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Communicative Language Teaching
Abstract:As long as the Communicative Language Teaching was introduced into China, it had been applied to language teaching immediately and gradually subsitute for our traditional teaching methods. This paper ,first of all,introduces Communicative Language Teaching in an all-round way by elaborating the primary principles of communicative language approach from five aspects.Then it go on to deal with the Communicative Approach in China and list some useful class activities that may utilize in the teaching process. At last, the passage also give some comments and suggestions on this approach. Key words:CLT;principle;class activities;evaluation 1.Introduction The origins of the Communicative Language Teaching are to be found in the changes in the British language teaching tradition dating from the late 1960s. In the late sixties, the current situational approach was questioned. British applied linguistics began to emphasize the fundamental dimension of language teaching at that time- the functional and communicative potential of language. Scholars like Christopher Candlin and Henry Widdowson drew on the work of British functional linguistics such as John Firth, and Halliday, American work in socioliguiticis like Dell Hymes as well as work in philosophy and argue for focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than

on mere mastery of structures. In 1971, a group of experts began to investigate the possibility of developing language courses on a unit-credit system. At that time, Wilkins,a British linguist proposed a functional or communicative syllabus for language teaching. He attempted to demonstrate the systems of meaning that lay behind the communicative uses of language. He described two types of meanings, the notional categories and categories of communicative functions. He had his ideas published in Notional Syllabus (Wilkins 1976). Chomsky had demonstrated, in Syntactic Structures (1957),that the current standard structural theories of language were incapable of accounting for the fundamental characteristic of language--the creativity and uniqueness of individual sentences.Consequently, a new language teaching approach is needed that not only should emphasize on mere mastery of structures but also on communicative proficiency. Communicative Language Approach(CLA) is a system of teaching method that takes language function as the key link to cultivate students’ communicative ability. The theoretical origin of this approach can be traced back to the work of anthropological linguists (e.g. Hymes, 1972) and the functional linguist (e.g. Halliday, 1973), who take the view that language is for interaction and communication and language has functions related to society. In this light, language study has to look at the use

(function) of language both in its linguistic and its social or situational text. Communicative Language Teaching (or Communicative Approach) is an approach to foreign or second language teaching which emphasizes that the goal of language teaching is communicative competence. Communicative language teaching can be understood as a set of principles about the goals of language teaching, how learners learn a language, the kinds of classroom activities that best facilitate learning, and the roles of teachers and learners in the classroom. Although CLT is regarded by many linguists and teachers as the most effective approach among those currently used in ELT, the question of whether it is adaptable for English language teaching in China is still an controversial issue that has aroused lots of heated discussions. 2.Primary Principles of CLA CLA has to follow some primary principles, which are illustrated below. 2.1 Approach CLA accepts the structural view of language and added a functional view to it. Structural view focuses on the grammatical forms of language, while the functional view looks at what the structural forms express in specific context. Accordingly, social context is important in deciding what

linguistic forms to use. In addition, the awareness of culture is viewed as sociocultural competence. 2.2 Teacher and student roles in CLA 2.2.1 The Role of the Teachers Communicative language teaching is the generally accepted norm in the field of second language teaching. In CLT the teacher serves as more of a facilitator, allowing students to be in charge of their own learning. 2.2.1.1 Organizer In the communicative language teaching, the teacher should organize the communicative activities, during which the students can have interactions according to the topics. Consequently, at the beginning of each class, the teacher should design various communicative activities that can arouse students’ interests. 2.2.1.2 Adviser During the classroom communicative activities, the students may encounter different kinds of expressing difficulties, or sometimes even can not continue their conversation due to the limits of their language skills or lack of certain knowledge. When this happened, the teacher should help the students either by giving them the direct expressing or inspire them to express their ideas in another way. 2.2.1.3 Facilitator and Participant

Breen and Candlin pointed out that in communicative language teaching, there are two important roles the teacher should act as.The first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants in the classroom, and between these participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. The latter role is closely related to the objectives of the first role and arises from it. 2.2.2 The Role of the Students In CLT, students practice real-life situations. In these exercises,the goal is for the student to communicate his or her needs and thoughts, without worrying about having perfect grammar. Consequently, in interactive classroom teaching, students can act as the master, cooperator and respondent in the classroom teaching activities. 2.2.2.1 Manager In CLT, the classroom is like a public place; every student can have a discussion on a certain topic or make a role play according to one situation. CLT can give students access to a chance of free learning. In this kind of class, the learning and communicating of students become an active and meaningful process. 2.2.2.2 Participant

