Friday, June 20, 2008

What is a Communicative Approach to English Language Teaching?

A Communicative Approach?
There are a variety of approaches to teaching English as a second or foreign language. One aspect of English and foreign language teaching involves using a Communicative Approach. But what exactly does using a communicative approach mean?

Well for me, a Communicative Approach to language teaching includes several distinct aspects. We’ll mention two of them here. Applying these aspects means that language teaching and learning become far more than a series of grammar lessons and vocabulary lists. For language teaching and learning to be truly communicative, it must not only be in context, but used to convey ideas, preferences, thoughts, feelings and information in a way that is addressed to reach others. Usually, I address communicative language teaching through the use of two approaches:

• Content-Based Instruction (CBI)
• Task-Based language teaching (TBLT)

Definitions of CBI vs. TBL in ELT
In CBI (Widdowson, 1978), the focus of classes is not on the language and structure itself, but rather on learners acquiring skills or knowledge using English as the language of instruction. If you teach a learner how to repair computers, for example, and use English as the language of instruction, the learners improve their language communicative skills while learning foremost the skill of computer repair.

Task-Based Learning in ELT
In the TBLT approach (Willis, 1996), the focus is on providing communicative activities needed for English language learning, performing tasks using the target language (English) and using the English language in other ways for learning tasks. Examples would be having learners buy postage to mail a letter by first teaching them the structures and language needed to perform the task, then actually having them do it. Another example would be teaching learners the needed English to order a meal in a restaurant, or make a shopping purchase, then allowing them to complete such tasks on their own using unguided or free speech.

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching
In the publication, “Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching” by Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers (CUP, 2001) more than a dozen approaches to ELT are explored in depth. From the now defunct Grammar-Translation and Situational approaches to Total Physical Response (TPR), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Lexical approaches to the Communicative approaches, the Natural approach and Cooperative Learning, English and foreign language teachers world wide have a much greater language teaching approach repertoire than ever before.

So, what’s it going to be then?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, expert author and public speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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