Communicative language learning was an approach of language teaching that was developed in reaction to the Oral Approach. One of the major differences between communicative language learning and the oral approach is former focuses on the function of language while the latter focuses on the structure.
Communicative language learning (CLL) is also has a learn by doing focus. In addition, this approach is learner-centered. The students master the language through using it in communication rather than focusing on the structure of the target language.
There are four primary competencies a student needs to develop according to CLL.
- Grammatical competence-Grammar
- Sociolinguistic competence-Understanding social context
- Discourse competence-Meaning of what is said
- Strategic competence-Ways to maintain a conversation
In CLL, language is seen as a tool for expressing meaning. Language allows people to interact with one another. These two points lead to the following principles of CLL
- Real communication is critical to language acquisition
- The language task must be meaningful for the students
The emphasis on interaction indicates that CLL derives heavily from constructivism in that students learn from each and build on their prior knowledge.
Often, those who employ CLL approach will develop a notional-functional syllabus. Notional means ideas. For example, a teacher may develop units on leisure, shopping, business, etc. Functional means using language for real-world activities. For example, in the shopping unit, students would use language related to shopping.
This way of developing lessons is different from other methods such as grammar-translation with its focus on grammar. In CLL, the student uses the language in various real-world settings.
Two major focuses of CLL are on fluency and accuracy. The development of these two abilities takes place through such activities as role plays, sharing/gathering information, and expressing one’s opinion. During these activities, the teacher encourages and supports students through their success and failures with the language.
Instructional materials are based on text, task, realia, or technology. The goal is always to have students model real-world behavior. The text might be an actual newspaper or article. The task might be interviews. Realia might be graphs and charts. Lastly, the technology could be blogs and or developing videos.
Teacher and Student Roles
The teacher in CLL is a facilitator. They conduct a needs analyst and provide a learning environment that encourages growth. The teacher provides encouragement and support while the students are engaged in various tasks.
The students are the center of the learning. They are actively involved in various activities and experiences developed by the teacher.
Criticism of CLL
CLL has been criticized as inapplicable in a non-western context. Many cultures expect a teacher-centered learning environment. As such, a student-centered environment would be confusing for many language learners.
CLL also has been accused of encouraging fossilization. With so much interaction happening in the classroom it is difficult to correct mistakes. As students build confidence and learn to survive in English they may find it difficult to fix more nuance mistakes with so little feedback.
CLL is a useful method for those who want to motivate students from a more humanistic perspective. With this approach, students are actively learning and engaged in various real-world task. Despite the problems, this approach is yet one other way of teaching a target language.