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The Communicative Approach in English as a Foreign Language Teaching

Enviado por orellana

    1. Summary
    2. Where does communicative language
      teaching come from?
    3. What is communicative language
    4. What are some examples of
      communicative exercises?
    5. How do the roles of the teacher and
      student change in Communicative language
    6. Bibliography


    This article refers to the way teachers can focus the
    teaching of the foreign language in the classroom in such a way
    that students can communicate in a conscious way, taking into
    account their real experiences. Here, the origin of the
    Communicative Approach as a combination of different methods is
    clearly explained, as such as the role of the teacher and the
    students in a communicative English as a Second Language class.
    The article also gives some examples of communicative activities
    that can be developed in a class from the communicative point of

    This digest will take a look at the communicative approach to the
    teaching of foreign languages. It is intended as an introduction
    to the communicative approach for teachers and
    teachers-in-training who want to provide opportunities in the
    classroom for their students to engage in real-life communication
    in the target language. Questions to be dealt with include what
    the communicative approach is, where it came from, and how
    teachers' and students' roles differ from the roles they play in
    other teaching approaches. Examples of exercises that can be used
    with a communicative approach are described, and sources of
    appropriate materials are provided.


    Its origins are many, insofar as one teaching
    methodology tends to influence the next. The communicative
    approach could be said to be the product of educators and
    linguists who had grown dissatisfied with the audiolingual and
    grammar-translation methods of foreign language

    They felt that students were not learning enough
    realistic, whole language. They did not know how to communicate
    using appropriate social language, gestures, or expressions; in
    brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the culture of the
    language studied. Interest in and development of
    communicative-style teaching mushroomed in the 1970s; authentic
    language use and classroom exchanges where students engaged in
    real communication with one another became quite

    In the intervening years, the communicative approach has
    been adapted to the elementary, middle, secondary, and
    post-secondary levels, and the underlying philosophy has spawned
    different teaching methods known under a variety of names,
    including notional-functional, teaching for proficiency,
    proficiency-based instruction, and communicative language


    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 audiolingual 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, p. 5).


    In a communicative classroom for beginners, the teacher
    might begin by passing out cards, each with a different name
    printed on it. The teacher then proceeds to model an exchange of
    introductions in the target language: "Guten Tag. Wieheissen
    Sie?" Reply: "Icheisse Wolfie," for example. Using a combination
    of the target language and gestures, the teacher conveys the task
    at hand, and gets the students to introduce themselves and ask
    their classmates for information. They are responding in German
    to a question in German. They do not know the answers beforehand,
    as they are each holding cards with their new identities written
    on them; hence, there is an authentic exchange of

    Later during the class, as a reinforcement listening
    exercise, the students might hear a recorded exchange between two
    German freshmen meeting each other for the first time at the
    gymnasium doors. Then the teacher might explain, in English, the
    differences among German greetings in various social situations.
    Finally, the teacher will explain some of the grammar points and
    structures used.

    The following exercise is taken from a 1987 workshop on
    communicative foreign language teaching, given for Delaware
    language teachers by Karen Willetts and Lynn Thompson of the
    Center for Applied Linguistics. The exercise, called
    "Eavesdropping," is aimed at advanced students.

    "Instructions to students" Listen to a conversation
    somewhere in a public place and be prepared to answer, in the
    target language, some general questions about what was

    1. Who was talking?

    2. About how old were they?

    3. Where were they when you eavesdropped?

    4. What were they talking about?

    5. What did they say?

    6. Did they become aware that you were listening to

    The exercise puts students in a real-world listening
    situation where they must report information overheard. Most
    likely they have an opinion of the topic, and a class discussion
    could follow, in the target language, about their experiences and

    Communicative exercises such as this motivate the
    students by treating topics of their choice, at an appropriately
    challenging level.

    Another exercise taken from the same source is for
    beginning students of Spanish. In "Listening for the Gist,"
    students are placed in an everyday situation where they must
    listen to an authentic text.

    "Objective." Students listen to a passage to get general
    understanding of the topic or message.

    "Directions." Have students listen to the following
    announcement to decide what the speaker is promoting.

    "Passage" "Situacion ideal…Servicio de
    transporte al
    Aeropuerto Internacional…Cuarenta y dos habitaciones de lujo,
    con aire
    acondicionado…Elegante restaurante…de fama

    (The announcement can be read by the teacher or played
    on tape.) Then ask students to circle the letter of the most
    appropriate answer on their copy, which consists of the following
    multiple-choice options:

    • a taxi service
    • b. a hotel
    • c. an airport
    • d. a restaurant
    • (Source: Adapted from Ontario Assessment Instrument
      Pool, 1980, Item No. 13019)

    Gunter Gerngross, an English teacher in Austria, gives
    an example of how he makes his lessons more communicative. He
    cites a widely used textbook that shows English children having a
    pet show. "Even when learners act out this scene creatively and
    enthusiastically, they do not reach the depth of involvement that
    is almost tangible when they act out a short text that presents a
    family conflict revolving round the question of whether the
    children should be allowed to have a pet or not" (Gerngross &
    Puchta, 1984, p. 92). He continues to say that the communicative
    approach "puts great emphasis on listening, which implies an
    active will to try to understand others. [This is] one of the
    hardest tasks to achieve because the children are used to
    listening to the teacher but not to their peers. There are no
    quick, set recipes.

