a good
command of (we speak in French of "maîtrise de
Although communication activity is now only one of
the information management activities in SAOA it is
clear that it will remain the most important in most
language classes, especially :
- because in order to act well together, we must
communicate well with each other;
- because the classroom must remain a privileged
place and time for the practice of the oral language,
the main means of learning it. Pre- and post-
communication activities, when carried out
collectively in small groups, are natural opportunities
for authentic communication in the classroom, as are
exchanges on the design, implementation and
evaluation of projects.
On project pedagogy in SOAO, see PUREN 2013f.
This version is incompatible with the manuals. See my proposal for a "Grille d’analyse des différents types
actuels de mise en œuvre de l’agir dans les manuels de langues » (Grid for the analysis of the different current
types of implementation of acting in language textbooks,èque-de-
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 10 of 14
3.4. A new primary component of cultural
competence, the "co-cultural" component
The intercultural component,
essential component
cultural competence".
CA, which concerns the teaching-learning of the -
language, is accompanied by a specific approach to
the teaching-learning of the culture. This is the so-
called "intercultural" approach, the two cultures
worked in contact being the cultures of the two
societies present in the classroom: that of the
learners, and that of the country/countries whose
language they are learning.
The specific cultural approach to SAOA is different:
it is an approach that I call "co-cultural", with the
main focus naturally on common cultures of action
in the different fields: In the educational field, this
co-culture is, for example, the so-called "school
culture" or, in the classroom, the teaching-learning
community to be developed together; in the public
field, it is, for example, the "citizen culture", in the
professional field, the "professional culture" or the
"corporate culture".23 The fact that there is a
homology between the class-society and the
external society in the SAOA makes it possible to
envisage that the foreign language classroom is also
an environment where learners are trained, through
the learning culture, to the culture of action outside
the classroom: the professional culture, for example,
in the case of a course such as FSP (French for
Specific Purposes), to foreign students in French
schools of engineering, business, medicine, etc. or
the university culture, in the case of FUF (French for
University Purposes, type of course, to foreign
students who are preparing to follow or who have
begun to follow a university course in France. 24
Even if SAOA involves working on a specific
component of cultural competence - the "co-cultural"
component - the other components remain relevant,
among them the intercultural component: even if one
has been living and working in a multicultural
environment for a long time, there are always times
when phenomena of intercultural contact can occur:
on the one hand because one has never finished
"discovering" other cultures completely, on the other
hand because, quite legitimately, one has retained
elements of one's own culture that are different from
those of other cultures.
However, in order to reflect the "culture of action" in
the textbooks, a significant change must be made to
the structure of the didactic unit, and that is that the
culture must be worked on within the unit before the
proposed action is carried out or completed. 25
The peculiarity of SAOA is that it works for culture,
as it does for methodologies, as an "integrator". This
is how I present this idea in my 2010 conference(e):
The social action-oriented approach implies the
implementation between teacher and learners, for
their collective teaching-learning in the classroom
space, of the totality of the components of cultural
competence ("professional culture").
In order for them to act as teaching-learning social
actors in the classroom, learners and teachers must
be able to...
- communicate (intercultural component);
- cohabit (pluricultural component);
- co-act (co-cultural component);
This also implies from them to...
- know each other well (metacultural component);
- share common values beyond the different
cultures involved (transcultural component).
(p. 13)
3.5. A new educational challenge: collective
The different forms of classroom activity
Learner autonomy was certainly a central theme in
CA, but it was thought of within the framework of
Training for individual autonomy remains, of course,
an essential issue for the language-culture class,
See PUREN 2010e (this is a lecture I gave that year in Osaka, where I take the example of a FFL course in
Japan), and PUREN 2011j. Or, if one prefers to listen to a lecture on the same theme and follow the visuals,
PUREN 2001f.
