What is communicative language teaching (CLT)? Is it a methodology? And how can you use it to create a compelling language course?
A great many language teachers today employ "communicative" methodology in their classes to engage the learners. Thing is, "communicative" is too broad a concept and leaves too much room for interpretation. Does it mean that one learns only by talking? That grammar is no longer important? What is the primary goal of a communicative methodology?
In this guide you will find the definition of communicative language teaching, what the founding principles of the methodology are, and how you can make the most of every student interaction. In the communicative approach, in fact, interaction is both the means and the goal of language teaching.
As you will discover as you read this article, CLT involves a lot of effort on the part of the teacher in preparing materials and lessons. If you are looking for an all-in-one tool to manage time-consuming activities, look no further than the Edugo.AI platform. Thanks to our artificial intelligence system and other LMS features designed for language schools, you will be able to delegate tasks and devote 100 percent of your time to students during the live lesson.
Communicative language teaching, rather than an actual methodology, is a set of principles. Not all educators and researchers agree on these principles, but the basic ones are:
Like the direct method of language teaching, communicative language teaching originated in opposition to grammar-translation methods. Since the 1950s and for many years to follow, language learning has been considered a mechanical training process, having learners repeat dialogues to assimilate the habit of producing correct sentences.
Around the 1970s, some educators began to shift the focus from language accuracy to practice, and from grammatical competence to communicative competence. Language learning is now viewed in a profoundly different way: an interaction between users who collaborate to create meaning, negotiate messages, and incorporate new linguistic forms into their communicative competence.
The main language knowledge aspects of communicative competence therefore are:
As mentioned earlier, unlike the direct method, communicative language teaching is not really a method. It is more of a framework, to whose principles different methods can correspond.
The spread of CLT principles has popularized new formats, very different from the memorization of grammar rules and dialogues. These include role-plays, group activities and project work. An example of communicative language teaching is practicing questions among students to find out personal information about their peers.
As the activities change, the role of the language teacher also changes. Students must abandon the individualistic learning approach in favor of a cooperative one, taking more responsibility for their own learning. Teachers thus assume a role of coordinating and monitoring learners: not so much role models for the correct way to speak and write the target language, but facilitators who develop learners' ability to learn.
According to David Nunan, communicative language teaching involves.
We've seen the theory, now let's look at some practice. What are some common activities to implement the principles of communicative language teaching within your courses?
Let's first look at some standard CLT activities that can't be missed in your language classes.
Communicative activities: any kind of real-life communication situation in which an exchange of information with authentic language takes place is fine. Examples might be asking for information to get to places or about an event.
Role play: a key activity in the communicative approach, which allows students to "handle" the target language without risk. This is best done by creating a context that puts learners at ease and dividing them into pairs to maximize everyone's speaking time.
Opinion-sharing: in this type of activity, learners share their beliefs, opinions and values.
Information acquisition: engaging learners to acquire information on a given topic in the target language.
Information-gap: it can be said that the purpose of communication is largely to acquire information that we do not know. In information-gap activities, students try to communicate in order to obtain information. Again, elements of role-playing can be introduced and, therefore, it represents a way of incorporating gamification in language learning.
If you have already implemented some of these activities within your courses (and your class is at a fairly advanced level), you can move on to more advanced and/or creative ones as well.
If your students plan to travel to the target language country soon, you may set a variety of situations accordingly: travel preparation, communicating hotel room problems, and so on.
You can also organize games, such as Taboo and Werewolves. In the first one, a player must get his or her teammates to guess a certain word without using words that are too obvious. In this way your students will be forced to find new ways to express the same concept.
The second, better known as Mafia, is a social deduction game in which the group of players must work together to find out who among them is a werewolf. In this activity your students will practice expressing opinions.
CLT activities are great to perform in a physical classroom, but that's not to say you can't employ them in a hybrid or virtual classroom. That is, of course, using the right tools.
Edugo.AI's platform is uniquely capable of facilitating the communicative approach through state-of-the-art AI and NLP (Natural Language Processing) algorithms. Through an internal video call system enhanced by AI a customized review lesson is generated, based on the content of the live class. The review lesson is personalized to each student with gamified learning activities, including speaking, reading, listening, vocabulary and grammar exercises. This allows teachers to focus on the communicative method in the live class, while the technology handles the homework assignment and personalization.
Not only that. As we anticipated, adopting the communicative approach involves a lot of effort on the part of the teacher, who must carefully plan live lessons. And between course creation and promoting one's school, we know how important it is for a teacher to optimize his or her time (which is why our platform also includes a language school management software). Our job is to make your job easier, all the more so if you employ the communicative language teaching approach.