The Communicative Language Teaching

With the rapid development of EFL teaching in non-English-speaking countries, English teachers have become more aware that the exclusive use of either the communicative approach or grammar-translation method does not meet the real requirements of real communication. Teachers have also found out that no single teaching method deals with everything that concerns the form, the use and the content of the target language.

Communicative language teaching is designed to promote the learning of a foreign language through interaction and context. As far as the class management is concerned, in this form of instruction teachers often use group and pair interactions. There are also different activities in CLT. Some of the activities are role-playing, interviews, games, language exchange, surveys, learning by teaching, role plays, comparing pictures, come to a consensus, marketplace trading, problem solving, planning for the future, find common likes/dislikes.
Before defining the role of the teacher, it might be worth clarifying what is meant by “communicative activities”. These are task-based or project-based activities. While such activities may involve students practicing a particular grammar form, they are likely to do more than this. The key element is that the activity is based around a realistic situation. This could be anything from a specific activity in a department store, to a group of friends discussing holiday plans. Within this kind of context, students should be required to negotiate for meaning. This is likely to require multiple turn talking.

It is obvious that both accuracy and fluency are essential in language learning. However, in English teaching dominated by the grammar-translation method, more emphasis is laid on the accuracy that the fluency. Students in such classrooms are extremely interested in learning linguistic details. They are particular about providing correct answers. They tend to focus on discrete grammar points and specific syntactic constructions. Thus, the question arises as to the relationship between accuracy and fluency and which one should be given more importance. These questions must be examined in relation to what is expected from the students when they graduate and what the teaching conditions are.

Obviously, fluency in language learning is more than that. Soon after the students have mastered the language forms, they ought to be given practice to develop fluency. Then, as control decreases, students can use the language more freely. Now, errors should sometimes be accepted and the teacher should emphasize that error-making can naturally occur. The teacher evaluates the students’ performances at the end of each fluency practice so that they are aware of their weaknesses and become more and more conscious of their errors. In this way, accuracy and fluency are practiced almost simultaneously, being interdependent.

As it is underlined in the Common European Framework, the relation between linguistic competence and communicative competence is important, too. At the foundation stage, linguistic competence is the spontaneous and correct use of the language system. On the other hand, communicative competence requires principles of appropriateness and a readiness on the part of the learner to use relevant strategies in handling certain language situations. That is why linguistic competence represents the basis in communicative competence. There can be no communicative competence without linguistic one. But communicative competence does not automatically result from linguistic competence. Different types of classroom activities such as role playing, simulations, and real-life interactions should be used to provide practice for students to develop communicative competence while practicing linguistic one.

The teacher facilitates the communicative process among all the learners and between the students and the various tasks, giving guidance and advice when necessary, instead of being the central authority in the classroom. Moreover, teachers act like independent participants within the learning-teaching group. However, this does not mean that once a teaching activity is in progress, the teacher should become a passive observer. It is still the teacher’s role to monitor the students’ potential through external guidance. He should identify the distinctive qualities in the students and help them develop these qualities.

Brumfit, C., 1984.Communicative Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge C.U.P.
Harmer, J., 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching.


prof. Simona Gîrcoveanu

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