Communicative Language Learning

In this method, the teacher distributes a handout that has a copy of a sports column from a recent newspaper. In the class, the teacher tells the students to underline the reporter’s predictions and to say which one they think the reporter feels most certain of and which he feels least certain of, the teacher also gives the students the directions for the activity in the target language; it’s important because the target language is a vehicle for classroom communication, not just the object of study. In this method, the students try to state the reporter’s predictions in different words. The teacher use the games in this method, it’s important because they have certain features in common with real communicative events-there is a purpose to the exchange. If a student makes an error, the teacher and other students ignore it. Because, errors are tolerated and seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills. The teacher tells to the students to makes group, and the teacher gives each group of students a strip story and a task to perform. So, they can work with a partner to predict what the next picture in the strip story will look like. It’s important because, it gives students an opportunity to work on negotiating meaning.

Communicative language teaching (CLT) was developed in the 1960s from the research and writings of applied linguists in both Europe and North America who emphasized that language equaled communication (Canale & Swain, 1980; Savignon, 1983; van Ek, 1975). In Europe, this approach led initially to the institution of the notional-functional approach. In CLT, the goal of language teaching should not be translating and learning a set of rules but should be based on the goal of communicative competence.

Communicative competence is most frequently defined as the ability to create meaning when interacting with others in the target language. Thus, the focus in CLT is on communication in authentic situations. Since the 1970s, this approach has been expanded on and has come to play a central role in most contemporary language teaching situations.

Strategy of Communicative Language Learning

English Skill Level: Beginning to Advanced
Grade Level: Elementary to Adult

Because CLT is such a broad orientation, it is difficult to give specific strategies. However, the broad
guidelines are as follows:

  • Determine the communicative goals of the students.
  • Create situations and activities in which students produce authentic, meaningful, and contextualized communication.
  • Focus on accuracy only in as much as errors that would impede communication are corrected.

Applications and Examples of Communicative Language Learning

Authentic Role-Plays
In this lesson, students are introduced to a number of conversations that might occur when one is a
visiting international student. Examples might include being invited to someone’s house, making small
talk at a party, being offered refreshments, and being asked to go out.

  • Students are asked what they would do and say in these various situations. This gives the teacher the chance to discuss not only vocabulary used but also cultural differences that might occur.
  • Students are given dialogues to practice in groups of two or three.
  • Students are encouraged to create their own variations on the dialogues.
  • Students are then given color-coded index cards that give them information about their role. For example:

Blue card 1 says: You invite a friend over for pizza and beer.
Blue card 2 says: A friend invites you over for pizza and beer. You want to come, but
you don’t drink alcohol.
Pink card 1 says: You and a friend are at the mall shopping when you run into your roommate.
Pink card 2 says: Your friend introduces you to his or her roommate. You realize
you’ve already met.
Pink card 3 says: You run into your roommate at the mall. The roommate introduces
you to her or his friend.

  • Students with the same color cards come to the front of the room at the same time. Students are not allowed to see the other students’ cards. The teacher tells the first person to start. Then the other students doing the role-play must respond spontaneously.
  • Other groups with the same color cards then participate in their role-plays.
  • By not allowing students to see each other’s cards, the scene is set for a more spontaneous situation that is more authentic than if students practice set role-plays.

Presenting a Cultural Item to the Class of Communicative Language Learning

  • Students are asked what things or objects come to mind when they think of the country they are visiting. For example, if they are studying in the United States, they might say American football, rap music, hamburgers, or cowboy movies. The teacher writes these on the board as the students say them.
  • Students are asked to explain why they chose this particular object. Other students may also give their ideas on why this object represents the country they are visiting. Students may be asked if they agree or disagree.
  • Students are given the assignment for the next class period, when they are to bring in an object that represents an aspect of their culture. If they don’t have the object, they may bring a picture or a mock-up.
  • Students show the object to their classmates. They explain what the object is, what it is used for or how it is used, and in what way it represents their culture. Other students are encouraged to ask questions.

Strengths of Communicative Language Learning

  • Because the original impetus for this orientation was in reaction to grammar-based and audiolingual approaches, the strength of CLT is that it creates a learning environment that closely replicates how students will use language in real-life situations. That is, students participate in real, authentic, and interactive language use in the classroom.

Weaknesses of Communicative Language Learning

  • A caveat to this approach is that some practitioners may see communication as only oral/aural skills and may not put enough emphasis on the reading and writing skills that some students may need. Another caveat is that in an attempt to produce communicative skills quickly, accuracy may be overlooked or given little attention. Whether students will obtain that accuracy in time on their own continues to be an area of discussion in the ESOL field.