Theory of language
Features of Communicative Approach
Comparison of Communicative Approach with
Communicative Language Teaching
Role of The Teacher and Student in CA
The Communicative Approach (CA) or
Communicative language teaching (CLT) is
an approach to language teaching that
emphasizes interaction as both the means
and the ultimate goal of study.
The communicative approach is based on
the idea that learning language successfully
comes through having to communicate real
meaning. When learners are involved in
real communication, their natural
strategies for language acquisition will be
used, and this will allow them to learn to
use the language.
Piepho (1981) discusses the following levels of
objectives in a communicative approach:
1. an integrative and content level (language as a
means of expression)
2. a linguistic and instrumental level (language as a
semiotic system and an object of learning);
3. an affective level of interpersonal relationships
and conduct (language as a means of expressing
values and judgments about oneself and others);
4. a level of individual learning needs (remedial
learning based on error analysis);
5. a general educational level of extra-linguistic
goals (language learning within the school
The communicative approach (CA) was developed by Robert
Langs MD, In the early 1970's. It is a new theory or paradigm
of emotional life and psychoanalysis that is centered on
human adaptations to emotionally-charged events--with full
appreciation that such adaptations take place both within
awareness (consciously) and outside of awareness
(unconsciously). The approach gives full credence to the
unconscious side of emotional life and has rendered it
highly sensible and incontrovertible by discovering a new,
validated, and deeply meaningful way of decoding
unconscious messages. This procedure-called trigger
decoding--has brought forth new and highly illuminating
revisions of our understanding of both emotional life and
psychotherapy, and it calls for significant changes in
presently accepted psychoanalytic thinking and practice
An influential development in the history of communicative
language teaching was the work of the Council of Europe in
creating new language syllabuses. Education was a high
priority for the Council of Europe, and they set out to
provide syllabuses that would meet the needs of European
immigrants.Among the studies used by the council when
designing the course was one by the British linguist, D. A.
Wilkins, that defined language using “notions” and
“functions”, rather than more traditional categories of
grammar and vocabulary. Notional categories include
concepts such as time, location, frequency, and quantity,
and functional categories include communicative acts such
as offers, complaints, denials, and requests. These
syllabuses were widely used
The communicative approach in language teaching starts from a theory
of language as communication. The goal of language teaching is to
develop what Hymes (1972) referred to as "communicative
competence." Hymes coined this term in order to contrast a
communicative view of language and Chomsky's theory of competence.
Chomsky held that linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal
speaker-listener in a completely homogeneous speech community, who
knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically
irrelevant conditions as memory limitation, distractions, shifts of
attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying
his knowledge of the language in actual performance. (Chomsky 1965:
For Chomsky, the focus of linguistic theory was to characterize the
abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to produce gram
matically correct sentences in a language. Hymes held that such a view
of linguistic theory was sterile, that linguistic theory needed to be seen
as part of a more general theory incorporating communication and
culture. Hymes's theory of communicative competence was a definition
of what a speaker needs to know in order to be communicatively com
petent in a speech community. In Hymes's view, a person who acquires
communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for
A teacher's main role is-a facilitator & monitor
Lessons are usually topic or theme based
Lessons are built round situations/functions practical and
authentic in the real world
Activities set by the teacher have relevance and purpose to
real life situations
Dialogues around communicative functions
Emphasis on engaging learners in more useful and authentic
Emphasis on fluency and meaning rather than accuracy.
Emphasis is put on the “appropriacy” of language
Communicative competence is the desired goal
Emphasis is put on correct pronunciation, choral (group) and
Authentic listening and reading texts
Use of songs and games
Feedback and correction
It emphasizes the learning of notions and functions rather than
In this method of language teaching, a learner is place in situations
where he must use the target language as an instrument for satisfying
his immediate communicative needs as normally it is done outside the
All language skills are practiced and developed as students work on
all language skills from the beginning.
In negotiating meaning in trying to make students understand even
when their knowledge of the target language is incomplete. Students
learned to communicate by communicating.(Dian. Larsen – Freeman
Students interact a great deal with one another outside the class.
Encourage cooperative development.
Students native language is not used.
CA is usually characterized as a broad approach to teaching, rather
than as a teaching method with a clearly defined set of classroom
practices. As such, it is most often defined as a list of general
principles or features. One of the most recognized of these lists
is David Nunan’s (1991) five features of CLT:
An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in
the target language.
The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.
The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on
language but also on the learning process itself.
An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as
important contributing elements to classroom learning.
An attempt to link classroom language learning with language
activities outside the classroom.
CA emphasizes function and notion(meaning) rather than
CA emphasizes use in context rather than usage without
CA emphasizes Language Performance rather than Language
CA emphasizes real life(Authentic)Behavior rather than
Language- Like Behavior .
CA emphasizes whole(Holistic) rather than
CA emphasizes Integrative(Integration of skills) rather than
CA emphasizes Synthetic
(Relating to or being a language, such as Latin or Russian, that
uses inflectional affixes to express syntactic relationships.)
rather than Analytic
(Expressing a grammatical category by using two or more
words instead of an inflected form.)
CA emphasizes Communicative(relating to communication) rather
Manipulative(Any of various objects designed to be moved or arra
nged by hand as a means
of developing motor skills or understanding abstractions).
CA emphasizes Quantitative(related to quantity) rather than
Qualitative(related to quality).
CA emphasizes Criterion-
referenced(A psychometric property of a standardized test that c
ompares a person's performance against a set of standard criteria)
rather than Norm-
referenced(A psychometric property of a standardized test that c
ompares a person's
performance with those of the general population).
CA emphasizes Student Centered rather than Teacher Centered.
Communicative language teaching makes use of real-life
situations that necessitate communication. The teacher sets
up a situation that students are likely to encounter in real life.
Unlike the audio-lingual method of language teaching, which
relies on repetition and drills, the communicative approach
can leave students in suspense as to the outcome of a class
exercise, which will vary according to their reactions and
responses. The real-life simulations change from day to day.
Students' motivation to learn comes from their desire to
communicate in meaningful ways about meaningful topics.
Margie S. Berns, an expert in the field of communicative
language teaching, writes in explaining Firth's view that
"language is interaction; it is interpersonal activity and has a
clear relationship with society. In this light, language study has
to look at the use (function) of language in context, both its
linguistic context (what is uttered before and after a given
piece of discourse) and its social, or situational, context (who
is speaking, what their social roles are, why they have come
together to speak)" (Berns, 1984: 5).
Teachers in communicative classrooms will find themselves
talking less and listening more becoming active facilitators
of their students' learning (Larsen-Freeman, 1986). The
teacher sets up the exercise, but because the students'
performance is the goal, the teacher must step back and
observe, sometimes acting as referee or monitor. A
classroom during a communicative activity is far from quiet,
however. The students do most of the speaking, and
frequently the scene of a classroom during a communicative
exercise is active, with students leaving their seats to
complete a task. Because of the increased responsibility to
participate, students may find they gain confidence in using
the target language in general. Students are more
responsible managers of their own learning (Larsen-
Classroom activities used in communicative
language teaching include the following:
Learning by teaching
The various methodologies serve one purpose i.e. to
facilitate the learner to evince a more satisfactory response
from a student/learner in a classroom. Though in practice
one finds out that even the best of us cannot consistently
and perfectly do all the things that are defined in various
methodologies, what suffice is a deep interest and an
unfailing commitment coupled with a willingness to change
that would lead to further innovations and endeavors in the
field of teaching. So far we have tasted and tested very
many methods, let us taste and test this method also. We
want something better for ourselves, for our children, and
we look to a present and future source of improvement.