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Communicative Approach


The communicative approach could be said to be the product of educators and linguists
who had grown dissatisfied with the audio-lingual and grammar-translation methods of
foreign language instruction. They felt that students were not learning enough realistic,
whole language. They did not know how to communicate using appropriate social
language, gestures, or expressions. In brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the
culture of the language studied. Interest in and development of communicative-style
teaching mushroomed in the 1970s; authentic language use and classroom exchanges
where students engaged in real communication with one another became quite popular.
In the intervening years, the communicative approach has been adapted to the
elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary levels, and the underlying
philosophy has spawned different teaching methods known under a variety of names,
including notional-functional, teaching for proficiency, proficiency-based instruction,
and communicative language teaching. Therefore people create some varieties approach
that used to teach English as a second or foreign language. There are many approaches
to language learning. Language Link, like many other schools, has adopted The
Communicative Approach. This is the approach that will be expected to use when
teaching your students. That being the case, as a new Language Link teacher, a teacher
must have a good understanding of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

The Brief History

The Communicative Approach grew out of sociolinguistics in the 1970s and the view
that there is more to communication than just grammar and vocabulary.
Communication involves communicative competence the ability to make ourselves
understood in socially appropriate ways. The claim is that L2 is learned best when the
students try to communicate, i.e., to say something that they really want or need to say.
Nowadays most teachers and students take the need for real communication in class for
granted, but English as a Foreign Language (EFL) history clearly shows that this has not
always been the case! Within the Communicative Approach itself the precise role of
communication is debated. The so-called weak form of the approach sees
communicative activities as opportunities for students to practice new language and

develop fluency. A weak version of language teaching using this approach might simply
mean adding more opportunities to communicate to a traditional grammar based
The strong Communicative Approach on the other hand states that language is
acquired through communication. It is not just a question of using communicative
activities to activate passive knowledge of the language that has been pre-taught at an
earlier stage. The belief is that communicative confidence only develops if students are
thrown in at the deep end and required to carry out tasks that demand real-life
communication. Rather than a communicative activity being a chance for students to
show what they can do or to use what they have learned, it is through working on a task
that the students learn what they need. It is impossible to make sense of current EFL
teaching, especially in the west, without reference to the Communicative Approach. The
weak Communicative Approach has had the most far-reaching impact on the EFL world,
probably because its acceptance meant adapting rather than rejecting existing materials
and methodology. The strong Communicative Approach has been very influential in the
development of Task Based Learning.

The Concept

The communicative approach is the theory that language is communication. Therefore

the final aim of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) is communicative
competence. Communicative language teaching makes use of real-life situations that
necessitate communication. The teacher sets up a situation that students are likely to
encounter in real life. Unlike the audio-lingual method of language teaching, which
relies on repetition and drills, the communicative approach can leave students in
suspense as to the outcome of a class exercise, which will vary according to their
reactions and responses. The real-life simulations change from day to day. Students
motivation to learn comes from their desire to communicate in meaningful ways about
meaningful topics.
There are several principles of the communicative approach. The first, authentic and
meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities. Second, learners
learn through using it to communicate. Third, fluency is an important dimension of
communication. Then, communication involves the integration of different language
skills. The last, learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error.

Margie S. Berns, an expert in the field of communicative language teaching, writes in

explaining Firths view that language is interaction; it is interpersonal activity and has a
clear relationship with society. In this light, language study has to look at the use
(function) of language in context, both its linguistic context (what is uttered before and
after a given piece of discourse) and its social, or situational, context (who is speaking,
what their social roles are, why they have come together to speak) (Berns, 1984, p. 5).
In a communicative classroom for beginners, the teacher might begin by passing out
cards, each with a different name printed on it. The teacher then proceeds to model an
exchange of introductions in the target language: Guten Tag. Wieheissen Sie? Reply:
Icheisse Wolfie, for example. Using a combination of the target language and gestures,
the teacher conveys the task at hand, and gets the students to introduce themselves and
ask their classmates for information. They are responding in German to a question in
German. They do not know the answers beforehand, as they are each holding cards with
their new identities written on them; hence, there is an authentic exchange of
Later during the class, as a reinforcement listening exercise, the students might hear a
recorded exchange between two German freshmen meeting each other for the first time
at the gymnasium doors. Then the teacher might explain, in English, the differences
among German greetings in various social situations. Finally, the teacher will explain
some of the grammar points and structures used.

The following exercise is taken from a 1987 workshop on communicative foreign

language teaching, given for Delaware language teachers by Karen Willetts and Lynn
Thompson of the Center for Applied Linguistics. The exercise, called Eavesdropping, is
aimed at advanced students.
Instructions to students Listen to a conversation somewhere in a public place and be
prepared to answer, in the target language, some general questions about what was said.
1. Who was talking?