I have been trying (without much success so far...) to spread this idea for already 15 years: see PUREN
1998g, Chapter II, "Formation professionnelle et apprentissage des langues (Vocational Training and Language
Learning), pp. 9-16.
For an example of implementation in a textbook, see point 5, "De l’interculturel au co-culturel" (From
intercultural to co-cultural) in the Foreword of the manual Original Version (3 & 4),èque-de-travail/031/, and the reproduction of a didactic unit from this
collection (Unit 7 of Level 4) at :
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 11 of 14
this methodology, i.e. in terms of the individual and
language modes.
In SAOA, the challenge is to train learners not only
for individual autonomy, but also for collective
autonomy, both at the level of work groups and the
whole class, both in language and culture of social
With regard to the design of the didactic sequences
or units, SAOA leads to a reversal of the approach
that had hitherto permeated all methodologies, and
which ranged from more directivity (in the initial
work on the basic texts or dialogues and in the
grammatical and lexical exercises) to more
autonomy (in the final situations of "free reuse",
where learners were invited to reuse for themselves
the language forms previously introduced and
worked on in class).
In project pedagogy, on the contrary, learners must
be as free as possible at the beginning, in the project
design phase, so that they really appropriate it; the
teacher can then intervene in a more directive way,
as a specialist in the foreign language and
responsible for its teaching, to make the students
work on the language content that he knows they
need to succeed in their project. 26
both in terms of education - a citizen is responsible
and supportive but retains his or her own critical
awareness - and in terms of language and cultural
training: once the course is completed and the class
group dissolved, it is indeed each learner who must
leave with his or her own skills, even if these include
skills for living harmoniously and working effectively
with others.
This is why terminal certifications are about
individuals as such. With at least one notable
exception, that of phase 3, oral interaction, of level 2
of the Certificate of Competence in Languages of
Higher Education), a phase presented as follows on
the official website (, link
"Quelles épreuves?"): "Evaluation in pairs during
which both candidates must take on the roles
provided to them and which put them in a negotiating
situation that will have to evolve to reach a decision
acceptable to both parties.
This is another point where the "feature" of SAOA
needs to be changed: the evaluation of social action
training, such as that proposed by SAOA, must
necessarily include an assessment of competence to
work with others, not just communicate with others.
This implies organizing communicative activities
centered not only on the effectiveness of
communication, but on the effectiveness of collective
work and individual contributions to that
On the other hand, the CA reference group - the
group of two - has a structural advantage over larger
groups (including of course the class group), which is
to allow in class the maximum multiplication of
language interactions. It is therefore not a question
of eliminating it in the implementation of SAOA, but
of adjusting it in relation to the activity of the class
group. For example, we are not going to start by
working in pairs to reflect on a final task that must
be collective, as is often the case in communicative
textbooks; but a project always implies a distribution
of tasks, and this can be an opportunity to
systematically implement activities in pairs.
3.6. New L1 ("source language") functions
Maintaining the Direct Paradigm as the Dominant
In CA, the natural tendency was to exclude the
source language as much as possible, since the goal
was to get learners to communicate as often as
possible in the classroom in the foreign language.
In SAOA, the source language acquires new
functions, since the aim is also to train students to
Even if the direct paradigm28 has been relativized by
the constructivist paradigm over the last three
decades29, it is still dominant in language didactics:
it is still considered that one learns an L2 mainly by
practicing it, whether in comprehension, expression,
or interaction.
To go further on this theme, one can consult PUREN 2010f and PUREN 2011h.
One learns to speak an L2 by making an effort from the start to think and speak in L2, thus avoiding the
mental translation L1 L2.
