Language Teaching Methods and Classroom Dynamics
Muhammad Umer Azim.
ASSIGNMENT QUESTION :
i. Write a note on Communicative Approach in Language Teaching with
reference to its essential components. (Pg 1 to 4)
ii. Discuss the Scope of communicative teaching and learning in Pakistani
context. Do you find some advantages or obstacles in using this method in
your context ? (Pg 5&6)
iii. Suggest how the approach can be applied in a more effective and
practical way to the context you are familiar with. (Pg 7)
An Attempt to Acknowledge.
As you can see the assignment is divided into three parts so my answer will also be
following the same pattern.
Definition of Communicative Language Teaching
Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics defines the Communicative Approach
or Communicative Language Teaching as “an APPROACH to foreign or second language teaching
which emphasises that the goal of language learning is COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE. ”
(Richards et al 1992:65) According to the same dictionary, the approach which has been developed by
British applied linguists as a reaction away from grammar-based approaches
a) teaches the language needed to express and understand different kinds of functions
b) is based on a NOTIONAL SYLLABUS or some other communicatively organised syllabus
c) emphasises the process of communication, such as using language appropriately in
different types of situations; using language to perform different kinds of tasks, e.g. to solve
puzzles, to get information , etc.; using language for social interaction with other people.
The origins of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) dates back late 1960s. Until then Situational
Language Teaching represented the major British Approach to teaching English as a foreign language.
In Situational Language Teaching, language was taught by practising basic structures in meaningful
situation-based activities. But just as the linguistic theory underlying Audiolingualism was rejected in
United States in the mid-1960s, British applied linguists began to call into question the theoretical
assumption underlying Situational Language teaching. (Richards and Rodgers 1991:64)
American Linguist Noam Chomsky had demonstrated that the current standard structural theories of
language were incapable of accounting for the fundamental characteristics of language -the creativity
and uniqueness of individual sentences. Then, British applied linguists emphasised another
fundamental dimension of language that was inadequately addressed in current approaches to
language teaching at that time -the functional and communicative potential of language. They saw the
need to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastery of
As the scope of Communicative Language Teaching has expanded, it was considered as an approach
rather than a method, which aims to;
i- make communicative competence the goal of language teaching
ii- develop procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge the
interdependence of language and communication. (Richards and Rodgers 1986:66)
Nunan offers five features to characterise the Communicative Language Teaching.
1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language
2. The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation
3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the learning
4. An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to
5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activation outside the classroom.
(cited in Brown 1994a :78)
Brief Notes on Communicative Language Teaching (What is it ?)
It starts from a theory of language as communication, and the goal of language teaching is to develop
The theory of communication is Halliday‟s functional account of language use. He described seven
basic functions that language performs for children learning their first language, and learning a second
language was similarly viewed as performing different kinds of functions. These are:
1.Instrumental Function (“I want”) : used for satisfying material needs
2.Regulatory Function (“do as I tell you”) : used for controlling the behaviours of others
3.Interactional Function (“me and you”) : used for getting along with other people.
4.Personal Function (“here I come”) : used for identifying and expressing the self.
5.Heuristic Function (“tell me why”) : used for exploring the world around and inside one.
6.Imaginative Function (“let’s pretend”) : used for creating a world of one‟s own.
7.Informative Function (“I’ve got something to tell you”) used for communication new
information.(Richards et al 1992:104)
Different conceptions about communication (such as Grammatical competence, Sociolinguistic
competence, Discourse competence, Strategic competence) are put forward as dimensions of
Communicative competence. (Richards and Rodgers 1986:71)
To sum up, from the viewpoint of theory, “it (The Communicative Language Teaching) is therefore a
unified but broadly-based theoretical position about the nature of language and of language learning
and teaching .” (Brown 1994b :244-45)
On the same topic, Richards and Rodgers argue that “at the level of language theory, Communicative
Language Teaching has a rich, if somewhat eclectic, theoretical base. Some of the characteristics of
this communicative view of language follow.
1.Language is a system of the expression of meaning
2.The primary function of language is for interaction and communication
3.The structure of language is reflects its functional and communicative use
4.The primary units of language are not merely its grammatical and structural features, bur categories
of functional and communicative meaning as exemplified in discourse. (Richards and Rodgers 1986:71)
As to the theory of learning, little has been found in literature, but we can find some elements
underlying the Communicative Language Teaching Practices. One of these elements is
“communication” principle. (Ibid.) According to Morrow, activities that are truly communicative should
have three features. (cited in Larsen Freeman 1986:132)
1.Information gap: During the communication some knowledge exchange should take place.
Asking to someone who knows what today is “What is today?”, and getting his response is not
a true communication. Besides, Scrivener states that we normally communicate when one of
us has information (facts, opinions, ideas, etc.) that another does not have. This is known as
an “information gap” (1994:62)
2.Choice: In communication, the speaker should have the choice of what to say and how to
3.Feedback: True communication is purposeful. Speaker can evaluate whether or not his
purpose has been achieved based upon the information he 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.
Second element is the task principle. Activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful
tasks promote learning. Harmer states that there has been an agreement that rather than pure rote
learning or de-contextualised practice, language has to be acquired as a result of some deeper
experience than the concentration on a grammar point, and supports his view with the results of
Allwrights‟s experiment and Prabhu‟s Bangalore Project. (1991:34-35)
Third element is the meaningfulness principle. According to the principle, language that is meaningful
to the learner supports the learning process.
Another example of examining the features of communication is Richard‟s discussion on “several
components of communicative competence in foreign language learning.” (1983) He mentions the five
features of communication brief explanations of which are summarised below:
1.Communication is meaning-based: The first step in learning to communicate is to learn how to
create propositions, for language is comprehensible to the degree that hearers are able to reconstruct
propositions from the speaker‟s utterances. But, communication in a foreign language implies more
than constructing propositions, because speakers use them in a variety of ways, for example, asking,
affirming, denying, expressing an attitude etc.
2.Communication is conventional: Language learner‟s ultimate goal seems to be having native
speaker syntax and usage, and be able to produce infinitive number of novel utterances by using these
„internalised‟ rules. Since there are strict constraints imposed on the creative-constructive capacities of
speakers, which limit how speakers encode prepositional meanings, communication largely consists of
the use of language in conventional ways. Besides, these constraints affect both the lexical and
grammatical structure of discourse. Conversational openers routine formulae, ceremonial formulae and
memorised clauses are features of conventionalised language.
3.Communication is appropriate: Mastery of a foreign language not only requires use of conventional
utterances that express prepositional meaning but also knowledge of different communicative
strategies and styles according to the situation, the task and the roles of the participants.
4.Communication is interactional: Conversation between people has an “interactional function”
which can be called as the use of language to keep open the channels of communication between
people and to establish a suitable rapport. Generally, in the initial stages of conversation with a
stranger, speakers introduce carefully chosen topics that reflect mutual agreement. Choosing safe
topics which satisfy hearer‟s desire to be right is called “phatic communion”, and the mechanism of
phatic communion include speaker‟s repertoire of verbal and visual gestures, and speaker‟s stock of
„canned topics‟ and formulaic utterances.
5.Communication is structured: Another aspect of communication is its ongoing organisation which
can be viewed from two different perspectives: a macro perspective that reveals the differences in
rhetorical organisation that reflect different discourse „genres‟ or „tasks‟; and a micro perspective
showing how some of the processes by which discourse is constructed out of individual utterances are
reflected in speech.
Here I conclude my first portion of discussion on communicative approach it basically a copy work from
different web-sites and books. In the next part I wont be discussing the advantages of Communicative
Language Teaching as they are already discussed in the above section. I will be discussing the
problems or obstacle I using this method.
OBSTACLES IN USING COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING
This is the most important part of the assignment. let us consider some important facts about it before
pondering into the suitability and problems of Communicative Language Teaching.
When we examine the background Communicative Language Teaching, it faces many
contributions from different theories and teaching experiences. This variety acts as a factor
preventing people from reaching a consensus on many aspects of Communicative Language
Communicative Language Teaching is widespread, that is, there are many practitioners in
different countries, cultures and language backgrounds use the approach and evaluate
according to criteria of their own. As a result there have been variety of ideas, application of
these ideas, suggestions, deviations from what it had been originally and a variety of
interpretations most of which are made subjectively. This phenomenon is natural result from
the viewpoint of the demand to teach language.
Teaching-Learning Methods in Pakistan ( Historical background )
Let us roam though the history of language teaching-learning in Pakistan. We have always used the
methodologies that are teacher centred. There is no scope of real activities in them. The main method
in use was and is Grammar-Translation Method. Today the teacher e have are the product of GTM and
it is near to impossible for them to break the psychological barriers and to accept any other method of
If we observe the development of second language teaching theories in the West, they have started
from GTM they moved to Direct Method, Audio-Lingual Method, Situational Language Teaching and
after a long journey Communicative Language Teaching appeared on the scene and the quest is still
on. Now here a question comes, How is it possible for Pakistani teacher to leave the intervening steps
of the Ladder (Teaching Methods Development) and jump on the present one that is Communicative
Language Teaching. As I have already discussed in „Facts‟ that Communicative Language Teaching is
actually the mixture of all the methods before it. So the knowledge of all the previous method is
necessary which is not with our teachers and learners at present.
Grammar is one of the most important factors in language learning and teaching which is ignored in
this method or approach. It is one of the major drawback or hurdle to be adopted by Pakistani teachers.
It is my feeling that fluency is important but accuracy is more important than fluency. I have
experienced in my teaching carrier that it is easy to become fluent after being accurate but it is
extremely difficult to unlearn the wrong structures at the later stage of your life and learn the new and
There is over-emphasis on spoken language in Communicative Language Teaching. It says the more
you speak I variety of real life situations the more you learn. But in Pakistani context students are
exposed to language just for 40 to 45 min. out of 1440 min. in a day. The student is not able to speak
for more than 4 to 5 min. inside the classroom. So technically it goes wrong in Pakistani context where
there is no practice of language. If we talk in general it does not promote communication with self or
communication through reading and writing etc. it emphasises more on out put (Speaking) than on
input (reading & Listening) which is impossible.
Widdowson notes that “Communicative function are cultural specific I the same way as linguistic forms
are language specific” (Cited in Stratton1977:130). I totally agree with Widdowson . Pakistani culture is
totally different from the culture of Britain.
Pakistani student is suffering from tri-lingualism what to talk about bi-lingualism. He /she thinks in his or
her local language and then translate it into Urdu and then he/she wrestles to covert it to English that is
hell of a task. Most of the time word to word translation from Urdu to English can land one serious
trouble. Now you can object that Communicative Language Teaching is used to avoid translation but it
cant change the thinking processes of a common man. Especially where learner is already exposed to
extensively used two other languages which are inevitable for him. In this situation you cant made him
think in the third language.
Communicative Language Teaching Places Heavy Demands on (non native) Teacher
Communicative Language Teaching places high demands on the teacher than other widely used
approaches. Because he cannot predict everything clearly, he has to be ready to listen to not only what
learners say but also how they say. Besides, he has to interact with the learners in as natural way as
possible. These points impose non-native teacher higher-level language proficiency.
“The communicative classroom requires a teacher of extraordinary abilities: a multi-dimensional, high-
tech. Wizard of Oz like person yet of flesh and blood. He or she must be confident without being
conceited, judicious without being judgemental, ingenious without being unbridled, technically skilled
without being pedantic, far sighted without being far-fetched, down-to-earth without being earth-bound
inquiring without being inquisitive – the list is endless.”(Medgyes 1986:14)
In Pakistan we don‟t have highly skilled English Language Teachers who can perform the highly
There is no syllabus available for the real application of this method in Pakistan. It is impossible to
teach through the method when you don‟t have the relevant activities and curriculum. Apart from it at
present the curriculum which we are following is based on GTM and all our exams are based on this
method only . In this situation if you are teaching your student through this Communicative Language
Teaching method you are doing injustice with your students, as the wont be able to score marks in
exams and fell short of merit.
Pakistan is a poor country and we cant afford the luxury of Communicative Language Teaching
because it is too expensive. Some private schools are using it but they are serving only a very small
fraction of society. Public Sector cant think of this method to be used.
With the above discussion I am closing the second part of assignment.
SUGGESTIONS FOR EFFECTIVE APLICATION OF THIS APPROACH
Communicative Language Teaching approach can be made useful in Pakistani context by a lot of hard
work on part of teachers and researchers. Both teachers and researchers need to work together to find
out the ways and means through which the original method can be moulded to serve our purpose
effectively. I have got some suggestion, which are as under.
Educational change imposes great responsibility on teacher training institute. They have to an effective
role if we want to implement Communicative Language Teaching. For the purpose we need expert
teachers of English Language. At present we don‟t have teachers who are psychologically fit to teach
through this method because they are product of GTM. It is needed that Teacher training institutes
develop extensive training programmes that can equip teachers with the required skills of English
Language Teaching through Communicative Language Teaching. They need to provide required
background as well as real usage of this method for the welfare of their students.
Need to Develop Curriculum
There is the dire need to develop curriculum based on Communicative Language Teaching without
curriculum and needful activities it is useless to try this method. The top researchers, experienced
teachers and qualified curriculum developers need to sit together to develop the curriculum keeping in
view our culture, religion and national requirements. Only then it will be effectively used.
Government need to invest more on Education. At present the Government is allocating a humiliating
fraction of total budget to Education. For the better implementation of this method and to improve the
educational standard it is needed that Teaching should be made a highly rewarding profession so that
the top notch of every field should join it with privilege. Government have to spend money on
educational research and encourage researchers for better results.
Grammar Translation Method and Communicative Language Teaching
Communicative Language Teaching cant be adopted purely because it is too demanding for Pakistani
students. It can land him in inferiority complex because he feels much safer in the lap of his first
language. It is needed to develop activities that beautifully mix the activities of Communicative
Language Teaching i.e. Discussions, debates, sharing, problem solving etc. and we can take
vocabulary exercises from GTM. Input to the student should be in L1 and L 2 and out put should be
maximum in Target Language. It provides the learner confidence to speak because he knows exactly
what he is speaking. Exams should also be planned in the same way to facilitate students.
Here I conclude my assignment. Thanks.