2. About how old were they?

3. Where were they when you eavesdropped?
4. What were they talking about?
5. What did they say?
6. Did they become aware that you were listening to them?

The exercise puts students in a real-world listening situation where they must report
information overheard. Most likely they have an opinion of the topic, and a class
discussion could follow, in the target language, about their experiences and viewpoints.
Communicative exercises such as this motivate the students by treating topics of their
choice, at an appropriately challenging level.
Materials in this approach fall into three broad categories:
Text-based material , for example practice exercises, reading passages, gap fills,
recordings, etc. can be found in almost any course book as well as in books containing
supplementary materials. They form an essential part of most lessons.
Task-based material includes game boards, role play cards, materials for drilling, pairwork tasks, etc. They might be used to support real life tasks such as role-playing
booking into a hotel, or a job interview.
Realia includes such things as magazines, newspapers, fruit and vegetables, axes,
maps things from the real world outside the classroom. They can be used in many
activities. For example, fruit and vegetables could be used in a shopping activity, an axe
could be used to show the effect of using the present perfect continuous on a short
action verb.

They can be used as the basis for classroom activities. Once again not only must the
activity be appropriate to the level of the students but the materials used must be
appropriate too.

The Language Skill Focused

Communicative approach stimulate real life communicative experiences. Froese V in

his book named as Introduction to whole language teaching and learning (1991)
mentioned that learners should conduct an interview because they actually need
information. In role playing process, the purpose is to learn how to formulate
appropriate questions. But here, as Froese V noted these activities should not only
stimulate real life experiences but, whenever possible, should actually be real life
experiences. Instruction in listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing, is
given within the context of handling various learning tasks, which involve learners with
language. Language drills, recitation and isolation grammar exercises are not the ways
to acquire any language. Analysis of language is done in specific contexts.
Decontextualized language is not used as a basis for skill instruction. The focus is not
upon listening and speaking but upon using language to communicate and to learn. As
students use language to learn in various subject areas, it becomes necessary for them to
communicate with peers in large and small groups as well as with the teacher.
Collaborative talk can occur between peers in quite an informal way or in more formal
cooperative learning groups. Listening and speaking skills as vehicles for learning across
all subjects areas. Barnes D in his book named as Oral language and learning (1990)
described that listening and speaking become valuable not only as isolated skills or
groups of skills, but as vehicles for learning across all subject areas. Oral communication
should be integrated with other areas of instruction.



The main drawback of the communicative language teaching approach is

that it is commonly short- usually months only. It does not dwell on

drilling; instead it covers the various ways of communication with

contextualization, translation and speaking skills. During the study period,
various role play and group projects may be used but if the student does not
and cannot speak up then the approach may be considered to be unfruitful.
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CLT does not focus on error correction. This is a disadvantage as learners are forced to
practice with classmates who are not fluent in English. They do not like talking with
students who make mistakes. They want to learn to say things correctly and be corrected
by the teacher whenever they make an error. They find it frustrating to chat with
learners from different countries because they find their accent, pronunciation and
speech unintelligible.
Another disadvantage is that the CLT approach focuses on fluency but not accuracy. The
approach does not focus on error reduction but instead creates a situation where
learners are left using their own devices to solve their communication problems. Thus
they may produce incoherent, grammatically incorrect sentences.

The Teachers Roles

In Communicative Approach, the teacher has some important roles. The teacher can be
the facilitator of the communication process in the classroom. The teacher also can act
as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. The teacher is
expected to act as a resource, an organizer of resources, a motivator, a counsellor, a
guide, an analyst and a researcher. The teacher also can include being an actor and an
entertainer. After all, a good lesson must be interesting or the students will switch off
and learn nothing. Besides, teachers job in communicative classroom is to get their
students to communicate using real language by providing them with instruction,
practice, and above all opportunities to produce English in activities which encourage
acquisition and fluency. In this approach, the teacher will find themselves talking less
and listening morebecoming active facilitators of their students learning (LarsenFreeman, 1986). The teacher sets up the exercise, but because the students performance
is the goal, the teacher must step back and observe, sometimes acting as referee or

Students Roles

A classroom during a communicative activity is far from quiet, however the students do
most of the speaking, and frequently the scene of a classroom during a communicative
exercise is active, with students leaving their seats to complete a task.
Because of the increased responsibility to participate, students may find they gain
confidence in using the target language in general. Students are more responsible
managers of their own learning (Larsen-Freeman, 1986).
Whichever of the four skills is being taught, the main focus must be on the student and
not on the teacher. The interaction should usually be the student to student and should
include the teacher only where necessary. During most classroom activities the teacher
will monitor and intervene only where necessary.