TeachingEnglish
Functional vs Notional Syllabus

A colleague recently asked what we all think about the respective benefits of functional and notional syllabi, and I was sadly not able to answer ... although the discussion sounded interesting.I wonder if anyone can explain with a few examples, what the difference is between a function and a notion. In my applied linguistics dictionary, the examples of 'functions' don't make it very clear and for notions all I found was an entry on notional grammar.I'd be grateful for some clarity here! And possibly even some opinions on the respective benefits!BestCMF

hragaey's picture
hragaey

 The functional syllabus: The language functions are events which 'do things' such as inviting, promising, and offering.The modern consensus seems to be that functions may not be the best sole organising units for a syllabus, but it is an important part of a wider syllabus. 

hughstawski's picture
hughstawski

[quote=hragaey]

 

The functional syllabus: The language functions are events which 'do things' such as inviting, promising, and offering.

The modern consensus seems to be that functions may not be the best sole organising units for a syllabus, but it is an important part of a wider syllabus.

 

[/quote]

i completely agree. It's definitely part of the syllabus

cmftrier's picture
cmftrier

Thanks for the short definition of functional syllabus.I'm still unclear, though, as to what exactly "notions" are and how they, and a notional syllabus, differ from the functions / functional syllabus. Can anyone help?

anupkumarr's picture
anupkumarr

A notion is a concept or an idea. The headings of different sections are general notions; e.g.Birds and insects,transport. We may then list some items under these, which are specific. Functions are achievable tasks. ESL students guess meaning from the contextand enhance their ability to understand the functions of particular words in sentences.So learning quickly is the distinguishing feature of APTITUDE. The problem is this:functions are two-pronged. One function further invites either approval or disapproval,e.g.expressing opinion. They are over-lapping. Students achieve communicability through functions whereas syllabus desgners design syllabus through notions.                                                                                                                                        

fischerles's picture
fischerles

Nunan had quite a succinct definition on page 35 of his book on syllabus design, Syllabus Design.

"Function may be described as communicative purposes for which we use language, while notions are the conceptual meanings expressed through language"

So functions tend to end in -ing. Agreeing, disagreeing, bargaining, inviting, greeting
Whereas notions tend to be abstract nouns, Frequency, Size, Time, Colour, Direction