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Communicative Language Teaching

Literature Review

This chapter deals with the review of researches done previously on how Grammar Translation Method (GTM) and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are adopted in teaching a foreign language. This chapter will explore the characteristic features of both methods. The literature review of my research is based mainly on the research done by the western linguists. First it will discuss the research on GTM and then on CLT.


Grammar Translation Method is the traditional approach towards teaching of English. It is also called classical method. This method was very much popular from 1840s to 1940s in Europe. At that time, this method was used to teach Latin and Greek languages. It is used to teach grammar and vocabulary of a foreign language. In spite of the fact that it is largely criticized but it is still very popular with the teachers’ and is vastly used in schools’. Richards and Rodgers (2001) claimed that this method focuses more on writing skills as compared to speaking skills. So it is very important to explore its effectiveness in teaching learning process with specific reference to writing skills.
Chastain (1976) says:
“The main focus of Grammar-Translation Method is on developing students' appreciation of the target language's literature as well as teaching the language. Different passages of target language are given to students for reading and are asked to answer the questions that follow. Teacher makes use of different other activities such as translating literary passages from one language into the other, memorizing grammar rules and memorizing native-language equivalents of target language vocabulary. Teacher controls all the activities so class work is highly structured.”
This definition covers all aspects of Grammar Translation Method. It is true that it is used to teach the literature of foreign language and teacher translates the passage of foreign language into mother tongue. It is also true that in this method, students learn the language by memorizing rules and vocabulary. According to Thompson & Wyatt this method has three principles:
i. Translation interprets foreign phraseology best,
ii. In the process of interpretation, the foreign phraseology is assimilated and
iii. The structure of foreign language is best learnt when compared and contrasted with that of the mother-tongue. (Cited in Yousaf and Ibn-Faqir, 2008, P. 24)
Coleman (1929) describes that mother tongue is not a hurdle in learning a foreign language. Translation is a key feature to learn a foreign language. It develops the reading skills of the learners and enhances the vocabulary as well. But translation needs more attention as compared to reading. It involves thinking process. When students translate the passage, they read the text carefully and try to understand it. They try to choose the correct and suitable words to translate the passage and this point is the main focus of my research that translation is the best way to learn a foreign language.
Other linguists are also in favour of Grammar Translation Method. If language rules are memorized and practiced, language can be learnt easily. "We would like to know what happens, because if we understand the system, we can use English more effectively" (Harvey, 1985).
Language is a means of communication but communication should be authentic and meaningful. Communication can be authentic if learner knows the grammatical rules and vocabulary. The emphasis of Grammar Translation Method is strictly on accurate answers.
A.P.R.Howatt (1984) says:
“High priority is attached to meticulous standards of accuracy which, as well as having an intrinsic moral value, was a pre-requisite for passing the increasing number of formal written examinations that grew up during the nineteenth century.” (Cited in Nagaraj, 1996, P. 2)


Both accuracy and fluency are important to learn a foreign language.

In Communicative Language Teaching, teacher does not correct the mistakes of the students because he wants to enable them fluent. But in my opinion accuracy is more important than fluency because it is very difficult to correct the errors after committing them again and again. A person can get fluency if he is accurate. Most of the people learn foreign language for specific purposes as to get job or to pass the examination. For example, if a person wants to do work on computer, he needs accuracy not fluency. In our country, few fields require speaking skills as compared to writing. So accuracy is more emphasized than fluency.
It is a general opinion that without linguistic competence (knowledge of grammar and vocabulary), there is no communicative competence (ability to speak fluently, ability to use language in real life situation). But opposite views are there, as many linguists consider this method unhelpful in improving students’ competence in second language. River (1981) claims that “GTM has not a large scope and students are unable to speak and even to write a letter in target language.”
But according to my point of view this is a wrong opinion against Grammar Translation Method. I have observed through my personal observation that Grammar Translation Method is used to teach in almost all government school and even colleges of Pakistan. The students of Pakistan learn English language through Grammar Translation Method and they can write good English and most of them can even speak it fluency. So, this thing is not true practically that GTM is unhelpful in learning a foreign language. If this is true, no one would able to speak or even write English language in Pakistan.


Communicative Language Teaching was first proposed in 1970’s. Communicative Language Teaching, as its name shows, spots light on speaking skills of the learners. Because the central point of this method is to enable the students to communicate well in the target language. According to Brian Seaton: "Communicative Language Teaching is an approach that aims at developing the practical knowledge of how language is used.” (Cited in Mumtaz, 2007, P. 16)

This definition highlights that communicative approach enables the students to use the target language in real life situation. But my point of view is different from it because CLT does not much emphasize to learn vocabulary and without a good store of vocabulary, one cannot use the foreign language according to the situation.

Luke (2004) observes that the classroom activities in CLT includes discussions among the students, role-play and presentations etc. In this method, students always work in groups and these activities help the students to improve their fluency and correct their pronunciation. It seems right but according to my point of view, this method can make students fluent speakers but it is difficult to correct their pronunciation as pronunciation becomes better when teacher corrects mistakes there and then but in CLT teacher does not interrupt the students during speaking activities. So it has not much to do with pronunciation skills.
Higgs & Clifford (1982) observed that in 1980’s Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) became the most important method to teach a foreign language. According to this method students should not only write good English but should also speak well according to the topic and situation. The aim of this method is to enable the students to interact with others and to express their feelings. This method became very famous at that time but most of the institutions did not adopt it. In fact when this method was applied in the classrooms, the result was dissatisfactory. The students who already had good listening and speaking skills became more sharp. But those students who had poor listening and speaking skills suffered from it. According to some teachers it is not sufficient to pass the examination. The main aim while learning a language should be to learn each and every thing of that language. Motivation is necessary to learn anything. Communicative Language Teaching not only motivates the learners but also builds confidence to use the language.
Perhaps the central characteristic of CLT is that “almost everything that is done is done with communicative intent”. (Larsen-Freeman cited in Rao, 2002, P.87)
This definition shows that CLT is totally based on speaking skills and “communicative intent” means learn the foreign language to communicate or interact with others.
Snow (1996) argues that students can learn language well while actively participating in learning process. They can not learn language by blindly following the grammar rules given by the teacher.
According to Snow and Larsen language is learnt only to communicate with others but my point of view is different from them. Although communication is necessary for learning language but grammatical rules are most important in learning language.