One learns a foreign language by progressively constructing in the space of contact between one's L1 and
L2, by trial and error, one's "interlanguage" (or "intermediate grammar"), consisting of the set of rules for the
functioning of the L2 that one will spontaneously use at a given moment in one's learning.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 12 of 14
act socially not only in their classroom society but
also, where possible, in their own external society
(e.g., in the case of a FFL course in Japan). 27
Since the teaching-learning time in language classes
is very limited, the use of the L1 in the L2 classroom
is considered to have a high "cost" (that of the
corresponding time not used for L2 practice). This
does not mean that we are going to prohibit ourselves
from using the L1 in the classroom; it means that we
are going to use it as a teacher, and have it used by
learners only at specific moments and for specific
activities where we will consider that the cost-benefit
relationship is to the advantage of the L1: we
consider that we gain more by using it than what we
otherwise lose. In school didactics in France, for
example, it is generally considered that a good
understanding of language mechanisms by learners
is important enough for conceptualization activities to
be carried out in the L1. In the implementation of
SAOA, new functions of L1 use appear, which may
lead the teacher to "target" and "dose" his or her use
in a slightly different way from the communicative
The few "genetic manipulations" that I propose here to carry out on CA are not new: in all
methodologies, one can observe "genetic mutations" compared to previous methodologies, carried
out in a more or less conscious and more or less explicit way. Here are three examples:
- After an initial period of rejection, the direct methodology resumed the translation exercise,
but no longer assigning to it the function of training in the rules of grammar, as in the
"grammatical theme" of the traditional methodology, but the function of controlling an
understanding worked on in L2.
- French textbooks for foreign language teaching continued in the 80-90s to use structural
exercises, but as intensive training exercises integrated into the standard procedure (after
conceptualization and application exercises, therefore), and not, as originally, as behaviourist
exercises for automating language models.
- CA has taken over the use of authentic documents from the previous active methodology,
but has modified this unique exercise to make different exercises adapted to work on each
of the language activities (written and oral comprehension, written and oral expression,
On the three new functions provided by the source language in SAOA (in addition to the 10 already known),
see the document "Fonctions de la traduction en didactique des langues-cultures”,èque-de-travail/033/. If we also want to take into account the objective of
living together in a multilingual society, another function of translation is essential, this time in the service of
See, in my Histoire des methodologies de l’enseignement des langues (1st ed. 1988, 3rd ed. 2013), in Chapter
2.2.1, "La méthode directe”, point b: "La traduction comme procédure de contrôle de la comprehension
linguistique" (Translation as a procedure for checking linguistic comprehension), p. 82,, 2013 edition.
See in the Working Library of my site the documents 009 ("Procédure standard de l’enseignement scolaire
de la grammaire”",èque-de-travail/009/) and 010 ("Les quatre procédures
historiques de l’enseignement de la grammaire",èque-de-travail/010/).
We thus move from a "logique document” (document logic) to a "logique support” (support logic). See PUREN
2012j, chap. 4. "Les cinq logiques documentaires actuellement disponibles (The five documentary logics
currently available), p. 27.
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 13 of 14
One of the possible alternatives to eclecticism, in which reduced and isolated elements of different
methodologies are combined and articulated with each other in a more or less reasoned way - with
the risks that this may entail, especially when it comes to the initial training of teachers - is perhaps
to be built from the idea suggested here, that of modifying the set of available methodologies so
that they can be made to cohabit harmoniously with each other, and work together for better
learning. This would, after all, be nothing more than an application of the principles of the
pluricultural approach and SOAO to the management of teaching-learning modes .
BOUTINET Jean-Pierre. 2001. Anthropologie du projet, Paris : PUF (coll. « Psychologie
d'aujourd'hui »), 6e éd. 2001 [1e éd. 1990], 351 p.
EK J.A. van. 1980. Threshold level English: in a European unit/credit system for modern language
learning by adult. Oxford: Council of Europe-Pergamon, 1975. Oxford: Council of Europe-Pergamon,
xi + 253 p. [The book is not available online, to my knowledge, but its preface by J.L.M TRIM has
been included in a compilation still online at this date on the website of the Council of Europe: see
TRIM J.L.M 1975.]
