Communicative Language Teaching Method [Archives:2003/665/Education]

September 4 2003

Dr. Bushra S. M. Al-Noori,
Associate Professor of English
Head of English Department, Faculty of Education Mahweet
[email protected]

The main principle in education and psychology and the new trend, concerning teaching English as a foreign language is to help students to be involved in activities to achieve a better learning and give them the freedom to negotiate with their interlocutors. There are certain techniques which can be useful for encouraging students to negotiate, express their needs and use the language communicatively. Such techniques can be found in the communicative language teaching method.

This method aims at developing procedures for the teaching of the four skills that acknowledge the interdependence of language and communication. It aims at having students become communicatively competent. Communicative competence requires being able to use the language appropriately in a given social context. This requires the knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings and function. Students must be able to manage the process of negotiating with their classmates.

The principles of this method are:
1. Language as it is used in real context should be introduced.
2. Students should be able to figure out the speaker's or writer's intentions.
3. The target language is the vehicle for classroom communication.
4. One function may have many different linguistic forms.
5. Opportunities should be given to students to express their ideas and opinions.
6. Errors are seen as the natural outcome of the development of communication skills.
7. Fluency is much more important than accuracy.
8. Creating situations to promote communication is one of the teacher's responsibilities.
9. The social context of the communicative events is essential in giving meaning to the utterances.
10. The teacher acts as an advisor during communicative activity, a facilitator of students' learning, a manager of classroom activity, or a co-communicator.
11. When communicating, a speaker has a choice about what to say and how to say it.
12. Students should be given opportunities to develop strategies for interpreting language as it is actually seen by native speakers.
13. Students are communicators and are actively engaged in negotiating meaning.
14. Language is used a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role-play, problem solving.
15. Communicative activities have three features: information gap, choice and feedback.

The techniques that are derived from the principles of this method are:
1. Before presenting the material, a discussion of the function and situation is made between students and teacher.
2. The teacher asks students to re-order sentences within a dialogue or a passage.
3. Students are involved in language games and role-play.
4. The class works in groups.
5. The teacher gives instructions in the target language.
6. A problem solving task is used as a communicative technique.
7. Questions and answers are of two types: those which are based on the material given and those which are related to the student's personal experiences and are centered around the material theme.

Theoretical background
Learning a foreign language is viewed by this method as acquiring the linguistic means to perform different kinds of functions. Four dimensions of communicative competence are identified:
a. Grammatical competence: It refers to linguistic competence and it is the domain of grammatical and lexical capacity.
b. Sociolinguistic competence: It refers to an understanding of the social context in which communication takes place, including role relationships, the shared information of the participants and the communicative purpose for their interaction.
c. Discourse competence: It refers to the interpretation of individual message elements in terms of their interconnectedness, and of how meaning is presented in relation to the entire discourse or text.
d. Strategic competence: It refers to the coping strategies that communicators employ to initiate, terminate, maintain, repair and redirect communication.

At the level of language theory, this method has a rich theoretical base. Some of the characteristics of this communicative view of language are:
1. Language is a system for the expression of meaning.
2. The primary function of language is for interaction and communication.
3. The structure of language reflects its functional and communicative uses.
4. The primary units of language are not merely its grammatical and structural features, but categories of functional and communicative meaning.

According to this method, language learning comes about through using language communicatively, rather than through practicing language skills. The activities are those that involve real communication and those in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks to promote learning.
Learning activities are consequently selected according to how well they engage the students in meaningful and authentic language use.