During the process of communicative activities, students learn and use language by discussing, communicating and cooperating. That means, the language learning depends on the cooperation with other students. One’s expression or discussion can have an influence on others as well as being inspired by others. Thus, the whole process of learning a language is also the course of cooperation. 2.3 The role of learner’s native language Learner’s language plays absolutely no role in target language learning for the simple reason that classroom interaction should be conducted entirely in the target language in order to learn the language through genuine communication. 2.4 Views on learners’ errors Errors are regarded as a natural part of language development and are therefore regarded tolerated. Unless an error hinders communication, it is usually not corrected. So with CLA,learners will have ample opportunities in class to share their ideas, opinions and feelings with their peers. 2.5 Characteristics of teaching and learning process CLA is most noted for the following features: 1) It uses a need-based communicative syllabus, often a functional one. A lesson is usually organized through communicative activities and language functions, from which the necessary linguistic forms and structures, as well as the pragmatic elements of language, will be derived.

2) It employs quantity of communicative activities that are purposeful, meaningful and that allow choice: CLA uses almost any activity that engages learners in authentic communication because it is believed that activities that involve real communication promote learning; activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning. 3) Materials are authentic. CLA considers it very important to choose study material that is authentic from the target language community for the reason that it renders the opportunity for learners to cope with the target language as it is actually used.Generally speaking, major distinctive features concluded by Finocchiaro and Brumfit(1983: 91-3) are that learners learn a language through using it to communicate; authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities;fluency is an important dimension of communication; communication involves the integration of different language skills; learning is a process of creative construction that involves trial and error. 3.Classroom Activities in CLT A wild variety of materials can be used to support communicative approaches to language teaching. The followings are some methods we can utilize during the communicative language teaching. 3.1 Scrambled sentences The students are given a passage 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.This type of exercise teaches students about the cohesion and coherence properties of language. 3.2 Picture strip story Many activities can be done with picture strip stories. In the activity, one student in a small group can be 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. An information gap exists-the students in the groups do not know what the picture contained. They have a choice as to what their prediction would be and how they would word it. 3.3 Role play Role plays are very important in CLT because they give students an opportunity to practice communicating in different social contexts and in different social roles. Role plays can be set up so that they are very structured or in a less structured way. The latter is more in keeping with CLT, of course, because it gives the students more of a choice. 4.the Communicative Approach in China In the history of EFL teaching, China saw its first movement toward communicative language teaching (CLT) in secondary schools in the early 1990s. In 1992 the State Education Development Commission (SEDC)

introduced a functional syllabus that set the goal of communicative teaching and listed the communicative functions to be taught. In the same year, in cooperation with the publisher Longman, the SEDC published a new textbook series for communicative teaching. The syllabus and the textbooks required teachers to teach communicatively in classrooms. The movement toward CLT was not accidental. It came from an educational problem that needed to be solved: the widespread use of the traditional grammar-oriented method. Because teachers focused on grammar and structure, the traditional method produced unsatisfactory teaching results. Students became almost "structurally competent but communicatively incompetent"). Faced with this backward situation, the SEDC felt an urgent need to change. The SEDC is the official authority for setting educational policy. It is the representative of the highly centralized Chinese system of education. Because the SEDC has so much power, it may seem that every teacher would have switched to CLT. However, because CLT was new in every way, it met with considerable resistance from the start. Many teachers tried to change the dominant teaching procedures but quickly got frustrated, lost their initial enthusiasm, and returned to tradition. As a result, CLT did not gain popularity in the early 1990s. The key word underlying the use of CLT was feasibility: Was the use of CLT feasible? Opponents of CLT held that CLT was neither possible

nor feasible in China because of specific conditions there. Proponents argued that CLT was indeed feasible if there was a sweeping change of curriculum. The SEDC authorities supported this favorable view and took some measures to ensure that CLT was used effectively. First, the SEDC authorities suggested using an eclectic method that includes various elements of many methods according to the teachers' actual situation. Teachers were required to use CLT as a main method while accepting elements of other methods. The authorities pointed out that in the mid-1980s some key schools in Beijing and Shanghai had already shown some tendency toward eclecticism, so teachers should follow this trend. An advantage of using an eclectic method was that it could help teach students knowledge of both the language's usage and its use and meet students' differing needs. Second, in the late 1990s the Matriculation English Test (MET), one of the National College Entrance Exams developed by the SEDC, began to include the Language Use Section so that teachers could teach to the test. This section was added to measure the four language skills used for communication and included such elements such as role plays, reading comprehension, and communicative writing. Passing the MET in order to be able to attend colleges and universities is secondary students' most important consideration while learning English. The test has been

