By Tarun Patel
Communicative Language Teaching in India
By Prof (Dr) Shefali Bakshi
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) developed some two decades ago as a response against the diverse approaches to second/foreign language teaching practiced in the last forty to fifty years, especially in the Structural (Grammatical) Approach. CLT is a language teaching programme focusing on learners’ ability to communicate – to facilitate them to use the language for communication. Communication is thus seen as the major concern in learning a language.
Dell Hymes who developed the concept of Ethnography of Communication, emphasized that the study of language involves knowing not only the language structure but also what to say to whom and how to say it appropriately in any situation. He thus developed the concept of communication competence. Communication Competence in simple words means that it is not enough to be able to produce grammatically correct sentences but it is important that the speaker is able to produce appropriate sentences, understanding the social context, the role of the participants, the information they share, and the function of the interaction.
The prominent features of the CLT along with a few examples are discussed below:-
1. CLT is learner-centered: it focuses on the learner and learning is based on an exploration of the needs and levels of the learner. In level 5, a poem “My parents kept me from children who were rough” by Stephen Spender has been taught and the learner of that level can identify themselves with the boy and the situation faced by them in their daily day-to-day life.
2. CLT emphasizes on learning the rules of ‘use’ (communication), rather than the rules of ‘usage’ (grammar). Oral Communication in form of role plays either with two participants or more are included in the task activity followed after every unit.
3. CLT has as its objective, the development of communicative competence (that is, the ability to communicate through language), and not; merely ‘linguistic competence’ (that is, the ability to construct grammatically correct sentences). A situation which deals with a problem is put forward and the learners are asked to construct a dialogue and then role play the whole event.
4. CLT encourages ‘fluency and appropriacy’ rather than ‘accuracy’; it brings accuracy only in so far as it is essential for the successful completion of an activity. The learners can participate in discussions, debates, projects and involve themselves in meaningful participation.
5. CLT syllabuses are specified in terms of language functions (such as making a proposition, apologizing, thanking) rather in terms of language forms. (such as the Direct-Indirect, the Active-Passive). Exercises such as Match the following, Put in the right sequence, etc using functions such as; “disagree politely”, “refuse politely”, “Agree amicably”, and so on.
6. CLT concentrates on the message (meaning); it pays less attention to the language ‘forms’ employed to convey meaning. Writing an article for a school magazine, Writing an ending/beginning to a story etc.
7. CLT tolerates grammatical errors and accepts them as a natural part of language acquisition at an early stage of the learner but expects them to master the language at a later stage and produce correct sentences. Too many marks are not deducted for spelling/grammatical errors during evaluation of exercises.
8. CLT is task-based; it engages the learner: in a series of communicative tasks which focus on meaning and promote real communication, rather than in drilling grammar patterns. The exercise is in form of “Preparing to interview” and the groups of students brainstorm different types of questions that need to be asked during the interview.
9. CLT focuses on problem-solving so as to engage learners in cognitive effort and thus provoke meaningful interaction. A project work in form of Life Situation problem can be given, where an individual learner or a group of learners discuss and come out with various options for solutions, which can be later discussed in the class under the teacher who acts as a guide and a facilitator.
10. CLT encourages individualized learning, allowing the learner to follow his/her learning styles and proceed at his/her own pace. The exercises based on consulting the dictionary, Word treasury, etc.
Thus the process of adopting CLT methodology has today become extremely popular and practical in acquiring the Second Language. The question is that does it work? Can our learners speak the target language fluently and correctly? Can our learners communicate in the second language confidently? Can our learners interact in any situation appropriately? This is a big Question we need to ask ourselves. We could acquire the second language, during our times, because our peer group did not speak the same language, (as they belonged to Sindhi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil etc background) so we had no other option but to converse in the target language. In my next article, I will discuss the shortcomings of using only the CLT methodology.
Prof (Dr) Shefali Bakshi is the Deputy Director at Amity School of Languages. She has done a Project on “A Study of Verbal Interaction in Waiting for Godot” for the M.A. degree and has ompleted her PhD thesis on “A Study of Verbal Interaction in the plays of Samuel Beckett” for the Degree of Ph.D. at University of Lucknow, India. She has conducted over 75 workshops on ELT with St. Edmunds College in Shillong, with Ratna Sagar in Lucknow, with University of Yemen in Republic of Yemen and with Orient Longman and Macmillan in various parts of India for school teachers and principals.
** ELTWeekly would like to thank Prof (Dr) Shefali Bakshi for contributing this article.
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