Our classrooms don’t look like this…

Communicative Language Teaching Pt 1 of 5

by Kemp Carroll

Or Communicative language learning? What is it? How can it improve outcomes? This  article analyzes the ten core assumptions of current Communicative Language Teaching highlighted in a booklet entitled Communicative Language Teaching and authored by Jack C. Richards. His points are highlighted in bold print.

We will show you how Communicative Language Learning is the natural next step rooted in Communicative Language Teaching (Take our survey at the end and get access to the video “Communicative Language Teaching – To Almost Tell the Truth”.)

1. Second language learning is facilitated when learners are engaged
in a) interaction and b) meaningful communication.

a) Communicative Language Learning in-class methods are based entirely around interaction between students… not on students looking at what a teacher writes on a whiteboard and memorising unrealistic dialogues about subjects that are not meaningful to a student.

b) Textbooks are filled with meaningless stories, dialogues and conversations. They are meaningless because they are based on subjects that have no meaning in the life of the language learner. As one example one Communicative Language Learning in-class method is based around the daily newspaper that students use as their ‘textbook’ – they choose meaningful information – stories and accounts that interest them – and use it in various activities with other students – which brings us back to interaction. This is truly communicative language teaching at its best because it is communicative language learning.

2. Effective classroom learning tasks and exercises provide
opportunities for students to negotiate meaning, a) expand their
language resources, notice how language is used, and b) take part in
meaningful interpersonal exchange.

a) Again, The newspaper. It’s a better language resource than almost any textbook. Why? It’s as up to date as a… well … the daily news. Textbooks, by the shear bureaucratic process of writing, editing, producing and publishing them, are dead on arrival when it comes to what is current, meaningful and relevant. The language they teach is often academic and not realistic, daily, on the street language.

b) Communicative language teaching must be achieved by communicative language learning. How? Through interpersonal exchange- i.e. communication. Useful methods are built around student’s doing 90% to 95% of the talking in the classroom – with other students in small workgroups as opposed to listening to a teacher using 95% of classroom time blabbing on about grammar rules, the history of the language, the etymology of certain words, their latin roots etc. One does not learn to speak he must speak to learn – as does a child.

Pt 2 following soon.

Are you a TESOL or TEFL teacher. We’d love to know how you went when you first started. Here’s a survey for anyone who’d like to participate. Thanks it will be helpful to other teachers starting out. To show our appreciation, after you hit ‘submit’, you’ll get access to a video about a great activity to give your students. “Communicative Language Teaching – To Almost Tell the Truth” with Kemp demonstrating.

Click here to access the survey