Communicative 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.
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.
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:
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.
CLT shares a number of teaching practices with other approaches, but you will find you often use activities like these:
In addition, you can emphasize an English Only classroom to help here.
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:
|Reason for Visit:||__________|
|Length of Visit:||__________|
Meanwhile the second student is given this letter:
|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.
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.
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Role Playing in TEFL - a useful CLT activityphoto credit: Marc Wathieu via cc