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According to the definition given by Krashen and Terrel , the Naturalistic approach confirms those naturalistic principles which led to the successful second language acquisition. In the natural approach emphasis is on exposure rather than practice which optimizes in learners emotional preparedness for learning; long enough attention to what they hear before trying to produce language; and readiness to make use of written and other materials for comprehension inputs. Language is an essential means for communicating meanings and messages.
Stephen Krashen makes distinction between acquisition and learning. Acquisition is an unconscious process, through understanding language and using it for a meaningful communication that involves the innate development of language proficiency. Earning is process in which conscious rules are developed about a language.
In Naturalistic theory, the teacher is to simultaneously generate continuous flow of language inputs and provide clues to enable students to interpret the input. The teacher has a major role to create a friendly and interesting classroom atmosphere in which there is least resistance for learning.
The Naturalistic approach focuses on comprehension, meaningful communication, and the right kind of comprehensible input. These provide the essential conditions for successful acquisition of second language.
Emphasis in constructivism is on the ways in which individuals bring personal meaning to their world. Piaget focused on the individual construction of knowledge. Bruner placed emphasis on the interaction of the learners with the teacher, the curriculum materials and other significant factors. Vygotsky and Feuerstein criticized Piaget's focus on the individual construction of knowledge and reiterated that learning occurs through interaction with other people (Williams and Burden, 1997).
Constructivism suggests that the learners engage themselves in search of meaning through the practice of building personal understanding of their experiences. The result of this knowledge is in no way similar to the external one. However one's learning is sorted out through the practice of social interactions or scattered cognition and finally isomorphic meanings are formed (Mahani 2004)
In the constructivist framework, learning takes place when learners are exposed to primary sources within situated context, and encouraged to see relationships (Brooks & Brooks, 1993). There is shift from instruction by the teacher to construction by the learner. Learning occurs in a personal and distinctive manner as each learner's unique prior experience forms the basis of new information which is interpreted and thus new knowledge is constructed. (Reagan and Osborn, 2002).
The constructivists emphasizes that real learning takes time, making attempts at trial and error in order to understand, and that it takes place in a social, emotional context and that it is neither rational nor objective.
The Need for Eclectic Approach
It was as a reaction to the profession of teaching methods in the 1970's and 1980's and the rigidity frequently found in the application of these methods that the eclectic approach was proposed. The teachers have been choosing the method which suits their teaching aims and classroom situation.
An eclectic approach according to Rivers (1981. 54) allows the language teachers to attract the excellent practices of all the leading methods and use them in their classroom teaching. It is obviously essential because teachers are engaged in the daily task of assisting students to learn a new language. The teachers have neither time nor can they apply each and every new method that comes into practice.
The preference of English language teachers around the world today is for some of communication teaching and learning. It is essential that the learners are given a lot of opportunities to practice in and outside the classroom. It is also important that they have enough time and freedom absorb, reproduce and analyze what they have been exposed to. It is equally essential that they internalise the linguistic structure and use it whenever necessary for communication.
The eclectic approach is criticized because it does not offer any guidance regarding the basis and the principles by which the aspects of various methods can be opted and used.
Conclusions for Methods
The basic principles and procedures of widely practised methods for teaching a second language are described. Both Direct and Oral methods which proposed an eclectic approach based on the learners, gained prominence over Grammar Translation method. The new tools advanced by technology and science contributed much to the development of audio-lingual and audiovisual methods in language teaching. As a reaction to audio-lingualism, cognitive code learning began to recognize learning as an innovative process and looked for common features of all languages. The Communicative Language teaching with its stress on meaning, fluency and real life communication came into existence from the notion of language as a social process. It then became recognized approach for language teaching.
The researcher agrees with Mitchel and Myles (2004.261), 'that there can be no method which applies at all times and in all situations with all types of learners. In keeping with today's learners the teachers use diverse language teaching methods.
Teaching Listening Comprehension
Though listening may be the specific form, listening comprehension involves a number of language skills. Teaching listening comprehension is of two types: 1. Teaching linguistic nuances like phonetic differences, identification of similar sound in words, recognizing word boundaries and morphemes, distinguishing syntactical and lexical items in sentences, etc; 2. Teaching how to listen to a context, how to draw meaning of unfamiliar words and how to recognize them in a speech. Both the forms are important and undividable for teaching of listening skills. But any error is found in teaching either of these forms, its effect will be seen in speaking, reading and writing skills as well.
Testing Listening Skills
The main aim of testing listening skills is to help students understand the meaning of words and to provoke them to critically assess the given material. The test items consist of: dialogue, news, railway announcement, years, days, sentence, words, word pairs and numbers. These items were used to test the listening comprehension skills of students under study.
Reading comprehension is a complex and multipurpose activity. It is an act of understanding what one is reading. It is a deliberate and active process that happens before, during and after a person reads a piece of writing. In reading comprehension, a person's linguistic competence, sociolinguistic and existing knowledge of the topic go a long way in enabling him/her to understand the meaning of printed words.
