Within communicative skills, language would be the last necessary tool before formulating any statement. But long before arriving at the external expression of our ideas, you must go through a process that is going to be affected by various factors, which together will mold the student’s communicative abilities.
One of these factors would be the style of communication. This is learned at home and develops in the early years of a student’s life. It is very much linked to his culture of origin, that is to say to the community where he was born and spent his childhood, but it is independent of it, and it does have to do with the style of communication of his closest environment and of his family in particular. This can be a closed, open, top-down, bottom-up, diagonal, or indirect style of communication. Certain styles will facilitate communication, while others will hinder it, making it unintelligible and even conflictive.
Another group of factors would be related to the student’s person on a psychic and physical level. Their personality, their strengths and weaknesses both physically and psychically, their personal characteristics such as extroversion or more open and communicative temperaments will facilitate, to a certain extent, communication, while physical weaknesses or defects in sight, hearing or psychological or nervous type, will lead to communication difficulties. Motivation or attitude towards communication and learning will depend on each student’s needs, preferences, and beliefs about the outcomes of their actions.
The culture of origin, including their mother tongue, also plays a very important role in the development of their communication skills. The mother tongue, with a greater or lesser richness or specialization in vocabulary will affect the individual’s communicative ability. Each culture defines things in a way, both material things and abstract concepts, and it is in the latter that the greatest differences between different cultures occur. Concepts such as time, space, feelings, social relationships are different in almost all cultures. The style of communication varies considerably in each culture, being some more open and spontaneous and others more formal and strict in their communicative styles. The recipient of the message greatly influences the content and form of the message. The recipient’s age, sex, or social status can severely restrict the message in many cultures, while in others, the differences are smaller.
Another important and influential factor in the development of the student’s communicative skills is, without a doubt, the learning style of each student, given that they mark to a great extent how the student acquires both linguistic and communicative skills in general. Some students have developed more visual or graphic learning styles, while others, on the contrary, acquire knowledge and skills more easily through a more auditory style, or have greater receptivity and comprehension to abstract or logical concepts, in other cases.
On the other hand, the language changes historically, geographically and socially. It also changes in each situation, according to the identity of the participants (age, sex, social status, social group and role), the topic discussed (legal, technical, etc.), the environment (in a court, in the bar association), the medium (written or spoken), the degree of formality (intimate, ceremonial, etc.) and the writing style (descriptive, persuasive, etc.), or the spoken style used (rhetoric, pejorative, etc.). So many variables, with several parameters to take into account within each variable, could make the learning of a language a task of enormous proportions and difficult to manage. Luckily, many native speakers tend to forgive non-native speakers when they make mistakes, as they are aware of the complexity of the task at hand. In short, I dare to define communicative competence as a linguistic realization of a particular language, i.e. adapted to a particular situation, or as the ability to produce a suitable version of the language, appropriate for a particular purpose, person or situation.