Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

How important is the role of teachers in CLT?

Term Paper, 2021

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Communicative Language Teaching – Definition

3 The change of Communicative Language Teaching over the years

4 Core assumptions of Communicative Language Teaching

5 The impact of Communicative Language Teaching in EFL classroom

6 Different methodologies of Communicative Language Teaching

7 Role of the teacher in Communicative Language Teaching

8 Role of the learner in Communicative Language Teaching

9 Conclusion

10 References

1 Introduction

Nowadays, foreign languages or second languages are as important as they have never been before. International companies communicate every day and school exchanges are still admired a lot. Consequently, the exchange of people from different cultures or different countries has become a daily business because global communication has progressed so quickly. Therefore, foreign languages are also an important topic in schools, while especially the English language is foregrounded. Learning the English language here in Germany is obligatory with the beginning of school life, even though this might change in the near future. Nevertheless, people can see the importance of the English language in the German school system and all around the world. As we all know, the best way to learn a language is to speak it, over and over again. Because without communication and speaking the language, you will never speak a language fluently, no matter how well you master the individual grammatical rules. Of course, also the content of the language someone is learning is important. Consequently, the content needs to be adapted to the respective students and classes in order to prepare these people for mastering real-life situations. Following this, there are several interesting methods of teaching second or foreign languages. One of the most popular methods is called “Communicative Language Teaching”. This method is mainly used when teachers try to teach second languages to students in a communicative way. Thus, the main goal of this paper is to clarify and ask how important is the role of teachers in “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT)? To answer this question, CLT is first defined. After that, the development of CLT will be looked at, followed by the most important core assumptions. Then it becomes more school specific and the influence of CLT on the EFL classroom will be analysed, where two other teaching methods that have their origin in CLT will be introduced.

2 Communicative Language Teaching – Definition

CLT is a teaching approach, which was introduced in the late 1960s. Consequently, there have been several definitions of the communicative approach to second language. Since this approach of teaching is existing, several definitions have been written by individual linguists. Therefore, “Communicative language teaching has been the centre of language teaching discussions since the late 1960s” (Savignon & Berns, 1984, p.4). As the term CLT suggests, the focus of this approach is on communication in particular. Teachers teach their students communicatively and interact a lot with them, while the students should also act communicatively with the goal of speaking a foreign language fluently (ibid., p.4).

3 The change of Communicative Language Teaching over the years

In particular, the linguist Noam Chomsky, one of the best-known linguists worldwide, was responsible for Communicative Language Teaching at the beginning and described this approach with the term “Linguistic Competence” where he included the two terms “Competence” and Performance” (cf. Chomsky, 1965, p.4). These two terms have been used differently for over many years, so they need to be discussed. As you might notice, this comparison bears a strong resemblance to Ferdinand Saussure and his Langue/Parole language model, although especially the term “Competence” differs from Saussure. So consequently, when we look at the synonym “Competence”, Noam Chomsky states that this is “the native speaker’s knowledge of his language, the system of rules he has mastered, and his ability to produce and understand a vast number of sentences” (ibid.). Consequently, the concept of competence can be described in our own words as follows: the learner understands the language and, as a result, is able to use this language in any situation. This goal is achieved by knowing and respecting the linguistic rules of the given language. However, the term “Competence” does not include the use of the language, but only the ability to use it. The real application of the language only refers to the term “Performance”. As already said, performance therefore refers to the use of language. Chomsky especially emphasizes that performance is full of errors and therefore “fairly degenerate in quality” (Chomsky, 1965, p.31). Like that, regarding the basis of Linguistic Competence, you can already see the first approaches to Communicative Language Teaching. “Competence” refers to learning and understanding the grammar, which means to basically prepare for having the ability to communicate in class. If we now relate the term performance to Communicative Language Teaching, performance stands for the application of the learned grammar rules and consequently the application of the foreign language. Hence, you communicate with your classmates or teachers and exchange information in the foreign language as often as possible. Over the years, of course, there were also other approaches, so that other linguists had a differentiated view of communicative language teaching. Especially, Dell Hymes was one of these linguists, who invented in 1966 the idea of “communicative competence”. “Communicative competence” states, what it means to know a language, which basically signifies that someone knows the grammatical rules of morphology, phonology, and syntax, but is also able to apply these rules by communicating with each other (cf. Hymes, D, 1971, p.278). This implicates, that communicative competence includes Linguistic Competence. However, communicative competence also includes writing, reading and listening and especially social - knowledge. By including social-knowledge, Hymes (ibid.) defines it as “a knowledge of the rules for understanding and producing both the referential and social meaning of language”. Since then, CLT is based on the Communicative Approach of Dell Hymes and is one of the most used teaching approaches in foreign languages.

