The communicative approach is an approach which is worldwide known and established it has established itself in many parts of the world as a way of teaching languages, especially English. It is the approach that has prevailed in English Language Teaching over the past 40 years, and it is still used nowadays.
The origins of the Communicative Approach are to be found in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The communicative approach is the product of some linguists and educators who had grown dissatisfaction with the previous two methods used for foreign language teaching; the audio-lingual method and Grammar-translation method. These great linguists and educators who contributed in the rise of this worldwide used approach are: Hymes, Chomsky, Wilkins, Van Ek and Alexander, and the Council of Europe.
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However, all these linguists and educators felt that students during those years were not learning language in the right way. They claimed that they did not learn the ‘whole language’ and realistic language. Students did not know how to communicate outside the classroom in real life situations, using the appropriate social language. So far they were relying on the structures of language instead of relying on functions and notions of language. This made them unable to communicate in the culture of the language studied.
Larsen-Freeman D. (2000, pg. 122) states that ‘Communicative Language teaching aims broadly to apply the theoretical prospective of the Communicative approach by making communicative competence the goal of language teaching and by acknowledging the interdependence of language and communication.’ The communicative approach is focusing on activities that require meaningful communication and language use. Thus, the purpose of communicative language teaching is to make it possible for students to communicate in the target language. In order to be able and do this, they have to know about the linguistic forms, meaning and functions of that language.
The communicative approach is based on the idea that in order to learn a second language successfully, you have to communicate real meaning. Thus, when learners are involved in real communication, their natural strategies for language acquisition will be active and used, and this will allow them to learn to use the language. According to Harmer J. (2001, pg.69) one of the thing that communicative language embraces within its family is the concept of how language is used.
Generally communicative language teaching makes use of authentic material, because it is important to give them the opportunity to understand how language is actually used outside the classroom. Students are involved in real life situations tasks that require communication. In this approach, the teacher sets up a situation, in which students are likely to be involved in real life. In some activities, the outcomes of them are unknown to the students. The result depends on their reactions and responses. Thus, they will be kept motivated and they will be kept in suspense until they finish the activity and see the clear outcome.
Furthermore, in a communicative language teaching class use the language through communicative activities. Most of these exercises are completed through pair and group work. Those activities give students the opportunity to be involved in real or realistic communication. Normally those activities are fluency based activities, such as role-plays, games information gap activities, interviews, etc.
The communicative approach supports that the learning is more student centred than teacher centred. A typical communicative language teaching lesson follows a PPP model. The teacher may present some part of the lesson, and students complete some exercises, but then students produce the language in freer activities that helps them to communicate. As a result, the student talk is increased, whereas the teacher talk is decreased. The teacher establishes situations which promote communication and he facilitates students’ communication. During the activities he does not interrupt them, but he monitors their performance. Error correction is not immediate. If he notes a mistake and he realises that he has to work on it, he does it later during a more accuracy-based activity. However, the role of students is to communicate by negotiating meaning. Even if their knowledge of the target language is not complete, they still have to try and make themselves understood, but also understand their classmates’ intentions of communication.
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On the other hand, there have been identified some limitations on this approach. Huw Jarvis and Sirin Atsilarat (2004, pg, 8-9) made a study Dhurakijpundit University in thailand ant they conducted some questionnaires in order to evaluate students and teachers attitudes towards the communicative language teaching and see whether they use it nowadays or not. At the end of the study they have concluded that they are some limitations in using this approach. Some of the problems they have identified from this study where that the level of the students was not appropriate with CLT, student’s were not feeling comfortable with CLT because they were shy, and thus this made it difficult for CLT to implement. However, all the data gained from this study have indicated problems of implementing communicative language teaching. Not only Jarvis and Atsilarat, but also Harmer J. In his book (2001, pg. 70) has identified some limitations of Communicative Language Teaching. According to me, the most notable limitation he states is the following: ‘ In promoting a methodology which is based on pair work, with the teacher intervention kept to a minimum during a role-play, CLT may also offend against educational traditions which rely on a more teacher-centred approach.’ There have been several attacks on this approach. However, as Harmer states, this approach has left an indelible mark not only on teaching, but also in learning. This explains the use of communicative activities in classes all around the world.
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