Communicative Method of FLT

September 5th, 20119:58 am


Communicative Method of FLT

Communicative Method of FLT


A comparative study of methods and approaches in TEFL/TESL has shown that the past methodologies seem to have pursued too narrow objectives. A flexible uniform language-teaching strategy should be based on a careful selection of facets of various methods and their integration into a cohesive, coherent working procedure that will suit the realities of the particular teaching situation. It is assumed that the goal of language teaching is the learner’s ability to communicate in target language. It is assumed that the content of a language course will include linguistic structures, semantic notions, and social functions. Students regularly work in groups or pairs to transfer meaning in situations where one student has information that the others lack.

Students often engage in role-play or dramatizations to adjust their use of the target language to different social contexts. Classroom materials and activities are often authentic to reflect real-life situations and demands. Skills are integrated from the beginning: a given activity might involve reading, speaking, listening and perhaps also writing. The teacher’s role is primarily to facilitate communication and only secondarily to correct errors. The teacher should be able to use the target language fluently and appropriately. Written activities should be used sparingly with younger children. Children of six or seven years old are often not yet proficient in mechanics of writing in their own language.

In methodological literature of the last two decades the word “communicative” is the most frequently used one. Communicative method (sometimes referred to as approach) grew out of the works of anthropological linguists who view language first and foremost as the system of communication (Hymes, 1972; Halliday, 1973).This method stresses the need to teach communicative competence as opposed to the linguistic competence: thus, functions are emphasized over form. The long and complex history of communicative competence and the importance of the relation between ideas about the nature of language and their social, intellectual and cultural contexts have become a major concern not only for methodologists, linguists, but also for psychologists and social theorists.

Communicative theory enables learners to realize that every speech act takes place in a specific social situation. Psychological factors (the learners’ age, sex, complement of the group, pupil’s personality, their roles, etc.) as well as linguistic factors (a topic of discussion, type of discourse; a colloquial, informal or formal variety of English (also known as register) play a crucial role here. In other words appropriateness and accessibility of speech in the particular social situation are as equally important as accuracy of pronunciation and grammar.

Communicative competence is the ability of learners to use the language appropriately for the given socio-cultural context. To do this the learners should be able to manage the process of negotiating meaning with the teacher and among themselves.

Communicative competence is not a compilation of items, but a set of strategies or creative procedures for realizing the value of linguistic elements in contextual use, an ability to make sense as a participant of spoken or written discourse by shared knowledge of code resources and rules of language use.

The content of communicative instruction is based on the concept that the process of instruction and the model of communication [47, c. 33]. All this does not necessarily mean that the process of instruction is the exact replica of the process of communication. When we communicate, we use the language to accomplish some function, such as persuading, arguing, agreeing, disagreeing or promising. Moreover, we carry out these functions within an appropriate social context. A speaker will choose a peculiar way to express his argument according to his intent, his level of emotion, and what his relationships with the collocutor are. For example, he may be more direct in arguing with his friend than with his senior.

Furthermore, since communication is a process, it is insufficient for learners to simply have knowledge of target language forms, meanings, and functions. Students must be able to apply this knowledge in negotiating meaning. It is through the interaction between speaker and listener (or reader and writer) that meaning becomes clear, the listener gives the speaker feedback as to whether or not he understood what the speaker has said. In this way the speaker can revise what he has said and try to communicate his intended meaning again, if necessary.

In communication, the speaker has a choice of what he will say and how he will say. If the exercise is tightly controlled so that the pupils can only say something in one way, the speaker has no choice and the exchange, therefore, is not communicative. In a chain drill, for example, a student must answer his collocutor’s question. In the same way he replied to someone else’s question. Therefore, the student has no choice of form and content and quasi-communication occurs.

True communication is purposeful. The speaker can thus evaluate whether his intent, based upon the information he receives from the listener, has been achieved. If the listener does not have an opportunity to provide the speaker with such feedback, then the exchange is not really communicative.

