What is Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)?

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The term “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT) means different things to different teachers.

Communicative language teaching, or the communicative approach, may mean different things to different teachers. To some, it simply means to put more emphasis on the use of the target language in the classroom, and in particular, a greater emphasis on oral communication. If we want to sum it up that way it’s alright, but there’s so much more CLT offers.

Other teachers would say that communication entails the exchange of information between students who still don’t know some, or part of the information and work together to understand the whole picture. This can happen inside an activity and ever during normal discourse.

No matter what you understand Communicative Language Teaching means, we can all come to the conclusion that all (if not most) language teachers understand communication is the most global goal.

Despite their various definitions of CLT, all the literature seems to advocate for a communicative approach in our classrooms. 

So, how does CLT work? Learners in environments using CLT techniques learn and practice the target language by interactions with one another, while the instructor works like a guide who interferes in those small moments where a learner might get “stuck”. In these instances, the teacher may utter a word or slightly push or scaffold the learner in order to keep the interactions moving.

During these activities, there’s another actor that comes in handy to give these activities a touch of authenticity; we call them Authentic Texts. These are pieces of media that are not made for teaching and learning, but are used in typical situations. In my personal case, I collect brochures and menus from real restaurants that I incorporate in my classrooms for countless activities. 

In CLT classrooms, learners talk about personal experiences with partners, and instructors teach topics outside of the realm of traditional grammar books in order to promote language skills in all types of situations. It encourages learners to incorporate their personal experiences into their language learning environment and to focus on the learning experience, in addition to the learning of the target language. Basically students learn by bringing their own real life situations to the  classroom.

However, as with any approach, there are some shortcomings. Some critics of this approach suggest that the method does not put enough emphasis on the teaching of grammar and instead allows students to simply produce utterances, despite being grammatically incorrect, as long as the interlocutor can get some meaning from them. While this might be the case in some instances, it can be mediated by the teacher.

What is your approach when teaching a second language?

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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