In our series on Communicative Language Teaching we learn about the nature of content that facilitates successful language learning. Points 3 and 4 are below from the article by Kemp Carroll.
3. Meaningful communication results from students processing content that is a) relevant, b) purposeful, c) interesting, and d) engaging.
a) Relevance, as Mr. Richards points out, is at the root of learning a language.
If a student learns something irrelevant from a textbook – like the ‘fascinating’ story of something that happened in New York city 5 years ago – ‘fascinating’ to the textbook’s author but completely irrelevant to the language student in Bangalore, India, the student won’t repeat the story. He won’t use the information, the data, the stuff of substance in the story. Relevance equals usefulness. Usefulness equals repetition. Repetition equals memorizing the bits and bobs of the story, the flow of the grammar structures etc. A story from a teen magazine about the latest Indian pop group will have more impact on the student in Bangalore than a story about bloodhounds in a textbook written in England by an author who has never visited India – but, again, only if that student likes pop music.
b) Purpose is at the core of Communicative Language Teaching.
The content of textbooks primary purpose must not be to teach a language but to provide stories and information to the student that will be useful and have purpose in his life. Stuff he can and repeat and use with his friends, family, co-workers etc. Thus, textbooks can be an obstacle to a classroom of students who all have different circumstances in life. Sadly the academic structure of schools and how they put students through their language systems is unable to meet the individual needs of each student when based on the average language textbook we’ve reviewed.
c) Source material for the interactive activities in a language classroom must be interesting. Boredom is the biggest enemy of learning. Textbooks are boring. Why? Back to point a – there not interesting and also have no purpose in the student’s daily life.
d) And of course, textbooks are not engaging because the stories, fear conversations and dialogues in them lack relevance, interest and purpose to the poor student forced to learn from them.
4. Communication is a holistic process that often calls upon the use of several language skills or modalities.
Whole brain whole body, audio, oral, visual, kinesthetic and tactile methods are language learning essential to Communicative Language Learning which is based on Communicative Language Teaching. All the senses must be involved. Sitting at a desk looking at a textbook listening to a teacher drone on and on about prepositions, indirect objects, direct objects, abstract nouns, concrete nouns, common nouns, proper nouns, pronouns, reflexive pronouns, relative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, interrogative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, reciprocal pronouns, intensive pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, fricatives, gluttals,
relative adverbs, adverbs of frequency, coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, action verbs, linking verbs, auxiliary verbs, transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, phrasal verbs etcetera etcetera. It’s exhausting just listing the components of English, much less learning all of them by name in an English class. May heaven help us. If carpentry were taught the way language has been taught we would all be sleeping on the ground.
Next time…Language learning is facilitated both by activities that involve inductive or discovery learning of underlying rules of language use and organization, as well as by those involving language analysis and reflection.(???)…and what that all really means!