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Discuss the main principles of The Communicative Language Teaching. Why is CLT considered an approach rather than a method? [N.U. 2016, ’18]


Ans. According to Richard, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) stands for a concept of language teaching that focuses on the functional and communicative potential of language. CLT is an approach that can be interpreted and adapted in many different ways. Richards & Rodgers claimed that teachers and language teaching experts from different educational traditions can identify with it, and consequently interpret it in different dimensions. The main principle of learning a second language is to communicate using it which is

the main goal of CLT approach. Piepho mentioned some objectives as a goal of any communicative approach. Those are pointed below:
i. Language is an integrative and content level.
ii. Language is a semiotic system and an object of learning. iii. Language is an affective level of interpersonal relationships and conduct

  1. A level of individual learning needs.
  2. A general educational level of extra-linguistic goals.




These objectives are applicable to any kind of communicative method. But the specific objectives of CLT approach cannot be defined beyond this. Objectives of CLT are linked to the learning goals of the learners. The syllabus and the teaching materials are set once when the needs of the learners are analyzed by the teachers.

CLT is considered as an approach and not a method since it is compatible with many teaching methods. There is no specific teaching methodology available for CLT. The availability of a teaching methodology would be typical for a method.

CLT approach is totally different from other methods and approaches. For some CLT is to teach grammar inductively and for some it is to practice various classroom procedures like pair work, group work, role play, dialogue making which are the ways to solve the language problems among the learners and language must be mastered by these procedures. There is discussion about the versions of CLT which is a piece of a cake among the linguists. CLT is distinguished in weak version and strong version. In the weak version, grammar is still the main focus point to be learned as language although it is often dressed up in functional labels: asking the way, talking about yourself, making future plans etc. And in strong version various classroom activities are to be proposed and to be performed for the mastery of the language. It is also known as the procedures of Task-Based Approach for second language acquisition.

The grammar is to be used in a proper way and it is also a learning point as the communicative competence refers to know the grammar to use. Vocabulary knowing is also a target but not in deductive way. And these should be done in a socially appropriate way.

According to Richards and Rodgers, a number of procedures can be practiced in CLT program as for example group work, language games or role plays. However, none of these exercises are used in CLT classes exclusively. In a class, at first, the teaching points are introduced as the suggestions and the grammar is taught in isolation. Then the classroom activities are provided like pair work, group work. The dialogues and exercises take place are briefed in the classroom. Language forms and functions are encouraged by the procedures of a typical CLT classroom.

CLT is an approach, which emphasizes the communicative potential of language and which is compatible with a great variety of classroom procedures and which can be best described by the following principles:
i. Learners learn a language through using it to communicate.
ii. Authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal classroom activities.
iii. Fluency is an important dimension of communication.
iv. Communication involves the integration of different language skills
v. Learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error
(Richards &Rodgers 2007: 172).

European and American language teaching experts view CLT as an approach, and not a method which has communicative competence as its goal of language teaching and which seeks to include all of the four language skills into communicative exercises. The origins of CLT can be found in changes in the British language teaching tradition.

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