What is Communicative Methodology? “Communicative” is a word which has dominated discussions of teaching methodology for many years. Although in a monolingual English language classroom,” real communication” in English is impossible, in “communicative methodology” we try to be more communicative. This is to say, even though it may be impossible to achieve real communication, we should attempt to get closer to “real communication” in our classrooms.
What does it mean?
Communicative methodology includes a number of different (and perhaps interconnecting) principles.
1. The primary aim of foreign language learning is communication with users of the foreign language.
2. Students study the foreign language as a system of communication.
3. Students learn and practice the foreign language through “communicative activities”.
Communication as primary aim
In the past, the primary aim of language learning seemed to be the mastery of the grammatical system. The only practical task was translation and that was usually translation of great literature rather than letters to the bank manager. The methodology for teaching modern, living languages was identical o the methodology for dead, classical languages like Latin or Ancient Greek. Today we see our primary aim as teaching the practical use of English for communication with native speakers and others.
There are a number of guidelines that can help us, teachers make communicative language teaching and learner-centered instruction part of our instructional approach, as it follows:
- – Provide appropriate input
- – Use language in authentic ways
- – Provide context
- – Design activities with a purpose
- – Use task-based activities
- – Encourage collaboration
- – Address grammar consciously
- – Adjust feedback/ error correction to the situation
1. Provide appropriate input
Input is the language which students are exposed to: teacher talk, listening activities, reading passages, and the language heard or read outside the class. Input gives learners the material they need to develop their ability to use the language on their own.
2. Use language in authentic ways
In order to learn a language, instead of merely learning about it, students need as much as possible to hear and read the language as native speakers use it. Instructors can make this happen in two ways.
Teacher talk- always try to use the language as naturally as possible when you are talking to students. Slowing down may seem to make the message more comprehensible, but it also distorts the subtle shifts in pronunciation that occur in naturally paced speech.
Therefore, it is essential to speak at a normal rate, to use vocabulary and sentence structures with which students are familiar and state the same idea in different ways to aid comprehension.
Materials: Giving students authentic reading material from newspapers, magazines and other print sources will make it more accessible for students.
Advertisements, travel brochures, packaging, street signs contain short statements that students at lower levels can manage. The World Wide Web is a rich resource for authentic materials. Reading them motivates students at all levels because it gives them the sense that they really are able to use language.
3. Provide context
Context includes knowledge of: the topic or content, the vocabulary and language structures in which the content is usually presented, the social and cultural expectations associated with the content. To help students have an authentic experience of understanding and using the language, prepare them by raising their awareness of the context in which it occurs.
Teachers can ask students what they already know about the topic, what they can predict from the title or heading of a reading selection or the opening line of a listening selection; furthermore, teachers review vocabulary and sentence structures that are usually found in that type of material as well as relevant social and cultural expectations.
4. Design activities with a purpose
Ordinarily, communication has a purpose: to convey information. Activities in the language classroom simulate communication outside the classroom when they are structured with such a purpose. In these classroom activities, students use the language to fill an information gap by getting answers or expanding a partial understanding. For example, students work in pairs and each is given half a map, grid, or list needed to complete a task. The pair then talk to each other until they both have all the information.
5. Use task-based activities
Fluent speakers use language to perform tasks such as solving problems, developing plans, and working together to complete projects. The use of such task-based activities in the classroom is an excellent way to encourage students to use language.
6. Encourage collaboration
It is important to have students work in pairs or groups whenever it is possible. Effective collaborative activities have the following characteristics:
– Communication gap: each student has relevant information that others do not have,
– Task orientation: activity has a defined outcome, such as solving a problem or drawing a map,
– Time limit: students have a preset amount of time to complete the task.
7. Address grammar consciously
Points of grammar need to be discussed in the contexts they arise. Asking students to think through a rule in the context of an effort to express themselves clearly is a more effective way of helping them internalize the rule than teaching the rule in isolation.