    That the teacher be a patient listener is the basic
    requirement" (p. 98).

    The observation by Gerngross on the role of the teacher
    as one of listener rather than speaker brings up several points
    to be discussed in the next portion of this digest.



    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-Freeman, 1986).


    BC. [1982]. "In search of a language teaching framework:
    An adaptation of a communicative approach to functional
    practice." (EDRS No. ED 239 507, 26 pages)

    Das, B. K. (Ed.) (1984). "Communicative language
    teaching." Selected papers from the RELC seminar (Singapore).
    "Anthology Series 14." (EDRS No. ED 266 661, 234

    Littlewood, W. T. (1983). "Communicative approach to
    language teaching methodology (CLCS Occasional Paper No. 7)."
    Dublin: Dublin University, Trinity College, Centre for Language
    and Communication Studies. (EDRS No. ED 235 690, 23

    Pattison, P. (1987). "The communicative approach and
    classroom realities." (EDRS No. ED 288 407, 17 pages)

    Riley, P. (1982). "Topics in communicative methodology:
    Including a preliminary and selective bibliography on the
    communicative approach." (EDRS No. ED 231 213, 31

    Savignon, S. J., & Berns, M. S. (Eds.). (1983).
    "Communicative language teaching: Where are we going? Studies in
    Language Learning," 4(2). (EDRS No. ED 278 226, 210

    Sheils, J. (1986). "Implications of the communicative
    approach for the role of the teacher." (EDRS No. ED 268 831, 7

    Swain, M., & Canale, M. (1982). "The role of grammar
    in a communicative approach to second language teaching and
    testing." (EDRS No. ED 221 026, 8 pages) (not available
    separately; available from EDRS as part of ED 221 023, 138

    Willems, G., & Riley, P. (Eds.). (1984).
    "Communicative foreign language teaching and the training of
    foreign language teachers." (EDRS No. ED 273 102, 219

    Readers may also wish to consult the following journal
    articles for additional information on communicative language

    Clark, J. L. (1987). Classroom assessment in a
    communicative approach. "British Journal of Language Teaching,"
    25(1), 9-19.

    Dolle, D., & Willems, G. M. (1984). The
    communicative approach to foreign language teaching: The
    teacher's case. "European Journal of Teacher Education," 7(2),

    Morrow, K., & Schocker, M. (1987). Using texts in a
    communicative approach. "ELT Journal," 41(4), 248-56.

    Oxford, R. L., et al. (1989). Language learning
    strategies, the communicative approach, and their classroom
    implications. "Foreign Language Annals," 22(1), 29-39.

    Pica, T. P. (1988). Communicative language teaching: An
    aid to second language acquisition? Some insights from classroom
    research. "English Quarterly," 21(2), 70-80.

    Rosenthal, A. S., & Sloane, R. A. (1987). A
    communicative approach to foreign language instruction: The UMBC
    project. "Foreign Language Annals," 20(3), 245-53.

    Swan, M. (1985). A critical look at the communicative
    approach (1). "ELT Journal," 39(1), 2-12.

    Swan, M. (1985). A critical look at the communicative
    approach (2). "ELT Journal," 39(2), 76-87.

    Terrell, T. D. (1991). The role of grammar instruction
    in a communicative approach. "Modern Language Journal," 75(1),


    Berns, M. S. (1984). Functional approaches to language
    and language teaching: Another look. In S. Savignon & M. S.
    Berns (Eds.), "Initiatives in communicative language teaching. A
    book of readings" (pp. 3-21). Reading, MA:

    Gerngross, G., & Puchta, H. (1984). Beyond notions
    and functions: Language teaching or the art of letting go. In S.
    Savignon & M. S. Berns (Eds.), "Initiatives in communicative
    language teaching. A book of readings" (pp. 89-107). Reading, MA:

    Larsen-Freeman, D. (1986). "Techniques and principles in
    language teaching." Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Littlewood, W. (1981). "Language teaching. An
    introduction." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Savignon, S., & Berns, M. S. (Eds.). (1984).
    "Initiatives in communicative language teaching." Reading, MA:

    Lic. Evelio Elías Orellana

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