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Understanding Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

  • Feb 2, 2022
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 Understanding Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

In today's times, the world calls for more dialogue and communication. With globalization becoming a buzzword, students are taking a more active interest in learning new languages. To meet this growing demand, teaching methods are slowly evolving to make room for interactive language education. 

Teaching a new language is a daunting task, and there are numerous approaches you can take. The traditional route involves long lectures on grammar, adjectives, verbs and all the other boring stuff. But the million dollar question is, does this theoretical approach actually help students learn how to speak the language in the real world?

Well, not really. They might be able to write down a grammatically correct sentence, but speaking the language fluently is a whole different ball game.  

Enter Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), an interactive teaching method that focuses on teaching students how to speak languages like a true native. But what is CLT, and how does it help? Let's dive further into this article to familiarise you with its nitty-gritty.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

In the late sixties, applied linguists in the UK and USA began questioning teaching traditions in language education. They emphasised on the need for language teaching on communicative proficiency, rather than mastery of structures.

This brought attention to the untapped functional and communicative potential of language. Hence, the birth of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).

CLT is essentially an approach for foreign language teaching, rooted in interaction and practical application of knowledge - i.e. the CLT approach emphasises learning a language via communication and interaction. Instead of relying on another language to teach, the same language is used as both the means and the end.

What Comprises CLT?

In a larger sense, CLT includes how you teach a language, the type of classroom activities that best enhance learning, and the responsibilities of educators in a classroom setting. 

Is language learning complete if you can't make use of it in the real world? Not at all. Ideally, students  would want the confidence to speak in that language fluently, enough to not think too long before speaking.

CLT includes language learning activities where the students use the language they're learning to interact amongst themselves and subsequently in the real world.

Here, teachers aren't in assertive roles, they act as facilitators for interactive discussions instead. The CLT approach leaves room for errors. After all, you do learn a lot from mistakes. 

Thanks to CLT's principle of fluency above accuracy, students finally have a fair chance to grab the gift of gab!

What’s the Importance of CLT?

Earlier perspectives on languages focused mostly on grammatical and written proficiency. But, they don’t help you "use the language" in a real-life context.

Being able to properly form sentences isn’t enough when you learn a language. The idea is to interact with other natives fluently. Adopting CLT as your teaching methodology can help students do this. Moreover, activity-based learning and interaction also helps students come out of their shells and understand the culture better. 

The CLT approach shifts from the traditional passive and teacher-dominant education methods to a more collaborative way of learning. The focus is on active interaction-based learning between students, where the gap between theory and practice is reduced to an absolute minimum.

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