Linguistic competence is only one of several components that make up language competence. These components work together so that an individual who possesses all of them to a reasonable level will be able to listen, speak, read and write effectively. Linguistic competence goes beyond knowing the rules of grammar and syntax; it is an internalized and tacit grasp of how words and sentences should be arranged and spoken. These components include: discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, and grammatical or linguistic competence.
Discourse competence is focused on how well an individual can express himself or herself. Sociolinguistic competence refers to the ability to use language in a socially acceptable manner. Linguistic competence measures the ability of a person to apply rules of language.
Linguistic or grammatical competence means knowing and using the rules of a certain language. It also means having enough of a vocabulary to express what the speaker has in mind, being able to pronounce words well enough to be clearly understood, and knowing how to spell these words. Fortunately, you can now have virtual language classes right in the comfort of your own home.
Not all native speakers can lay claim to grammatical competence. In fact, in many cases native speakers or first language speakers, violate the rules of grammar and speak in a substandard form popularly known as slang. The grammatical correctness acquired by native speakers in childhood depends on exposure from their environment. This environment now no longer consists of the actual speech children hear from adults because mass media has a pervasive influence even inside homes.
Grammatical errors typically become accepted as part of everyday speech without questioning what linguistic correctness is. One example is the use of the word “less” in express counters telling customers the counter is only for “five items or less”. Since grocery items are “countable”, the correct word instead of less would be “fewer”. However, because everyone has become familiar with this usage, people have lost any innate reluctance to use the word.
The same thing goes for the use of the word “me” when answering the phone. Usually, people will say, “It’s me, Mary.” To answer the question “Who am I speaking to?” The correct pronoun would be “I” (It is I, Mary). However, more people would feel awkward using this pronoun because the use of “me” has become familiar.
Brilliant linguists like Noam Chomsky have proffered the theory about an inborn ability to discern and tacitly apply rules of grammar. However, there is no denying that today, the presence of multiple languages in any community, and constant exposure to media are leaving their mark on language acquisition. For competence to be obtained, a greater sensitivity to right grammar must be developed through exposure to standard and not substandard discourse.