wikipedia.org/wiki/Communicative_language_teaching#Overview_of_CLT,2005). This means that successfully learning a foreign language is assessed in terms of how well learners have developed their communicative competence, which can loosely be defined as their ability to apply knowledge of both formal and sociolinguistic aspects of a language with adequate proficiency to communicate. Communicative language teaching is usually characterized as a broad approach to teaching, rather than as a teaching method with a clearly defined set of classroom practices (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communicative_language_teaching#Overview_of_CLT,2005).
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 audiolingual 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 (Orellana, 1997). The real-life simulations change from day-to-day, and the students' motivation to learn comes from their desire to communicate in meaningful ways about meaningful topics (Orellana, 1997).
The five most often defined principles or features of communicative language teaching are as follows: 1) an emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language; 2) the introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation; 3) the provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the learning process itself; 4) an enhancement of the learner's own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning; and 5) an attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communicative_language_teaching#Overview_of_CLT,2005). The above five features indicate the intense interest of communicative language practitioners in the needs and desires of their learners as well as the connection between the language as it is taught in their class and as it used outside the classroom. Furthermore, under this broad umbrella definition, any teaching practice that helps students develop their communicative competence in an authentic context is deemed an acceptable and beneficial form of instruction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communicative_language_teaching#Overview_of_CLT,2005). Thus, in the classroom communicative language teaching is often described as taking the form of pair and group work requiring negotiation and cooperation between learners, fluency-based activities that encourage learners to develop their confidence, role-plays in which students practice and develop language functions, as well as judicious use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities.
However, a review of the literature reveals that teachers have faced several difficulties in teaching language. Textbooks and classroom materials are reportedly linear in nature and lacking in interactivity thus may not necessarily provide the required environment for the acquisition of communicative competence. Additionally, these materials may not necessarily provide all aspects of discourse activity, such as paralinguistic and extralinguistic behavior that accompany speech. Research indicates that multimedia environments may provide a more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture (http://www.edb.utexas.edu/mmresearch/Students97/Carel/#sectionI,2005).
Teacher's Roles in Communicative Language Teaching
Research indicates that in the early stages of language learning, instructors and students may want to keep in mind the goal of communicative efficiency, which is that learners should be able to make themselves understood, using their current proficiency to the fullest (NCLRC, 2004). They should try to avoid confusion in the message, such as faulty pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary to avoid offending communication partners as a result of a socially inappropriate style; and to use strategies for recognizing and managing communication breakdowns (NLCRC, 2004).
An example of an early/beginners stage communicative classroom is as follows: 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. 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 (Orellana, 1997). 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 information (Orellana, 1997). A later reinforcement listening exercise would consist of the students listening to a recorded exchange between two German freshmen meeting each other for the first time. Then the teacher might explain, in the student's native language, the differences among German greetings in various social situations. Finally, the teacher will explain some of the grammar points and structures used (Orellana, 1997). In another exercise, students are placed in an everyday situation where they must listen to an authentic text to get general understanding of the topic or message.
Implementation of CLT in ESL and EFL Countries
Numerous research studies exist on the topic of teaching communicative language teaching in English as a second language and English as a foreign language countries. In such countries, the settings are the environments in which students have little exposure to English outside the classroom. Some reports attribute the failure of the approach to inadequacies of the teachers themselves. Karavas-Doukas, in 1996 studies, examined 101 local secondary school teachers of English in Greece, concluding that part of the problem stems from the instructors' misunderstanding of the very nature of communicative language teaching. Karavas-Doukas found that even when using textbooks designed for communicative activities, teachers tended to revert to traditional teacher-centered routines. As a result, she concluded that teacher trainers sometimes simply fail to equip teachers with the skills and techniques they need for implementing communicative language teaching in their classrooms.
Other research studies focus on the difficulty attributed to the English as a first language environment. In 1996, studies by Stapleton pointed out how Confucianism as a belief system appears to be in tension with underlying notions of communicative language teaching. In these studies, Stapeton examined the theory that Confucianism establishes the superior status and knowledge of the teacher over that of the students, thus elevating the role of the teacher above the students. In 1998, Li studied teaching and learning in China, concluding that local conditions seem to be detrimental to communicative language teaching methodology. In such studies, Li analyzed the scarcity of relevant authentic materials, lack of student prerequisite skills, continued use of traditional examinations, and the absence of new forms of assessment to match communicative language teaching priorities. Researchers building on the work of Li concluded that economic problems may be responsible for overly large classes, teachers' heavy teaching loads and outmoded classroom equipment. Additional studies concluded that administrative practices in teacher assessment may even penalize teachers who use communicative techniques in their classes. A review of the literature indicates that it appears that even instructors who are well versed in the theory and fundamentals of communicative language teaching face an uphill battle in English as a foreign language settings.
Finally, although there exist many challenges to implementing a communicative approach in English as a second language and English as a foreign language contexts, there remains a strong rationale for pursuing communicative language teaching methodology. One of the most commonly cited challenges is the fact that in such settings, most students outside the classroom lack daily exposure and inclusion in purposeful exchanges in the English medium. As a result, these students become very dependent upon whatever guided communicative practice they are taught and exposed to in the classroom. Some of the greatest difficulties faced by these students are the low profile teacher roles, frequent pair work or small group problem solving, students responding to authentic samples of English, extended exchanges on high interest topics, and the integration of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The problems are caused because the communicative language teaching approach discourages extensive teacher-controlled drills, quizzing of memorized material, and extended commentary on forms of English. As long as a few changes are implemented in the future classrooms of communicative language teaching, the future of foreign language appears very bright.
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