ESL job interview question: What do you know about communicative language teaching method?

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Communicative language teaching method originated in the late 1960s. The theoretical precursor of this method is probably Firth but others including Halliday, Hymes, Austin and Searle have made major contributions to it. It covers all four language skills, focuses on meaningful oral and written communication. 

Language teaching is based on a view of language as communication, i.e. language is seen as a social tool that learners use to communicate for some purpose, either orally or in writing. Diversity is recognized and accepted as part of language development and use in second language learners and users, as it is with first language users.  A learner’s competence is considered in relative, not in absolute, terms. More than one variety of the language is recognized as a viable model for learning and teaching. Culture is recognized as instrumental in shaping speaker’s communicative competence, in both their first and subsequent languages. No single methodology or fixed set of techniques is prescribed. Language use is recognized as serving ideational, interpersonal, and textual functions and is related to the development of learner’s competence in each. It is essential that learners be engaged in doing things with language, i.e. that they use language for a variety of purposes in all phases of learning (Hamdy 2007). 

Communicative language teaching emerged as the norm in second language and immersion teaching. As a broadly-based approach, there are any number of definitions and interpretations. Classroom goals are focused on all of the components (grammatical, discourse, functional, sociolinguistic, and strategic) of communicative competence. Goals therefore must intertwine the organizational aspects of language with the pragmatic. Language techniques are designed to engage learners in the pragmatic, authentic, functional use of language for meaningful purposes. Organizational language forms are not the central focus, but rather aspects of language that enable the learner to accomplish those purposes. Fluency and accuracy are seen as complementary principles underlying communicative techniques. At times fluency may have to take on more importance than accuracy in order to keep learners meaningfully engaged in language use. 

Students in a communicative class ultimately have to use the language, productively and receptively, in unrehearsed contexts outside the classroom. Classroom tasks must therefore equip students with the skills necessary for communication in those contexts. Students are given opportunities to focus on their own learning process through an understanding of their own styles of learning and through the development of appropriate strategies for autonomous learning. 

The role of the teacher is that of facilitator and guide, not an all-knowing of knowledge. Students are therefore encouraged to construct meaning through genuine linguistic interaction with others (Brown 2001). One major feature of communicative language teaching is pair and group work. This type of work is suggested to encourage students to use and practice functions and forms. That helps the students to become more independent and to accept responsibility. 

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