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Communicative Language Teaching‏‎

To read about working here, see Teaching English in Germany.

In grammar a Verb Tense is a form of a verb‎ used to indicate roughly the time when the action described by the verb takes place. Here we talk about 3 basic tenses: Past, Present and Future. (Some people talk about more than 3, however.)

Compare this with Verb Form which is the form of a verb in a particular tense, e.g. present simple, present continuous, etc.

For more, see Verb Tenses‏‎ & Forms in English Grammar.

A Needs Analysis is the process of assessing the needs of your students. In other words, finding out what they know already (how much English), what they want to know, and finally what interests them. Once this has been established, the syllabus and individual lessons can be designed to suit those needs. Put basically, you find out what your students need to learn and then teach them this.

For more, see Needs Analysis‏‎ for TEFL.

Verbs tell us about an action; they are sometimes called doing words or action words. Verbs describe what is happening:

run, walk, read, talk

For more, see Verbs‏‎ in English Grammar,

English Only is a simple technique whereby you allow your students ONLY to speak English in the classroom. This means even if they are gossiping they are doing it in English and thus learning & practicing.

For more, see English Only‏‎ in your TEFL Classroom.

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Simply put, this is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who live in a non-English speaking country and who want to learn English for business or to take an exam, etc.

It is pretty much equivalent to TESOL and TESL.

For more, see TEFL‏‎ - Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Speech bubbles at ErgCommunicative Language Teaching (or CLT) is a popular approach to language teaching which emphasizes using language in the same way that it’s used in real life.

In other words, you put your students in language situations which are as close to real life as possible.

Origins of CLT

Before the spread of communicative teaching, teachers tended to use traditional grammar translation‏‎ or audio-lingual methods of teaching.

In other words, they would give the class grammar rules and paradigms, drill the class in set phrases, have them recite verb conjugations‏‎ and learn word lists by heart.

Critics of these methods felt that students were not learning useful, functional English and once they were out of the classroom they were not fully prepared to deal in real English. Students, meanwhile, often found them boring and not always any use outside the classroom.

CLT Overview

With CLT, you give your students language they need to deal with real situations. You place less importance on producing grammatically correct English but more importance on dealing effectively with the situation.

For example, you might give two students a role play where the goal is to arrange the time and place of a business appointment. They may well make grammatical errors (e.g. saying something like, “*I will meet you to the station.“) but if they both end up knowing where and when the appointment is then the role play is a success.

In other words, CLT deals with communicative competence – the ability to communicate – rather than grammatical accuracy.

A popular definition of CLT comes from David Nunan‏‎ who uses this list to help explain CLT:

  1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language‏‎.
  2. The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.
  3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the Learning Management process.
  4. An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning.
  5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom.

As you can see, much emphasis is placed on giving the students useful, practical language so it is important to introduce a needs analysis‏‎ into the class early on to discover exactly the kind of English they need to know.

Students will often enjoy this kind of approach as it gives them useful and practical language which they can use straight away. However, some students who have learned languages in a more traditional manner can sometimes feel frustrated at not have a more rigid grammatical structure behind them.

Typical CLT Classroom Activities

CLT shares a number of teaching practices with other approaches, but you will find you often use activities like these:

  • role plays
  • interviews and information exchange
  • games
  • pair and group work
  • learning by teaching

In addition, you can emphasize an English Only‏‎ classroom to help here.

Typical Intermediate Activity

This is a typical intermediate activity. It is all about exchanging information.

You set up a role play where the first student takes the part of an airport official, the second student plays the part of a visitor.

The first student is given a form which they must complete:

First Name:__________
Family Name:__________
Home Address:__________
Nationality:__________
Occupation:__________
Reason for Visit:__________
Length of Visit:__________
Hotel Address:__________
Contact Number:__________

Meanwhile the second student is given this letter:

{AF}To Mr Hans Schmidt, 27 Kurt-Schumacher-Str, Bonn Germany

Dear Mr Schmidt,

I would like to confirm your visit to the Ford Car plant in Coventry from the 1st April to the 10th April. I have arranged a room at the City Plaza Hotel in Coventry for these dates. It’s a small, comfortable hotel in Coventry and close to the car factory.

Our representative Mr Peter Smith will be there to meet you at Coventry airport when you arrive on the 1st April. I believe you have met before so you will have no problem in recognizing him. His contact number is 782 277 3718.

I hope you enjoy your stay and find it productive.

With regards,

Jane Roper,
pa to Mr Peter Smith{/AF}

Once the students are familiar with their prompts, they “meet” at the airport desk where the official needs to get certain information from the visitor.

The rest of the class watch the exchange and they, too, may be asked to complete the form as well.

As you can see, this gives the students great practice in a language situation they may well meet outside the classroom. The next time the students travel by air, they’re likely to use the language they’ve practiced.

Useful Links

TEFL Methodologies  – a look at the different ways you can teach English

TEFL Training – learn how to teach English well

Role Playing in TEFL – a useful CLT activity

photo credit: Marc Wathieu via cc

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