GRIMA CAMILLERI Antoinette. 2002. COMME C’EST BIZARRE ! L’utilisation d’anecdotes dans le
développement de la compétence interculturelle, Graz : Conseil de l’Europe, novembre, 100 p.
MORIN Edgar. 1990. Introduction à la pensée complexe, Paris : ESF éditeur, 160 p.
PUREN Christian. 1988. Histoire des méthodologies de l'enseignement des langues, 3e éd. 2013
[1e éd. 1988], 302 p.,
1998g. « Les langues vivantes comme outil de formation des cadres »,
2002b. « Perspectives actionnelles et perspectives culturelles en didactique des langues-cultures :
vers une perspective co-actionnelle co-culturelle », première publication dans le numéro 3/2002
des Langues modernes, juil.-août-sept., pp. 55-71. Paris : APLV,
2005a. « Domaines de la didactique des langues-cultures. Entrées libres »,
2005d. « Quelle dynamique engager pour une plus grande efficacité ? »,
2006e. « Explication de textes et perspective actionnelle : la littérature entre le dire scolaire et le
faire social »,
2008e. « De l'approche communicative à la perspective actionnelle, et de l'interculturel au co-
2009b. « Variations sur la perspective de l'agir social en didactique des langues-cultures
étrangères »,
2009c. « Les implications de la perspective de l'agir social sur la gestion des connaissances en
classe de langue-culture : de la compétence communicative à la compétence informationnelle »,
2010e. « La nouvelle problématique culturelle de la perspective actionnelle européenne: cultures
d'enseignement, cultures d'apprentissage, cultures didactiques »,
2010f. « L'autonomie dans la nouvelle perspective actionnelle: une problématique à
reconsidérer »,
Christian Puren, "Communicative approach and social action-oriented approach, two genetically opposed...
and complementary methodological organisms". (January 2014) Page 14 of 14
2011e. « Mises au point de/sur la perspective actionnelle »,
2011f. « Compétence d'apprentissage et compétence culturelle en perspective actionnelle",
2011h. « Le nouvel objectif social de référence de la didactique des langues-cultures: la formation
d'un acteur social autonome et solidaire »,
2012f. « Configurations didactiques, constructions méthodologiques et objets didactiques en
didactique des langues-cultures : perspective historique et situation actuelle »,
2012j. « Traitement didactique des documents authentiques et spécificités des textes littéraires :
du modèle historique des tâches scolaires aux cinq logiques documentaires actuelles ». Chap. 4,
« Les cinq logiques documentaires actuellement disponibles », p. 27,
2013b. « La perspective actionnelle, évolution ou révolution historique ? Pour une conception
complexe du changement en didactique des langues-cultures »,
2013e. « Le passage du paradigme de la communication au paradigme de l’action, et ses
implications dans la mise en œuvre pratique de la perspective actionnelle »,
2013f. « Perspective actionnelle et pédagogie de projet, apports historiques de deux mouvements
pédagogiques : l’ICEM-Pédagogie Freinet, le GFEN »,
2013h. « De l’approche communicative à la perspective actionnelle : deux ruptures décisives ».
Visuels (diaporama au format pdf) et enregistrement audio (55' au format mp3),
RICHER Jean-Jacques. 2009. « Lectures du Cadre : continuité ou rupture ? », pp. 13-48 in : LIONS-
OLIVIERI Marie-Laure & LIRIA Philippe (coord.), L'approche actionnelle dans l'enseignement des
langues. Onze articles pour mieux comprendre et faire le point. Barcelone : Difusión-Édition Maison
des langues, 2009, 285 p.
TRIM J.L.M. 1975. Foreword, pp. 101-103 in: Threshold Level Series. Reference Level Descriptions
for national and regional languages. Série Niveaux-seuils. Descriptions de niveaux de référence pour
les langues nationales et régionales. Prefaces and Introductions / Préfaces et Introductions (1975-
2005), Council of Europe, Conseil de l'Europe, s.l., s.d., 103 p.