4 Core assumptions of Communicative Language Teaching

When it comes to second or foreign language teaching, CLT is usually a part of every teacher’s lessons. Consequently, it is important to look at the core assumptions of this teaching method, to show the impact of CLT on teachers and learners, but also to understand this teaching method in general. The focus will be on three core assumptions, which seem to be the most logical ones for me. The first core assumption of CLT says that “Language learning is a gradual process that involves creative use of language, and trial and error” (Richards, Jack C., 2006, p.22). However, the students should also be aware of this assumption. Many students are afraid of making mistakes, especially when learning foreign languages. Hence, teachers should clearly communicate that students should not feel ashamed to make mistakes. However, it is usually the mistakes that make you better and from which you learn. Because of this fear, students avoid participating in class which prevents them from learning to speak the language fluently which is the goal of CLT. In summary, it is important that students are not afraid to make mistakes and that making mistakes is acknowledged by the students and the teachers. The second core assumption states that “Second language learning is facilitated when learners are engaged in interaction and meaningful communication” (ibid.). For students, it is always more interesting to talk about topics that are easy to talk about, especially to discuss and to express someone's opinion. These discussions are particularly suitable at the beginning of the lesson. For example, the teacher can ask the learners what has happened in the world in the last few days. The teacher thus gives the learners a topic to discuss and keeps the discussion alive by raising new objections. Therefore, the students learn to respond to new aspects while they are communicating with each other for the whole time. To put it all together again, teachers should usually look for topics which are interesting for students in order to have a lively discussion with their students. It is also important to choose a topic where every student can add something to, instead of only looking for a topic where five to six students are able to communicate. Another core assumption includes the following sentence: “Communication is a holistic process that often requires the use of several language skills or modalities” (Richards, Jack C., 2006, p.22). Here, reference is made to Hymes and Chomsky, both of whom felt that the acquisition of grammar was particularly important. So, to speak a language fluently, you need to follow the rules of the language and master these linguistic skills. This is also done through communication, speaking is the best way to learn a language, so CLT is predestined for the acquisition of linguistic ability and language skills. Looking at the core assumptions again, it can be confirmed that CLT is mainly based on communication among each other, and that linguistic skills need to be mastered, and that it is not bad, and that it even has to be accepted if mistakes are made.

5 The impact of Communicative Language Teaching in EFL classroom

CLT is probably one of the best known and most used teaching methods in the world when it comes to foreign language acquisition, especially English language acquisition. Nowadays, many teachers around the world use this teaching method, so it is particularly important to examine the impact of this teaching method on the classroom. As already analysed by Dell Hymes, CLT refers to communication. However, this communication is not only on a verbal level, but also on a written level. As a result, you can already see that CLT is perfect for teaching English. Due to the requirements of this teaching method, teachers have the possibility to make use of different tasks and approaches in the classroom. Accordingly, the teacher now has the possibility to make use of discussions, interviews, question rounds or anything else which happens on the verbal level, or to have the students write letters, reports or emails on the written level. All these tasks help the students to improve their speaking as well as writing skills, so that learners can use the language in context. If we now look at the influence of the oral tasks, we see that the teacher plays an important role, because it is their commission to “facilitate communication in the classroom” (Larsen-Freeman, D. 1986, p.133). Consequently, his major responsibility “is to establish situations likely to promote communication. During the activities he acts as an adviser, answering student’s questions and monitoring their performance” (Sreehari, Pusuluri, 2012, p.89). The role of an adviser is useful and especially helpful when the teacher notices that the verbal debate is stagnating instead of progressing. By extension, the teacher is helping the students by keeping discussions alive and by providing the learners with further thoughts. During the discussions, the teacher always notes down mistakes or arguments to discuss them afterwards in the plenary. The fact that the mistakes are discussed afterwards means that the learners are not afraid to make mistakes. Instead, they try their best and are not intimidated by the teacher. The correction or discussion of the task is also done orally. Discussing or doing everything oral is, consequently, the goal of Communicative Language Teaching (cf. Johnson & Morrow, 1981, p.). Furthermore, CLT also means that students learn to use the language in context, which means that they can speak the language fluently outside the classroom. Therefore, learning vocabulary does not really make sense if you do not learn to use it meaningfully in context (cf, Larsen-Freeman, D. 2000, p.128). This is where the teacher comes to the fore again, as the teachers choose relevant topics where students are confident in communicating. Because of the relevant topics, the students find themselves in real-life situations and are thus more motivated to learn the target language.

Considering the written tasks, the teacher needs to explain them in detail, so that the students know what each task demands. The students need to know exactly how to work on the task, how much time they have and whether it is individual work, partner work or even group work. During the completion of the tasks, the teacher checks the individual students and notes down any mistakes and answers questions. Of course, the teacher is only answering in the foreign language which the students learn in class. After the tasks have been completed, the students present the solutions in plenary. The teacher responds to the solutions sporadically and tries, as well, to address other students to spark a discussion.

By reviewing the impact of CLT in the English as a foreign language classroom, it can be said that the teacher plays an important by being the facilitator of communication. Without the teacher, students would not receive any precise work assignments, discussions would end after a short time and students would often not even dare to participate in class because they are too afraid of making mistakes.

Through the presence of the teacher and the structuring of the lessons with the help of the CLT teaching method, the teacher can conduct a good English lesson. As a result, the CLT teaching method has a great influence on the students’ later language level, as the English language is mainly practised through real-life situations.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
How important is the role of teachers in CLT?
University of Duisburg-Essen
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Communicative Language Teaching, CLT
Quote paper
Moritz Otten (Author), 2021, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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