Search This Blog


Monday, July 28, 2008

Communicative language teaching

Overview of CLT
As an extension of the notional-functional syllabus, CLT also places great emphasis on helping students use the target language in a variety of contexts and places great emphasis on learning language functions. Unlike the ALM, its primary focus is on helping learners create meaning rather than helping them develop perfectly grammatical structures or acquire native-like pronunciation. This means that successfully learning a foreign language is assessed in terms of how well learners have developed their communicative competence, which can loosely be defined as their ability to apply knowledge of both formal and sociolinguistic aspects of a language with adequate proficiency to communicate.
CLT is usually characterized as a broad approach to teaching, rather than as a teaching method with a clearly defined set of classroom practices. As such, it is most often defined as a list of general principles or features. One of the most recognized of these lists is David Nunan’s (1991) five features of CLT:
An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language.
The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.
The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the Learning Management process.
An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning.
An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom.
These five features are claimed by practitioners of CLT to show that they are very interested in the needs and desires of their learners as well as the connection between the language as it is taught in their class and as it used outside the classroom. Under this broad umbrella definition, any teaching practice that helps students develop their communicative competence in an authentic context is deemed an acceptable and beneficial form of instruction. Thus, in the classroom CLT often takes the form of pair and group work requiring negotiation and cooperation between learners, fluency-based activities that encourage learners to develop their confidence, role-plays in which students practice and develop language functions, as well as judicious use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities.

[edit] Classroom activities used in CLT
Example Activities
Role Play
Information Gap
Language Exchanges
Pair Work
Learning by teaching

However, not all courses that utilize the Communicative Language approach will restrict their activities solely to these. Some courses will have the students take occasional grammar quizzes, or prepare at home using non-communicative drills, for instance.

[edit] Critiques of CLT
One of the most famous attacks on Communicative Language teaching was offered by Michael Swan in the English Language Teaching Journal on 1985[1] Henry Widdowson responded in defense of CLT, also in the ELT Journal (1985 39(3):158-161). More recently other writers (e.g. Bax[2]) have critiqued CLT for paying insufficient attention to the context in which teaching and learning take place, though CLT has also been defended against this charge (e.g. Harmer 2003[3]).

The Communicative Approach often seems to be interpreted as: if the teacher understands the student we have good communication. What can happen though is that a teacher who is from the same region, understands the students when they make errors resulting from first language influence. One problem with this is that native speakers of the target language can have great difficulty understanding them. This observation may call for new thinking on and adaptation of the communicative approach. The adapted communicative approach should be a simulation where the teacher pretends to understand only that what any regular speaker of the target language would, and should react accordingly.[4]

No comments: