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9     Communicative Language Teaching

(Pages 121-136)


1-   What is the goal of most of the teaching methods of foreign languages?

The goal of most of the teaching methods of foreign languages is for students to learn to communicate in the target language.


2-  What are the observations that contributed to a shift in the field of language pedagogy in the late 1970s and early 1980s from a linguistic struc­ture-centered approach to a Communicative Approach?

(1)  Students could produce sentences accurately in a lesson, but could not use them appropriately when genuinely communicating outside of the classroom.

(2)  Being able to communicate required more than mastering linguistic structures.

(3)  Students may know the rules of linguistic usage, but be unable to use the language.

(4)  Communication requires that students perform certain functions as well, such as promising, inviting, and declining invitations within a social context.

(5)  Being able to communicate requires more than linguistic competence; it requires communicative competence, i.e. knowing when and how to say what to whom.


3-  What is the aim of Communicative Language Teaching?

Communicative Language Teaching aims broadly to apply the theoretical perspective of the Communicative Approach (1) by making communicative competence the goal of language teaching and (2) by acknowledging the interdependence of language and communication.


4-  What are the main principles of Communicative Language Teaching?

(1)  Whenever possible, ‘authentic language’—language as it is used in a real context—should be introduced.

(2)  Being able to figure out the speaker’s or writer’s intentions is part of being communicatively competent.

(3)  The target language is a vehicle for classroom communication, not just the object of study.

(4)  One function can have many different linguistic forms.

(5)  Students should work with language at the discourse or suprasentential (above the sentence) level. They must learn about cohesion and coherence.

(6)  Games are important because they have certain features in common with real communicative events—there is a purpose to the exchange. Having students work in small groups maximizes the amount of communicative practice they receive.

(7)  Students should be given an opportunity to express their ideas and opinions.

(8)  Errors are tolerated and seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills.

(9)  One of the teacher’s major responsibilities is to establish situations likely to promote communication.

(10)    Communicative interaction encourages cooperative relationships among students.

(11)    The social context of the communicative event is essential in giving meaning to the utterances.

(12)    Learning to use language forms appropriately is an important part of communicative competence.

(13)    The teacher acts as a facilitator in setting up communicative activities and as an advisor during the activities.

(14)    In communicating, a speaker has a choice not only about what to say, but also how to say it.

(15)    The grammar and vocabulary that the students learn follow from the function, situational context, and the roles of the interlocutors.

(16)    Students should be given opportunities to listen to language as it is used in authentic communication.


5-  What are the goals of teachers who use Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)?

The goal is to enable students to communicate in the target language. Communication is a process; knowledge of the forms of language is insufficient.


6-   How could teachers who use the CLT Method enable their students to communicate in the target language?

(1)  Students need knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings, and functions.

(2)  Students need to know that many different forms can be used to perform a function and also that a single form can often serve a variety of functions.

(3)  Students must be able to choose from among these the most appropriate form, given the social context and the roles of the interlocutors.

(4)  Students must also be able to manage the process of negotiating meaning with their interlocutors.


7-   What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of the students?

The Teacher:

(1)  The teacher facilitates communication in the classroom.

(2)  One of his major responsibilities is to establish situations likely to pro­mote communication.

(3)  During the activities he acts as an adviser, answering students questions and monitoring their performance.

(4)  He might make note of their errors to be worked on at a later time during more accuracy-based activities.

(5)  He might be a co-communicator engaging in the communicative activity along with stu­dents.

The Students:

(1)  Students are communicators.

(2)  They are actively engaged in negotiating meaning, in trying to make themselves understood, and in understanding others even when their knowledge of the target lan­guage is incomplete.

(3)  Since the teacher’s role is less dominant than in a teacher-cen­tered method, students are seen as more responsible managers of their own learning


8-   What are some characteristics of the teaching/learning process?

(1)  The most obvious characteristic of CLT is that almost everything that is done is done with a communicative intent.

(2)  Students use the language a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role plays, and problem-solving tasks (see discussion of these in the review of techniques).

(3)  Another characteristic of CLT is the use of authentic materials.

(4)  It is considered desirable to give students an opportunity to develop strate­gies for understanding language as it is actually used.

(5)  Activities in CLT are often carried out by stu­dents in small groups. Small numbers of students interacting are favored in order to maximize the time allotted to each student for com­municating.


9-  What are the features of truly communicative Activities proposed by Morrow (in Johnson and Morrow 1981)?

Activities that are truly communicative, according to Morrow (in Johnson and Morrow 1981), have three features in common: informa­tion gap, choice, and feedback.

(1)  (a) An information gap exists when one person in an exchange knows something the other person does not.

(b) Example: If we both know today is Tuesday and I ask you, ‘What is today? and you answer, ‘Tuesday, our exchange is not really communicative.

