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October 2023 - Year 25 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

Digital Communicative Competence in the Foreign Languages Degree Course

Sandra Alemán Blanco is a teacher at the Secondary School Wilber Galano Reyes. She is a trainer of students in English competitions and the teacher in charge of the subject at the school. She has given lectures on the importance of digital competence for the training of teachers, the development of communication skills for local progress, as well as methodological activities.  She has also participated on national and international events. Email:

Adys Maria Nassiff Samón is a MSc of Education, Associate Professor and Chairwoman at the Language Center of the University of Guantánamo. Her interests are focused on updating  knowledge and practice of foreign language teaching methodologies and research. Has written and co- written several articles on the teaching of English as a Foreign Language and enjoys working with creative and enthusiastic students from different levels of education. Email:



The purpose of this research is to reflect on the importance of digital communicative competence in the Foreign Languages Degree Course as a response to the current demands of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) and the requests of the Third Improvement of Cuban Higher Education; taking into consideration its guiding principles and influence on the general training of Foreign Languages professionals. The methods applied yielded insufficiencies in terms of the methodology and procedures used by teachers from the degree course. Consequently, the results identified some inadequacies regarding the knowledge of the theoretical basis of the approaches used in the Integral Practice of the English Language in virtual environments.



The development of the conceptual framework of a new approach to teaching must reveal the links between cognitive, discourse and sociocultural processes in which people interact, which requires the expansion of their thinking, communicative and sociocultural competence.

The papers published by Roméu, A. (1987, 1992, 1997, 1997, 2003 and 2007), in which he proposes the need to teach language as a discipline present in the cognitive and communicative processes related to the teaching of any subject have been taken into account for the purposes of this research. Besides, the writing include all areas of human development; which enable the participation of the subject in different communicative contexts, as well as the study of the text (oral or written) through the systematic treatment of the basic processes of communication (comprehension, analysis and construction of meanings) as functional components. Consolidated in an integrative approach called cognitive, communicative and sociocultural approach (CCSCA)

The successful application of the Cognitive Communicative and Sociocultural Approach (CCCS) in the educational context of virtual environments allows the development of communicative skills related to the functional components (comprehension, analysis and construction of texts), making it possible for digital educational communication to be a permanent and reciprocal linguistic interaction between the teacher and the student. This approach assumes the relationship between cognitive processes, discursive structures and society, which constitute the components of the so-called Discourse Triangle (Van Dijk, 2000).

In this sense, it is considered necessary for teachers and students to acquire modes of action and strategies to understand, analyze and construct digital texts, in order to promote cognitive and metacognitive skills for individual and/or collaborative interactions in virtual environments, that favor the ability to self-regulate these processes and, therefore, to focus on the practices of understanding and construction of meaning and discourse analysis, considering its principles, categories and the relationship of its dimensions: semantic, syntactic and pragmatic, in the course of educational communication in virtual environments.

Starting from the theoretical inconsistency that is concretized in: Lack of theoretical and methodological referents related to digital communicative competence and the educational needs of students of the Foreign Languages degree course for their communicative performance according to the requirements of the CEFRL. The CCSCA) referred to is based on the postulates of the historic-cultural approach initiated by Vygotsky, in which a relevant idea for this research is that of mediation.

Cognitive, communicative and sociocultural competence constitute a whole that is divisible only from the methodological point of view. The unity and cohesion of its dimensions is given because it is the person that learns and communicates, in accordance with the socially acquired sociocultural inheritance, implying his cultural knowledge, cognition, needs, interests, motives, feelings and values. Taking into account this integrating conception, it is considered necessary to undertake three dimensions on this definition: the cognitive, communicative and sociocultural.

The cognitive dimension reveals the noetic function, being one of the fundamental functions of language and becomes latent in the participation of language in the construction of thought and concepts, which constitutes the dialectical unity of verbal thought and intellectual language.

The communicative dimension highlights the second essential function of language: semiotics. In this perspective, language is defined as a system of signs involved in social communication, which implies linguistic, discursive and strategic knowledge.

The sociocultural dimension refers to knowledge of the context, the roles of the participants, their social hierarchy (belonging to a class or social group), ideology, identity, feelings and moods, communicative intention and purpose and the communicative situation in it takes place.

In this regard, UNESCO, at the World Conference on Higher Education (2009), stated: "Higher Education must expand teacher training, both initial and in-service, with curricula and programs that give teachers the ability to equip their students with the knowledge and skills they need in the twenty-first century".



In recent times, the study of competencies has gained strength in Cuba from the pedagogical and didactic point of view, making its study necessary since it is essential in the teacher training process, in correspondence with international trends.

The Center for Educational Studies of the ISPEJV starts from the theoretical references of the historical-cultural school and proposes a conceptualization of competence: "Psychological configuration that integrates diverse cognitive, metacognitive, motivational components and personality qualities in close functional unity, self-regulating real and efficient performance in a specific sphere of activity, in correspondence with the socially constructed desirable performance model in a specific historical context" (Castellanos Simons, Llivina Lavigne, and Fernández González, 2003, p.3).