Background of the study

The detailed study of CLT by Jin, Singh and Li (2005) was done to explore its practicability in learning foreign language. Background of the study was conflicting attitude of teachers and students about the adaptation of method in foreign language classroom. While discussing the background of theory in china, it is said: “There is no one commonly accepted authoritative model of CLT, which originated from communicative theory.” In the first section of the paper, the writers have highlighted misconceptions about CLT in China about grammar, speaking, group work and teachers. The second section explores the study of CLT with specific reference to students’ communicative competence in reading classes at college level. For this purpose, communicative activities were conducted in the class and at the end of the semester, communicative approach was found better in learning process and 85% students favoured the approach while rest of them have doubt about it. At the end student’s perception about communicative and non-communicative activities in foreign language classroom are discussed and instruments used to collect data were questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The results highlight that most of the students although interested in CLT preferred non-communicative activities as the main thing for students was examination point of view and most of them like teachers’ grammatical explanations in the class. The paper is concluded at the point that CLT though seems favourable is not perfect for teaching foreign language and same is the case with GTM.

Everything is assessed to know about its effectiveness and evaluation is a part and parcel to judge the things. So, examination is taken to evaluate the ability of the learners and effectiveness of teaching method. According to Zhu (2003) all examinations are written and grammar based. There are fewer examinations which are based on communicative competence or oral skills. So students are not satisfied with communicative language teaching because it is very difficult for those learners to give written exams who have no command on grammatical rules and vocabulary.

Rao (2002) observes that a research is done in China to see whether GTM is effective in learning foreign language or CLT shows that “Chinese students preferred a combination of communicative and noncommunicative activities in class.” Because communicative competence will help them to command on fluency and grammar rules will help to command over accuracy. So, the combination of both methods will help them to command over every aspect of language.

“One of the most characteristic features of CLT is that it pays systematic attention to functional as well as structural aspects of language.” (Littlewood, 1981, P. 1) Communicative Language Teaching is ambiguous in its approach. Communicative Approach was first strictly against the use of translation to learn a foreign language but with the passage of time it became flexible approach with regard to the use of translation. Howatt (in Richards and Rodgers, 1986), for example, writes: “translation may be used where students need or benefit from it.” According to proponents of Communicative Language Teaching, good command of grammar, syntax and vocabulary are not only the features to learn a foreign language. It is also necessary to use language according to the context. The advocates of CLT believe that grammar and vocabulary are important to learn a foreign language but even then CLT does not emphasize the rules of grammar.

One problem

One problem with CLT is that there is a lot of syllabus but the time is short. The discussions among students and activities require enough time. Teacher has to complete the whole syllabus within a given time. So it is very difficult for the teachers to explain each and every thing in a given time.

Another problem is that the number of students in the classroom especially in Government schools of Pakistan is very large. So it is very difficult to involve every student in teaching learning process. When all students are not involved in classroom discussion and activities, they cannot learn the language effectively. This method neglects the writing skills which is very important for examination point of view. In this method, teacher has to bring the world in the classroom by using different pictures, graphs and visual aids to make things clear and this requires a lot of time and special training to use them. But as far as writing skills are concerned, it helps to some extent, not all extremes. But writing skills need more guidance and practice.

According to Thompson (1996) it is a natural thing that students worry about exams. Although CLT emphasizes the speaking skills yet it does not totally ignore the grammatical rules. The students should keep balance between grammatical rules and communicative competence.

Grammar Translation Method

In fact teachers like Grammar Translation Method because this method makes their work easy and least stressful. Teaching techniques and Audio-Visual aids are not used to explain the things in the text. Everything is explained in the mother tongue which helps the teachers to explain the things and also helps the students to understand them. This method does not need highly qualified teachers to teach the learners. Perhaps this is the reason that the qualification of teachers in most of our private schools is either Matric or F.A and rarely B.A.

Through above discussion, I can assume that Grammar Translation Method is more effective with specific reference to writing skills in teaching of foreign language as compared to Communicative Language Teaching and my research question is also based on the same assumption. The proponents of Communicative Language Teaching argue that Grammar Translation Method ignores the two important skills but CLT also ignores writing and reading skills. The reading and writing skills enhance the vocabulary and writing ability of the learners and if one cannot have good store of vocabulary, he cannot speak well in real life situation. Grammar Translation Method gives more practice to the learners in improving writing skills and memorizing grammar rules where as Communicative Language Teaching is not much beneficial as its main focus is on speaking skills and this skill is neglected in many class rooms especially in Pakistan, because to make students able to read and write well in foreign language is considered more important than speaking. In Pakistan an important reason for the use of GTM is teachers’ insufficient command over speaking skills. That is why CLT is not as common as GTM is.
My research is different from previous researches as all the research work on these methods was mainly based on western researchers. No research has been done on the issue in Pakistani context and no one has explored the effectiveness of both methods in writing skills according to the best knowledge of the researcher. This research was done in the schools of Pakistani society to see the effects of these methods in improving writing skills.