(2)  (a) In communication, the speaker has a choice of what she will say and how she will say it. If the exercise is tightly controlled so that students can only say something in one way, the speaker has no choice and the exchange, therefore, is not communicative.

(b) Example: In a chain drill, for example, if a student must reply to her neighbor’s question in the same way as her neighbor replied to someone else’s question, then she has no choice of form and content, and real communication does not occur.

(3)  (a) True communication is purposeful. A speaker can thus evaluate whether or not his purpose has been achieved based upon the infor­mation she receives from his listener. If the listener does not have an opportunity to provide the speaker with such feedback, then the exchange is not really communicative.

(b) Example: Forming questions through a transformation drill may be a worthwhile activity, but it is not in keep­ing with CLT since a speaker will receive no response from a listener, so is unable to assess whether her question has been understood or not.


10-      What is the nature of student-teacher interaction? What is the nature of student-student interaction?

The teacher

(1)  The teacher may present some part of the lesson, such as when work­ing with linguistic accuracy.

(2)  At other times, he is the facilitator of the activities, but he does not always himself interact with the students.

(3)  Sometimes he is a co-communicator, but more often he establishes sit­uations that prompt communication between and among the stu­dents.

The students:

Students interact a great deal with one another. They do this in var­ious configurations: pairs, triads, small groups, and whole group.

11-       How are the feelings of the students dealt with?

(1)  One of the basic assumptions of CLT is that by learning to communi­cate students will be more motivated to study a foreign language since they will feel they are learning to do something useful with the lan­guage.

(2)  Teachers give students an opportunity to express their individuality by having them share their ideas and opinions on a regu­lar basis.

(3)  Student security is enhanced by the many opportuni­ties for cooperative interactions with their fellow students and the teacher.


12-       How is language viewed? How is culture viewed?



(1)  Language is for communication.

(2)  Linguistic competence, the knowl­edge of forms and their meanings, is just one part of communicative competence.

(3)  Another aspect of communicative competence is knowl­edge of the functions language is used for.

(4)  A variety of forms can be used to accomplish a single function. Example: A speaker can make a prediction by saying, for example, ‘It may rain, or ‘Perhaps it will rain.

(5)  The same form of the language can be used for a variety of functions. Example: ‘May, for instance, can be used to make a prediction or to give permission (‘You may sit in the back).

(6)  Learners need knowledge of forms and meanings and functions.

(7)  They must also use this knowledge and take into con­sideration the social situation in order to convey their intended mean­ing appropriately. Example: A speaker can seek permission using ‘may (‘May I have a piece of fruit?); however, if the speaker perceives the listener as being more of a social equal or the situation as being informal, he or she would more likely use ‘can to seek permission (‘Can I have a piece of fruit?).



(1)  Culture is the everyday lifestyle of people who use the language.

(2)  There are certain aspects of it that are especially important to com­munication—the use of nonverbal behavior, for example, which might receive greater attention in CLT.



13-       What areas of language are emphasized? What language skills are emphasized?

(1)  Language functions might be emphasized over forms.

(2)  Typically, although not always, a functional syllabus is used.

(3)  A variety of forms are introduced for each function.

(4)  Only the simpler forms would be pre­sented at first, but as students get more proficient in the target lan­guage, the functions are reintroduced and more complex forms are learned. Example: In learning to make requests, beginning students might practice ‘Would you ...?’ and ‘Could you ...?’ Highly proficient students might learn ‘I wonder if you would mind ....’

(5)  Students work with language at the suprasentential or discourse level.

(6)  They learn about cohesion and coherence. Example: The students recognize that the second sentence of the scram­bled order was the last sentence of the original sports column because of its introductory adverbial phrase, ‘In the final analysis ....’ This adverbial phrase is a cohesive device that binds and orders this sen­tence to the other sentences. The students also recognized the lack of coherence between the first two sentences of the scrambled order, which did not appear connected in any meaningful way.

(7)  Students work on all four skills from the beginning.

(8)  Just as oral communication is seen to take place through negotiation between speaker and listener, so too is meaning thought to be derived from the written word through an interaction between the reader and the writer. The writer is not present to receive immediate feedback from the reader, of course, but the reader tries to understand the writer’s inten­tions and the writer writes with the reader’s perspective in mind. Meaning does not, therefore, reside exclusively in the text, but rather arises through negotiation between the reader and writer.


14-       What is the role of the students’ native language?

(1)  Judicious use of the students native language is permitted in CLT.

(2)  Whenever possible, the target language should be used not only during communicative activities, but also for explaining the activities to the students or in assigning homework.

(3)  The students learn from these classroom management exchanges, too, and realize that the target language is a vehicle for communication, not just an object to be studied.


15-       How is evaluation accomplished?

(1)  A teacher evaluates not only the students’ accuracy, but also their flu­ency.

(2)  The student who has the most control of the structures and vocabulary is not always the best communicator.