2001. Chapter 1 Guidance to all user, pp. 3-42 in: TRIM J.L.M (ed.) Common European
Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. A Guide for Users, Council
of Europe, Language Policy Division, Strasbourg, 2001,
CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE. 1997. Les Langues vivantes : apprendre, enseigner, évaluer. Un cadre
Européen Commun de Référence. Guide général d’utilisation. Strasbourg : Conseil de l’Europe, 41 p.
[This guide was incorporated in 2002 as the first chapter in a User's Guide with other parts written
by other authors. On-line:
ZARATE Geneviève. 1993. Représentations de l’étranger et didactique des langues, Paris : Didier-
CRÉDIF, coll. « Essais », 128 p.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This book is a response to the recognition that the achievement of the threshold level of second language proficiency is for many adults an overly ambitious objective. The degree of communicative competence that will be imparted by the waystage approach will be about halfway between zero and the threshold level. This degree of competence will permit a significant ability to function among speakers of the second language without providing across-the-board skills in handling the language forms that will be encountered in ordinary communication situations. This document provides theoretical and practical information to persons involved in the adminstration and contruction of waystage programs and courses. The bulk of this volume consists of a listing of topic-related notions and common English referents, or exponents, to these notions. Emphasis is on survival areas of competence (identification, home, travel, health, and so on). A significant difference between this and the threshold approach is that the waystage approach does not distinguish between exponents for productive and receptive use on the one hand and exponents for receptive use alone on the other. Lexical and structural inventories follow the notional-functional inventory. A discussion of methodological considerations is appended. (JB)
COMME C'EST BIZARRE ! L'utilisation d'anecdotes dans le développement de la compétence interculturelle, Graz : Conseil de l'Europe, novembre
  • Antoinette Grima Camilleri
GRIMA CAMILLERI Antoinette. 2002. COMME C'EST BIZARRE ! L'utilisation d'anecdotes dans le développement de la compétence interculturelle, Graz : Conseil de l'Europe, novembre, 100 p.
L'approche actionnelle dans l'enseignement des langues. Onze articles pour mieux comprendre et faire le point. Barcelone : Difusión-Édition Maison des langues
  • Richer Jean-Jacques
RICHER Jean-Jacques. 2009. « Lectures du Cadre : continuité ou rupture ? », pp. 13-48 in : LIONS-OLIVIERI Marie-Laure & LIRIA Philippe (coord.), L'approche actionnelle dans l'enseignement des langues. Onze articles pour mieux comprendre et faire le point. Barcelone : Difusión-Édition Maison des langues, 2009, 285 p.
Conseil de l'Europe, s.l., s.d., 103 p
  • J L M Trim
TRIM J.L.M. 1975. "Foreword", pp. 101-103 in: Threshold Level Series. Reference Level Descriptions for national and regional languages. Série Niveaux-seuils. Descriptions de niveaux de référence pour les langues nationales et régionales. Prefaces and Introductions / Préfaces et Introductions (1975-2005), Council of Europe, Conseil de l'Europe, s.l., s.d., 103 p. -2001. "Chapter 1 -Guidance to all user", pp. 3-42 in: TRIM J.L.M (ed.) Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. A Guide for Users, Council of Europe, Language Policy Division, Strasbourg, 2001,
Un cadre Européen Commun de Référence. Guide général d'utilisation. Strasbourg : Conseil de l'Europe, 41 p. [This guide was incorporated in 2002 as the first chapter in a User's Guide with other parts written by other authors
  • Conseil De L'europe
CONSEIL DE L'EUROPE. 1997. Les Langues vivantes : apprendre, enseigner, évaluer. Un cadre Européen Commun de Référence. Guide général d'utilisation. Strasbourg : Conseil de l'Europe, 41 p. [This guide was incorporated in 2002 as the first chapter in a User's Guide with other parts written by other authors. On-line: