Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) Assumptions and Principles

Before going through the assumptions and principles in CLT, let’s define the following four main terms related to language teaching.

communicative language teaching

Language Teaching Terminology:

  1. Approach = “A set of assumptions dealing with the nature of language, learning, and teaching”
  2. Method = “An overall plan for a systematic presentation of language based on a selected approach”
  3. Procedures = “An ordered set of techniques to execute a method”.
  4. Technique = “Certain practices and behaviors to implement a procedure according to a method”.

Ten Core Assumptions in CLT:

  1. Engaging in interaction and meaningful communication facilitates language learning.
  2. Effective classroom learning tasks provide students the opportunities to extract meaning, expand language, notice how language is used, and take part in a meaningful interpersonal exchange.
  3. Meaningful communication occurs when students process content that is relevant, purposeful, interesting, and engaging.
  4. Communication is a comprehensive process that often calls upon the use of several language skills.
  5. Language learning is facilitated both by activities that:
    • involve inductive or discovery learning of language rules, and
    • involve the analysis of language rules.
  6. Language learning is a gradual process that involves creative use of language, and trial and error.
  7. The ultimate goal of language learning is to be able to use the new language both accurately and fluently.
  8. Learners develop their own routes to language learning, progress at different rates, and have different needs and motivations for language learning.
  9. The role of the teacher in the language classroom is that of a facilitator, who creates a classroom climate conducive to language learning and provides opportunities for students to use and practice the language and to reflect on language use and language learning.
  10. The classroom is a community where learners learn through collaboration and sharing.

Principles of Communicative Language Teaching:

  • Make real communication the focus of language learning.
  • Provide opportunities for learners to experiment and try out what they know.
  • Provide opportunities for learners to develop both accuracy and fluency.
  • Link the different skills such as speaking, reading, and listening together, since they usually occur so in the real world
  • Let students induce or discover grammar rules.
  • Be tolerant of learners’ errors as they indicate that the learner is building up his or her communicative competence.
  • Focus more on achieving communicative competence with students without neglecting grammatical competence and on fluency without neglecting accuracy.

Grammatical Competence VS. Communicative Competence.

To achieve grammatical competence, Students learn the rules of sentence formation in a language but to achieve communicative competence students learn language through activities at the same time they learn sentence formation and its use.

About the Grammatical Competence:

  • The ability to produce sentences in a language.
  • The knowledge of the building blocks of sentences (e.g. parts of speech, tenses, phrases, clauses, sentence patterns) and how they are formed.
  • The unit of analysis and practice is typically the sentence.
  • Accuracy is the main goal to achieve when learning a language.

About the Communicative Competence:

  • Knowing how to use language for a range of different purposes and functions.
  • Knowing how to vary our use of language according to the setting and the participants.
  • Knowing how to produce and understand different types of texts (e.g. narratives, reports, interviews, conversations)
  • Knowing how to maintain communication despite having limitations in one’s language knowledge.
  • Fluency, as well as accuracy, are achieved.

Fluency VS. Accuracy.

Fluency Activities:

  • Reflect the natural use of language.
  • Focus on achieving communication.
  • Require meaningful use of language.
  • Require the use of communication strategies.
  • Produce language that may not be predictable.
  • Seek to link language use to context.

Accuracy Activities:

  • Reflect classroom use of language.
  • Do not require meaningful
  • Communication
  • Focus on the correct formation of examples of language.
  • The choice of language is controlled.
  • Produce free-error sentences.
  • Practice language out of context.

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