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History of Communicative Language Teaching

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 991 words Published: 5th Jul 2017

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Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is a method of teaching second and foreign language. This method highlights ‘interaction’ as both the technique and objective for learning a language. In addition, it is known as the communicative approach to teaching foreign language or simply put, the communicative approach. CLT was said to have originated from Britian during the 1960s. I served as a replacement to the popular method known as Situational language teaching which is based on the structural view of language. Linguist Noam Chomasky criticized the structural linguistics because it was not enough to cover syntax since there would be infinity of sentences that could be said. What Chomasky proposed that a set of parameters must be created that would be able to generate all the possible sentences in a language. This criticism of Chomasky gave rise to a couple more proposals in language teaching and the communicative approach is the one that has prevailed. Likewise, communicative language teaching also came as a response to the prominent method of learning a language, the Audio-lingual Method, and as an application of the notion function syllabus. Audio-lingual demanded itself as people’s need to learn foreign language skills during and after War II. It is closely connected with behaviourism, thus making drilling, repletion and habit formation its central elements of instruction.

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The notion function syllabus is a way by which a language learning curriculum can be organized. Here, the instructions are assigned, unlike Audio-lingual, but in terms of ‘notions’ and ‘functions’ where a ‘notion’ is a specific environment where people communicate and a ‘function’ is a unique objective for a speaker in a given environment. There are certain practices under the communicative approach. For one, the communicative approach has it that, meaning is paramount. Language learning aims to achieve communication. Effective communication is sought. Drilling may occur and pronunciation is focused on. Any tool which helps the students learn is recommended. Communicating in the target language is encouraged from early years. Whereas translating text may be used at a very lower level. Likewise reading and writing may be started early as well. The L2 linguistic feature is learned through engaging in communication. Communicative competence is considered the main aim.

Language is created by individual often through trail and error. Fluency and acceptable language is the main goal: accuracy is examined in context. Students are expected to interact with other people such as through pair and group work. The teacher may not determine the language the students use. The communicative approach gives a great support for students to use the target language in various contexts and functions. Its primary focus is on creating meaning rather than developing perfectly grammatical structures or acquiring native sounding pronunciation. This means that the success of learning a foreign language can be evaluated in terms of how one has developed his or her communicative competence, which can be defined as the ability to apply formal knowledge as well as the sociolinguistic aspects of a language on one’s proficiency to communicate. Communicative approach has been characterized as extensive teaching method and not just one with clearly defined sets of classroom practices. Because of this, it is usually identified as a list of general futures. One of them is David Nunan’s (1991) five features of communicative learning teaching. They are: 1) learning to communicate by interaction in the L2; 2) presenting of authentic texts into the learning situation; 3) giving opportunities for people to concentrate on both language and the learning management procedures; 4) enhancement of learner’s own personal experience as important contributing elements to classroom learning and 5) linking language learning inside classroom with language learning activities outside. Nunan’s list has been claimed by many advocates of the communicative approach particularly by those who are very concerned in language learning inside and outside the classroom. This board definition makes it such that any teaching practice that aims to help students develop their communicative competence in practical and usable contexts is considered as a form of instruction. A communicative approach environment would often have pairs/group work where participants are required to discuss and work together. It is known for fluency based activities that encourage the development of confidence, role plays where they can practice and develop language functions and the sensible use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities.

The communicative competence as Hymes (1972) devised it, made some important shifts in ESL teaching regarding teaching materials design and teaching methodology. Communicative competence presented in the 1970s and eventually applied these changes in ESL teaching field. Chomsky (1965) presented the terms ‘competence’ and ‘performance’ in modern linguistics (Canale and Swain, 1980). Chomsky claimed the term ‘competence’ refers to the linguistic system, whereas ‘performance’ basically involved in the perception and production of speech.

Hymes (1972) claimed that the competence-performance description devised by Chomsky did not deal with the appropriateness of the socio-cultural significance of an utterance in the situational and verbal context where it is applied.

According to Hymes, there are rules that should be understood along with knowledge of grammar rules. Hymes (1972) refers that without these rules, the knowledge of grammatical rules would not be effective in the language spoken. Therefore, Hymes suggests a conception of competence.


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