One cannot become an efficient or confident reader as soon as one enters the school. It is out of a child's initial curiosity, about how to write alphabets and words, grows the desire and ability to read. A child has to pass through several stages before becoming an effective reader. At the first stage, a child learns to read the alphabet: A-Z. In the second stage, he/she learns to read alphabetic combinations like h.e, s.h.e., etc. In the third stage the child learns to read the words and word combinations in a sentence and understand their meaning. In the fourth stage, the child's ability to read, at the sentence level extends. In the fifth stage, he/she begins to understand the speeches. It is at this stage, the student uses both linguistic and sociolinguistic knowledge for complete understanding of the test.
Testing Reading Comprehension
The act of reading itself stands at the heart of any learning process.
For testing the reading comprehension, broadly two types of questions are asked: 1. Text- based questions and knowledge or competence-based questions.
The text-based questions expect from the students different types of answers.
Choosing proper words from the given answers.
Indicating whether the statements are true/false.
Formulating the questions from the given text.
The Objectives of Communicative Language Teaching
The Communicative approach makes teachers and students to consider language in terms of the communicative functions it performs in real situations, as well as its structures [vocabulary and grammar]. In fact the objectives of CLT can be categorized in two parts (as cited in Chidambaram, 2005):
Make communicative competence the goal of language teaching, and
Develop the procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge the interdependence of language and communication. (Richards, 2001)
Piepho (1981) levels the objectives of CLT. These are:
An integrative and content level: language as a means of expression.
A linguistic and instrumental level: language as a semiotic system and an object of learning.
An affective level of interpersonal relationships and conduct: language as a means of expressing values and judgments and oneself and others.
A level of individual learning needs: remedial learning based on error analysis.
A general educational level of extra-linguistic goals: language learning within the school curriculum. [qtd.in in Chidambaram, 2005]
The main focus of CLT is to enable the students to create meaning. The success of learning a second language depends on how well the students develop their communicative competence and to what extent they are able to apply this knowledge of language in real life situations.
Role and Relevance of CLT Concepts in Present Research
In the past it was sufficient to focus only on structural accuracy when learning a language was an entirely academic advantage and an obsession to acquire a new language. But in today's world, language teaching is no longer considered a luxury but an obvious need. The language teaching methods in the past were based on linguistic competence. The establishment of basic principles of CLT was a reaction in opposition to the previously prevailing language teaching methods. Communicative language teaching aims at developing and improving knowledge and skills that facilitate the learners to make their message effective and successful.
The main goal of communication is the successful transmission of information, not the achievement of grammatical correctness. By widening the horizons with other kinds of competence, CLT initiated progressive and effective ways of teaching. CLT uses and teaches as it is used in every day real life. Students are given the notion of language as real, lived experience. Socio-linguistic, discourse and strategic competences are integral part of communicative language teaching.
The use of CLT in the second language classroom is a means of changing the attitude of the students towards language learning as well as positively influencing their way of learning. Over-emphasis on grammatical correctness and fear of making grammatical mistakes has negative effects on students. Such as being stressed at class and experiencing sense of failure. CLT creates congenial atmosphere in the classroom in different ways: the teachers emphasise on fluency and correctness to learn the target language than correcting the structures and giving instructions on language rules or grammar (Mangubai etal, 2004.292)
The focus of CLT is on success rather than failure. The students are encouraged to rely on their own ingenuity and performance skills - namely their strategic competence when speaking. Its emphasis is on the learner". (Savignan cited in Magngubhai 2004, 292)
The four basic components of communicative competence summarized by Hymes (as cited in Cook, 2003) are argued by some applied linguists as vague theoretical ideas which can hardly be put into practice. The applied linguists draw attention to the fact that ideas of appropriateness and correctness very much depend on the cultural norms of a particular society. They are in a way right in their argument. Language itself is an intrinsic part of culture. Hence, learning a language also implies learning a culture as well. CLT integrates socio-cultural context with language teaching programmes and thus aims at developing students' sense of what is right and what is wrong in English.
Linguists have pointed out, according to academic research that they have not found one single best method for all learners in all contexts and that no single method appears to be naturally superior to other methods.
It is neither possible always nor appropriate to apply one and the same methodology to all learners whose objectives, environments and learning needs are varied and different.
CLT is considered one of the best methods for use in the second language classroom for several reasons: One, it gives confidence to the students to learn the second language and use it as and when required. Two, CLT draws attention to the importance of socio cultural skills. Three, the learners are given the realistic idea of language and are provided with a sense of what is appropriate and right in a given culture. Four, the learners learn English language and English culture simultaneously. It is vital and imperative both for teachers and learners, living as they do in a globalized world, to adopt and maintain the effective methods of language teaching/learning offered by CLT.
Constant migration of people has become part and parcel of today's globalized world. Hence, English teaching/learning has become inevitable for anyone intending to move onto other states/countries either for higher studies or better careers. In this context, it is necessary to consider the lag between the aspiration for better prospects in life and the existing situation of teaching/learning of English language in schools especially the municipal schools. Hence, the present research study is undertaken to bridge this gap by finding ways and means to know the difficulties of teachers and learners and develop a methodology that will enable them to improve the standards of teaching/learning process of English at school level.