The objective of language teaching is to develop what Hymes (1972) called "communicative competence".  This term was used with the purpose of contrasting a communicative view of language with Chomsky's theory of competence.  Hymes felt that this conception of linguistic theory was sterile, and that linguistic theory needed to become part of a more general theory incorporating communication and culture.

Following this author, Canale and Swain (1980) emphasize communicative functions and social context, considering linguistic, sociolinguistic, discursive and strategic competence as dimensions of communicative competence.

The concept of pragmatic competence was defined by Cot (2000), taking Canale and Swain's criteria as a basis, and stating the sociolinguistic and textual dimensions.

From a linguistic point of view, the communicative approach is based on text linguistics, a branch of linguistics that studies spoken and written texts.  It is concerned, for example, with the way in which the parts of a text are organized and related to each other in order to be integrated into a meaningful whole (Richards, 1997).  Text linguistics approaches language comprehension from three perspectives: 

- Semantics (meaning): sign - thought - reality relationship.

- Syntax (organization): sign - sign relationship.

- Pragmatics (use): the relation man - sign and sign - man, including the context.

The communicative approach is also based on pragma-linguistics (relationship between language and context), with psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics as two fundamental pillars.  Psycholinguistics studies the language-thought relationship and, through it, the language-reflection of reality relationship.  Sociolinguistics, on the other hand, studies the language-society-culture relationship.  It is precisely from this pragma-linguistic perspective that the communicative approach recognizes as its objective the achievement of communicative competence.

Jack C. Richards, (2001) defines communicative competence as "the ability to use language appropriately in communication depending on the spatial and temporal context, the roles of the participants, and the nature of the transaction taking place". 

When considering competence as actual performance, Llivina (2004:1), states that competence cannot be reduced to a capacity or potentiality.  It is about knowing how to act in certain situations and mobilizing the necessary resources to achieve an objective. This article agrees with M. G. Moreno (2002) and Llivina (2004) in considering competence as the manifestation of the development of skills.

Based on the previous conceptions, for the purposes of this research, the definition issued by Fong.S, (2005), on communicative competence is assumed, considering it as the performance of the subject in his verbal and nonverbal activity in real communication situations that involve interaction between two or more people, or between a person and an oral or written text, in correspondence with a given social context.

For its better study and understanding, communicative competence has been separated into five fundamental components that interact dialectically:

- Linguistic competence

- Sociolinguistic competence

- Strategic competence

- Discourse competence

- Sociocultural competence.

These five components are systemically interrelated.  However, the methods prior to the communicative approach concentrated mainly on the first of them.


Digital competence: conceptualization and importance for the Foreign Languages Degree Course

In recent years, the focus of studies and discourses on Digital Literacy seem to be shifting the weight from the technological to the communicative, in a parallel process to that which is also being experienced by the evolution of the Net itself and its uses by users." (Lara, 2008), cited by Huerta, 2017).

Its development is currently essential at all educational levels, as it is the central axis of the technological literacy process and the key that will allow any ICT user to enter and understand what happens in virtual environments, thus being able to dialogue with people who share the same language and in some cases another language, regardless of their geographical location.

The European Commission (2006:15) states that digital competence is that which leads to the creative, safe and critical use of ICTs for different uses in everyday life. However, in order to develop this competence, it is necessary the appropriate use of technological devices to obtain, evaluate, store, produce, present and exchange information and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet.

On the other hand, in order to develop digital competence, it is necessary to acquire knowledge related to basic specific language allusive to textual, numerical, iconic, visual, graphic and sound Gutiérrez Porlán, Prendes-Espinosa and Martínez- Sánchez, (2018).

It is said that when digital competences are developed, it is possible to develop skills related to the search for information, the use and management of ICT tools, the creation of content, data security and protection, and the ability to solve real problems using technological resources (MinTIC, 2016).

Digital competence can also be understood from a communicative, social and participatory approach. Thus this competence in the area of languages is "the ability to understand and express oneself through the analytical, productive and creative use of digital information and communication technologies.

It is clear that digital communication goes beyond the mastery of technological issues, communication on the network involves the creation and use of new discourses or cyber-genres. These new dynamics imply a model where learning processes are increasingly efficient and more effective in order to contribute to the construction and dissemination of knowledge not only in its essence, but also in its application. Therefore, it is necessary to glimpse the trends, threats, changes and opportunities faced by the classical learning models that have been historically supported by an approach based on the collection and fragmented and memorized transmission of information, in the face of a new broader, more diverse and flexible training that is constantly challenged by the rapid incorporation of new pedagogical, didactic and technological experiences.

Digital competence refers to the management related to the use of digital technology and its application in different personal and professional fields. It has been identified with different terms, among which Gallardo (2013) distinguishes media literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, media education, information literacy, and digital competence and ICT literacy.

The European Parliament, (2006), cited by Huerta, (2017) defines digital competence as that which involves the safe and critical use of information society technologies (IST) for work, leisure and communication.

Taking the above as a reference, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the European Commission synthesizes multiple definitions of digital literacy or competence into five elements: learning domains, tools, areas, modes and purposes.