(3)  A teacher can informally evaluate his students’ performance in his role as an adviser or co-communicator.

(4)  For more formal evaluation, a teacher is likely to use an integrative test which has a real commu­nicative function.

(5)  In order to assess students’ writing skill, for instance, a teacher might ask them to write a letter to a friend.


16-       How does the teacher respond to student errors?

(1)  Errors of form are tolerated during fluency-based activities and are seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills.

(2)  Students can have limited linguistic knowledge and still be successful communicators.

(3)  The teacher may note the errors during fluency activities and return to them later with an accuracy-based activity.


17- Why are authentic materials used in CLT?

Authentic materials to native speakers of the target language are used in CLT in order

(1)  to overcome the typical problem that students cannot transfer what they learn in the classroom to the outside world and

(2)  to expose students to natural language in a variety of situations.


18-What are the main techniques of Communicative Language Teaching?

19-Discuss ……. as a technique of Communicative Language Teaching.


1)    Authentic materials

(a)  The teacher uses a real newspaper article.

(b)   He also assigns the students homework containing authentic materials such as requiring them listen to a live radio or television broadcast.

(c)     What is authentic and natural to native speakers of the target language is not so to learners in the classroom. What is important is that these materials are used in a way that is real for learners.

(d)     For students with lower proficiency in the target language, more accessible materials (for example, the use of a weather forecast when working on predictions), or at least ones that are realistic, are most desir­able.

(e)     With a lower level class it is possible to use realia that do not contain a lot of language, but about which a lot of discussion could be generated. Example: Menus in the target language are an example; timetables are another.


2)    Scrambled sentences


(a) The students are given a passage (a text) in which the sentences are in a scrambled order. This may be a passage they have worked with or one they have not seen before. They are told to unscramble the sentences so that the sentences are restored to their original order.

(b) In addition to written passages, students might also be asked to unscramble the lines of a mixed-up dialog.

(c)  They might be asked to put the pictures of a picture strip story in order and write lines to accompany the pictures.


(a) This type of exercise teaches students about the cohesion and coherence properties of language.

(b) They learn how sentences are bound together at the suprasentential level through formal linguistic devices such as pronouns, which make a text cohesive, and semantic propositions, which unify a text and make it coherent.

3)    Language games

(a) Games are used frequently in CLT.

(b) The students find them enjoyable.

(c)  If games are properly designed, they give students valuable communicative practice.


Show how Morrow’s three features of communicative activities are man­ifested in card games.

(a)  An informa­tion gap exists because the speaker does not know what his classmate is going to do the following weekend.

(b)  The speaker has a choice as to what he would predict (which sport) and how he would predict it (which form her prediction would take).

(c)  The speaker receives feedback from the members of his group. If his prediction was incomprehensible, then none of the members of his group would respond. If he gets a meaningful response, he could presume his prediction is understood.


4)    Picture strip story

Many activities can be done with picture strip stories.

Description: One student in a small group is given a strip story. He shows the first picture of the story to the other members of his group and asks them to predict what the second picture would look like.


Show how Morrow’s three features of communicative activities are man­ifested in picture strip story.

(a) An information gap exists—the students in the groups do not know what the picture contains.

(b) They have a choice as to what their pre­diction would be and how they would word it.

(c)  They receive feedback, not on the form but on the content of the prediction, by being able to view the picture and compare it with their prediction.


Why do problem-solving tasks work well in CLT?

(a) Problem-solving tasks work well in CLT because they usually include the three features of communication.

(b) They can be structured so that students share information or work together to arrive at a solution.

(c)  This gives students practice in negotiating meaning.


5)    Role play

Advantages: Role plays are very important in CLT because they give students an opportunity to practice communicating (a) in different social contexts and (b) in different social roles.

Types: Role plays can be set up so that they are (a) structured (for example, the teacher tells the stu­dents who they are and what they should say) or less structured (for example, the teacher tells the students who they are, what the situa­tion is, and what they are talking about, but the students determine what they will say).


Show how Morrow’s three features of communicative activities are man­ifested in less structured role plays?

(a)  It gives the students more of a choice.

(b)  Structured role plays also provide information gaps since students cannot be sure (as with most forms of communication) what the other person or people will say (there is a natural unpredictability).

(c)  Students also receive feedback on whether or not they have effectively communicated.


20)Highlights of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).

1-     Perhaps the greatest contribution of CLT is asking teachers to look closely at what is involved in communication.

2-     If teachers intend students to use the target language, then they must truly understand all that being communicatively competent entails.

3-      Achieving communicative competence is a goal for which teachers should prepare their students.

4-      A functional syllabus is adopted.

5-     A variety of language forms should be presented at one time.

6-      Language games, problem-solving tasks, and/or role plays are used.

7-     All activities should include the three features of communica­tion.

8-      Authentic language should be used.

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