Communication has parameters that are difficult to prognose, i.e. there are no certain guidelines to govern this interactive process. To model communication means to establish basic constraints, its underlying principles which include:

1. individual approach;

2. functional approach (stresses the context rather than the very structure of language);

3. communication-oriented activity;

4. personal involvement;

5. situational approach;

6. novelty;

7. heuristics.

The teacher’s role is to have his students to become communicatively competent. To do this students need knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings, and functions. They need to be reminded that the said categories are in dialectical unity and many different forms can be used to perform a function, as well as a single form can often serve a variety of functions. They must be able to choose from these forms the most appropriate one, given the socio-cultural context and the roles of the interlocutors.

The teacher’s role is to facilitate the teaching/learning process, to establish situations that will promote communication. During the activities he acts as an advisor, answering his students questions and monitoring their performance. At other times he might be a “co-communicator” – engaging in the communicative activity along with the students [cf. 105].

Since the teacher’s role is less dominant than in a teacher-centered method, (DM, A-LM, CC-LT, etc.) students are seen as more responsible managers of their own learning.

The most obvious characteristics of the communicative method is that almost everything that is done is done with a communicative purpose. Students use the language a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role-plays, and problem-solving tasks.

Activities are truly communicative according to Johnson K. and Marrow K., they cover three features; information gap, choice, and feedback.

Another characteristic feature of CM is the use of authentic materials. It is considered desirable to give students an opportunity to develop strategies for understanding language as it is actually used by native speakers.

Finally, such activities are carried out by students in small groups. Small numbers of students interacting are favoured in order to maximize the time allotted to each student for learning to negotiate meaning.

The teacher is the initiator of the activities, but he does not always interact with the students. Sometimes he is a co-communicator, but oftener he establishes real-life situations that prompt communication between and among the students. The students interact a great deal with one another. They do this in various configurations: pairs, triads, small groups, and the whole class.

One of the basic assumptions of CM is that students will be more motivated to study a FL since they will feel to do something useful with the language they study.

The teachers give students an opportunity to express their individuality by having them share their ideas and opinions on a regular basis. This helps students “to integrate the foreign language with their own personality and thus to feel more emotionally secure with it” [105, p. 94].

Learners’ mistakes should not be constantly corrected but regarded with greater tolerance, as a completely normal phenomenon in the development of communicative skills. In short, communicative method leaves the learner scope to contribute his own personality to the learning process. It also provides the teacher with scope to step out of his didactic role in order to be a “human among humans” [cf. 105, p. 94].

Finally, students’ security is enhanced by many opportunities for co-operative interaction with their fellow students and the teacher.

Culture is the everyday lifestyle of people who are native speakers of the language. There are certain aspects of it that are especially important to communication – the use of non-verbal behaviour, which receives greater attention in CM.

Students work on all four skills from the beginning. The target language should be used not only during communicative activities, but also, for example, in explaining the activities to the students or in assigning homework. The students learn from these classroom management exchanges, and realise that the target language is a means and vehicle of communication, not just a subject to be studied.

The teacher supervises his students’ performance at every stage of their work. He evaluates not only their accuracy, but their fluency and prosody as well. The student who has the most control of the structures and vocabulary is not always the best communicator. For more formal evaluation, a teacher is recommended to use a communicative test (Masden H.,1983). This is an integrative test that has a real communicative function.

The teacher also assumes an integrated approach to students’ errors. Errors of form are tolerated and are seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills. Some students can have limited linguistic knowledge and still be successful communicators.

To substantiate and implement CM into practice means to go beyond its general description. It is important to take into account all methodological functions of these underlying principles, their content, and see what results could be anticipated in all four skills of activity.

Thus, communicative competence entails not solely grammatical accuracy but knowledge of socio-cultural rules of appropriateness, discourse norms – the ability to sustain coherent discourse with another speaker, and strategies for ensuring remedial work for potential breakdowns in communications.

Emphasis is placed on developing motivation to learn through establishing meaningful, purposeful, coherent discourses in the target language. Individuality is encouraged, as well as co-operation with peers, who contribute to a sense of achievement and emotional security with the target language.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.