These two terms sometimes cause confusion for candidates on TEFL or CELTA courses. They find it a bit difficult to discriminate between these two systems. The reason is simply because one grammar rule can have so many functions and one function can be achieved via so many grammar rules. Let’s clarify more.
When your main aim is functional language, this means you might be focusing on ‘advising’ as a function for example. This function has exponents that can be used to express it and each of these ways has its own grammatical structures:
- You should study. (modal verbs)
- You are advised to study. (passive)
- It is necessary to study. (It + is + adjective + to + inf.)
- If I were you, I would study. (second conditional)
In other words, when you teach advising, you might include more than one grammar rule depending on which level you are teaching.
Now let’s see the opposite, what if your main aim is grammar? Now as we said before, every grammar rule has its own functions. So if you are teaching the structure of (will+inf), you can clarify more than one function depending on the level of your students again:
- It will rain. (predication)
- I will be there for you. (promise)
- You will pay for this. (threatening)
- I will have orange juice. (instant decision)
So to wrap up, when you are teaching functional language as a main aim, this means that you will deal with some grammar rules that help achieve this function but when you teach grammar as a main aim, this means that you will teach some of the functions this rule has.