8. Adjust feedback/ error correction to the situation
In the parts of a lesson that focus on form, direct and immediate feedback is needed and expected. Encourage students to self-correct by waiting after they have spoken or by asking them to try again. Avoid feeding students the correct form all the time. Gradually teaching them to depend less on us the teachers and more on themselves is what language teaching is all about.
Developing speaking activities
To create classroom speaking activities that develop communicative competence, instructors need to incorporate a purpose and an information gap and allow for multiple forms of expression. However, quantity alone will not necessarily produce competent speakers. Teachers need to combine structured output activities, which allow for error correction and increased accuracy, with communicative output activities that give students opportunities to practice language use more freely.
a. Information gap activities
– Filling the gaps in a schedule or timetable: Partner A holds an airline timetable with some of the arrival and departure times missing. Partner B has the same timetable, but with different blank spaces. The two partners are not permitted to see each other’s timetables and must fill in the blanks by asking each other appropriate questions. The features of languages that are practiced would include questions beginning with when and what time. Answers would be limited mostly to time expressions like at 8:15 or ten in the evening.
– Completing the picture: the two partners have similar pictures, each with different missing details, they cooperate to find all the missing details. In another variation, no items are missing, but similar items differ in appearance. The features of grammar and vocabulary that practiced are determined by the content of the pictures and the items that are missing or different. Differences in the activities depicted lead to practice of different verbs. Differences in number, size and shape lead to adjective practice. Different locations would probably be described with prepositional phrases.
These activities may be set up so that the partners must practice more than just grammatical and lexical features. For example, the timetable activity gains a social dimension when one partner assumes the role of a student trying to make an appointment with a partner who takes the role of o teacher.
b. Jigsaw activities
Jigsaw activities are more elaborate information gap activities that can be done with several partners. In a jigsaw activity, each partner has one or a few pieces of the puzzle and the partners must cooperate to fit all the pieces into a whole picture. The puzzle may take one of several forms. It may be one panel from a comic strip or one photo from a set that tells a story. It may be one sentence from a written narrative. It may be a piece of recording of a conversation, in which case no two partners hear exactly the same conversation.
With this kind of activities, teachers need to be conscious of the language demands they place on their students. If an activity calls for language that the students have not practiced, ideas can be brainstormed when setting up the activity to preview the language they will need, eliciting what they already know and supplementing what they are able to produce themselves.
Communicative output activities
Communicative output activities allow students to practice using all of the language they know in situations that resemble real settings. In these activities, students must work together to develop a plan, solve a problem, complete a task. The most common types of communicative output activities are role- plays and discussions.
In role-plays students are assigned roles and put into situations that they may eventually encounter outside the classroom. Because this type of activity imitates real life, the range of language functions is limitless. Students have to use the language that is appropriate to the situation and to the characters.
Students usually find role-plays entertaining and enjoyable, but students who lack self-confidence or have lower proficiency levels might find them intimidating at first.
In discussions it is important to prepare the students first and then let them do their job, offer them interesting topics to work on , use small groups instead of whole-class discussions. Large groups make participation more difficult. Students should be allowed to participate in their own way. Not every student will feel comfortable talking about every topic. A follow- up is essential, so students can assess their work in an active manner. The teacher can give feed-back on their grammar and pronunciation problems he or she has heard at the end of their activity.
Through well-prepared communicative output activities such as role-plays and discussions, we can encourage students to experiment with the language and create a supportive atmosphere that allows them to make mistakes without fear of embarrassment. This will contribute to their self-confidence as speakers and to their motivation to learn more.
Teaching speaking is a very important part in second language learning. The ability to communicate in a second language clearly and efficiently contributes to the success of the learner in school and success later in every phase of life. Therefore, it is essential that language teachers pay great attention to teaching speaking. The activities described above make students more active in the learning process and at the same time make their learning more meaningful and more fun.
1. Celce-Murcia. M. 2001. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign language (3rd ed), USA: Heinle& Heinle
2. Chaney, A. L, and T. L. Burk. 1998. Teaching Oral Communication.
3. Brown, G and G. Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Nunan, D. 2003. Practical English Language Teaching. NY: Mc Graw- Hill.