The Communicative Approach in English as a Foreign Language Teaching
Enviado por orellana
- Where does communicative language
teaching come from?
- What is communicative language
- What are some examples of
- How do the roles of the teacher and
student change in Communicative language
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
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
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.
(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
- 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.
COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING?
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. . "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,"
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),
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
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