identified as the single most powerful influence in the resistance to innovation in educational practice in China. Third, teacher training was conducted. One reason to reject reform was the inability of the teachers to do their jobs well. Most Chinese teachers, especially those in rural schools, lack a sufficient level of English proficiency. Many teachers attended in-service training in teachers' colleges and normal universities. Apart from learning the English language, teachers also learned about the principles of CLT. Before CLT was introduced into China, not many teachers were familiar with the trends in teaching methodology. As a result of this training, many teachers came to realize that teaching English does not consist only of teaching grammar but that the true mastery of a language involves communicative competence. Fourth, the authorities publicized the advantages of using CLT. For example, CLT views language as a tool for communication, insists that interactional speaking activities in classrooms be instances of real communication, and ensures that students have sufficient exposure to the target language. All these would develop in students an ability to use English for communication. Li (1984), one of the first defenders of CLT in China, argued that using CLT would be of great benefit to students. Her arguments in favor of CLT had a big influence on Chinese teachers' attitudes toward CLT.

As a result of these measures, more teachers accepted CLT. In the mid-1990s, "there [was] widespread awareness of more communicative approaches"). The efforts of the educational authorities in China thus had a big influence on EFL teaching, causing CLT to be accepted as the main teaching method in China. The traditional language teaching method has been prevalent in Chinese college English classroom for years. English teaching in China is dominated by teacher-centered and book-centered grammar-translation method. The teacher dominates the classroom by explaining the usage of language during all the class hours with less participation of learners. Some language teachers in China have now realized that learning is for communication. Since CLA came into China in the 1970s, after being studied and practiced for more than twenty years, its fundamental theories and thoughts have been the mainstream that exerts great impacts on the foreign language teaching in China and have been widely used in Chinese English classroom in current days. 5.Evaluations of CLT Communicative Language Teaching focus on student-centered teaching practice. It simulates various situations according to real life, provides opportunities for students to communicate with each other. 5.1 The Advantages of CLT The interaction between teachers and students are greatly enhanced

in CLT. One of the obvious characteristic of CLT is that the students are more responsible of their own learning than in a traditional teacher-centered classroom. The relationship between students and teachers is interactive and harmonious. The strong version of communicative approach advances the claim that language is acquired through communication, so that it is merely a question of activating an existing but inert knowledge of the language, but of stimulating the development of the language system itself. Within this version, one uses English to learn it. Communicative language teaching is a new approach in China,it emphasizes on the communicative competence and can stimulate students interest more than traditional teaching methods. However,it also has some shortcomings. 5.2 The disadvantages of CLT Overdoing certain CLT features.The weak version of communicative approach stresses the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use their English for communicative purposes and characteristically attempt to integrate such activities into a wider program of language teaching. In the weak version, one learns to use English. Moderation is needed in combination with common sense and a balanced approach. 6.Conclusion and Suggestions Today CLT can be seen as describing a set of core principles about

language learning and teaching, as summarized above,assumptions which can be applied in different ways and which address different aspects of the processes of teaching and learning. Today CLT continues in its classic form as seen in the huge range of course books and other teaching resources that cite CLT as the source of their methodology. In addition, it has influenced many other language teaching approaches that subscribe to a similar philosophy of language teaching. However, it is faced lots of challenges. Due to the several challenges which are faced in the CLT,the author believe that first of all, English teachers should continue to learn advanced teaching theory, improve their professional knowledge, know the correct meaning of communicative competence, understanding the substance of CLT , and master the ways and means of teaching. In the teaching process, teachers need to correctly handle the students' ability of listening and speaking and the relationship between reading and writing skills, to encourage students to participate in oral and written communication, not only to meet their current needs and meet the use of English in their future. In addition, teachers have to correct attitude towards grammar teaching in CLT. With the appropriate classroom time to the systematic teaching of grammar knowledge,teachers should provide some meaningful opportunities for students to communicate in the real situation, so that students can learn grammar structures, while

training their communicative competence. CLT focuses on teaching students the ability to make comprehensive use of language, the communicative ability as the ultimate goal of teaching. With the development of modern information technology, CLT continues to play an effective and active role. The author believes that CLT is an effective approach to improve the student's speaking ability. In present English teaching in China, Communicative Approach is a widely spread teaching method, but it still needs improving.Some challenges still remain to be tackled. References: [1]Chomsky Syntactic Structures [M].Dutch:Mouton&CO.,1957. [2]Finocchiaro M,Brumfit C.The Functional-Notional Approach:From Theory to Practice[M].New York:Oxford:Oxford University Press,1983. [3]Larsen-Freeman.Techniques and principles in language

teaching[M].Oxford:Oxford University Press,1986. [4]Halliday M A K.Explorations in the Functions of Language [M].London:Edward Arnold,1973. [5]Hymes D.On Communicative Competence[C]//Pride J

B,Holmes,1972. [6] Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers:Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2008


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