For the purposes of this research, the authors take the following criterion issued by Ferrari, (2012: 56) who defines it as follows: 

"Digital competence is the set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, strategies and values required when using ICT and digital media to perform tasks, solve problems, communicate, manage information, collaborate, create and share content, and build knowledge in an effective, efficient, appropriate, critical, creative, autonomous, flexible, ethical and reflective manner for work, leisure, participation, learning, socialization, consumption and empowerment".

For Ala-Mutka, (2011), being digitally competent means having sufficient skills and ability to be efficient with digital processes and devices, therefore, digital competence for the 21st century is understood as integrated by instrumental knowledge, skills in the use of media, advanced knowledge in communication, information management, problem solving, etc. These skills must be supported by the development of critical, creative, intellectual and autonomous attitudes.

The definitions that different specialists have formulated with the intention of contributing to the development of communicative skills for the teaching of foreign languages are considered as theoretical references. The essence of communicative interaction, based on a wide range of speech acts, is a common denominator; but their differences must be specified in terms of the diversity of types of teaching, levels and social context. It seems appropriate to highlight a definition of digital communicative competence that takes into account the theoretical and epistemological bases that characterize it. Thus, the authors define Digital Communicative Competence for Foreign Languages (DCCFL) as: A process of comprehension and construction of meaningful statements in, which realization; the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing in English language are involved through the use of digital environments where the communicative intention of the speakers is manifested, by virtue of the context wherein it occurs, with the use of different codes for an appropriate communicative performance. Alemán Blanco; S. (2023)

The CEFRL (2001) provides general recommendations for language teaching with an action-oriented approach, in which the learner will have to demonstrate a range of skills carefully selected according to the learner's needs and the professional context in which he/she has to develop.

Faced with this new reality, it is necessary for future teachers to be able to adapt to constant changes. The role of the teacher is changing, it is no longer only the teacher who teaches, but now it is the teacher who facilitates the learning of the student. This challenge poses new strategies, which require a set of skills and competencies necessary to face the strong change of scenario in which the new training processes supported by ICT are developed.



The cognitive-communicative and sociocultural approach that is added as a general theoretical reference overcomes the limitations of traditional approaches, since it takes into account the communication needs and interests of Foreign Language Students and joint interaction as a way to access knowledge and achieve learning (teaching by task) and considers the processes of comprehension, analysis and construction of meanings in social and cultural contexts.

The result of the instruments applied revealed the need to search for ways that contribute to the achievement of effective communication, aimed at the development of communicative skills in the Foreign Languages Degree Course, with new linguistic positions in close relation to the cognitive processes and professional relationships that occur within the framework of communication in the activity of this type of student.

According to the purpose of this research, digital communicative competence is defined for the foreign language degree course from the conceptions of the cognitive, communicative and sociocultural approach, where the semantic, syntactic and pragmatic components are integrated, which consider not only the meaning and sense of the statements, but also the structure, use and relevance of these, according to the context of communication and the social and communicative value.



Alemán, B. S. (2021). Virtual environments: a challenge in the initial training of the Bachelor of Education: Foreign Languages. I International Congress of Education and Pedagogy. Mexico.

Alemán, B. S. (2022). Hybrid education in English classes, new post-pandemic learning model. II International Congress of Education and Pedagogy. Mexico.

Arango, L. G. (2004). Communication codes for chat interaction. II Online Congress of the Observatory for CyberSociety.

Ávalos Dávila, C. (2016). Proposal of didactic strategies for research training through the use of technological tools. Innovaciones Educativas, 18(24), 33-46.

Bertot Savón, Yasmel. System of communicative tasks, based on the cognitive-communicative and sociocultural approach, for the development of oral communication in IFP, in students of the Mountain Agricultural Engineering degree course of the University of Guantánamo. -- Thesis presented in option to the degree of Doctor in Pedagogical Sciences. Havana, 2012.

Chomsky, Noam. El Lenguaje y los Problemas del Conocimiento (Language and the Problems of Knowledge). - Madrid: Ed. Visor, 1992.

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Hymens, D. On Communicative Competence: Directions in Sociolinguistics. 1970.

Lima, S. (2005).La mediación pedagógica con uso de las tecnologías de la información y las comunicaciones (TIC).Curso 67, Pedagogía Internacional 2005. ISBN 959-18-0077-0.

Rico, P., Santos, E. M., Matín-Viaña, V., García, M. & Castillo, S. (2008). The Cuban elementary school model: a developmental proposal for education, teaching and learning. Havana: Pueblo y Educación.

Roméu, A., (1997). Mother tongue: cognition and communication. Havana: Pueblo y Educación.

Roméu, A., (2003). Acerca de la enseñanza del Español y la Literatura. Havana: Pueblo y Educación.

Roméu, A., (2007). Application of the cognitive, communicative and sociocultural approach in the teaching of language and literature. Havana: Pueblo y Educación.

Sánchez, Y. and Lima, S. (2010c). Pedagogical use of communication tools in virtual environments for the professional development of teachers.Vol. 5. September-October 2010. ISSN: 1993-6850. IPLAC Journal.


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