Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University, Ukraine
The 20th century has seen an immense leap in language teaching methodology. Grammar Translation, the Direct Method, Audio-Lingualism – all preceded what some have called the Age of Methods, comprising most of the final decades of the last century .
When communicative language teaching (CLT) was first developed in the 1970s, it was widely seen as the definitive response to the shortcomings of previous approaches and the communication needs of a globalized world.
This criticism of the traditional view of language learning as a sterile, intellectual exercise, rather than as a practical undertaking resulting in skills that may be applied in real-life situations, was echoed by scholars such as Habermas (1970), Hymes (1971), and Savignon (1972), who based their understanding of language on the psycholinguistic and socio-cultural perspectives that meaning is generated through a collaborative process of “expression, negotiation and interpretation” [5, p. 262] between interlocutors.
The communicative approach is based on the idea that learning language successfully comes through having to communicate real meaning. When learners are involved in real communication, their natural strategies for language acquisition will be used, and this will allow them to learn to use the language.
One of the main benefits of CLT is that it is humanistic learner-centered approach, which means that the main focus is on students’ needs. Students learn by means of interaction and collaboration. Another advantage is that a teacher is no longer the source of information, but a facilitator and a participant, who involves students in real meaningful communication. The teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants in the classroom, and between these participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. A third role for the teacher is that of researcher and learner, with much to contribute in terms of appropriate knowledge and abilities, actual and observed experience of the nature of learning and organizational capacities [2, p. 99].
Activities in CLT typically involve students in real or realistic communication, where the accuracy they use is less important than successful achievement of the communicative task they are performing
The range of exercise types and activities compatible with a communicative approach is unlimited, provided that such exercises enable learners to attain the communicative objectives of the curriculum, engage learners in communication, and require the use of such communicative processes as information sharing, negotiation of meaning, and interaction. Classroom activities (e.g. interview, role plays, simulations etc.) are often designed to focus on completing tasks that are mediated through language or involve negotiation of information and information sharing. The teacher does not intervene to stop the activity; and the materials he or she relies on will not dictate what specific language forms the students use either. In other words, such activities should attempt to replicate real communication. A key to enhancement of communicative purpose and the desire to communicate is the information gap. Cooperative learning structures include pairs, small groups, fluency circles, jigsaw activities, etc.
As Nunan relates, in the earlier days of communicative language teaching, there was a tendency among certain linguists to deemphasize the teaching of grammar and other aspects of form; this idea was based on the belief that learners would acquire this knowledge naturally through the process of learning how to use the language. However, the current thinking on this issue is that effective communication cannot take place without attention to the rules of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, pronunciation, and other more formalized aspects of the language; and therefore, teaching these elements is seen as a necessary component of communicative language teaching .
Many proponents of Communicative Language Teaching have advocated the use of “authentic” materials in the classroom. These might include language-based realia, such as signs, magazines, advertisements, and newspapers, or graphic and visual sources around which communicative activities can be built, such as maps, pictures, symbols, graphs, and charts. Different kinds of objects can be used to support communicative exercises [4, p. 80].
Overall, in spite of some drawbacks, learners benefit tremendously from CLT being used in their classrooms. CLT appeals to those who seek humanistic and learner-centred approach to language teaching.
1. Belchamber, R. (2007). The Advantages of Communicative Language Teaching. The Internet TESL Journal, 13(2). Retrieved from http://iteslj.org/Articles/belchamber-Clt.html
2. Breen, M., and C. N. Candlin. (1980). The Essentials of a Communicative Curriculum in Language Teaching. Applied Linguistics 1 (2), pp. 89-112.
3. Nunan, D. (1989). Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Richards, R., and Rogers, T. (1996). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. CUP
5. Savignon, S. J. (1991). Communicative language teaching: State of the art. TESOL Quarterly 25(2), pp. 261-277.