quinta-feira, 28 de janeiro de 2010

COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH



Over the last couple of decades there have been some important changes in the way people think about languages and how people learn them which have led to the development of an approach called communicative language teaching (CLT). Communicative language teaching is not single, narrowly defined methodology ; rather, it is based on a set of related principles that are widely accepted among language teachers today.

Central to the communicative approach is the perception that language is not just a system of rules, but “ a dynamic source for the creation of meaning” (Nunan,1989). CLT tends to place more importance on the needs of learners as they actually use the language than on the abstracted study of the language itself. Grammar is not ignored in the communicative classroom, for students need to be able to use the grammar effectively for others to be able to understand them. However, CLT de-emphasizes language knowledge (being able to recite a rule) in favor of language use (being able to construct a correct sentences in a meaningful context).

The shift in emphasis from the language itself to the language needs of the learner in a particular environment has led to greater flexibility in the syllabus and an increased focus on language tasks. Tasks are the activities that give rise to language. Ideally, these resemble the kinds of situations that learners would encounter in real life as they attempt to communicate in the second language. Therefore, for a group of students whose goal is to work in hotels where there are many English-speaking guests, and appropriate task might be to role play a situation between a hotel desk clerk and a visitor wishing to book a room. While not all language tasks can be so directly related to student needs, at the least tasks in the CLT classroom provide opportunities for students to express their individual interests and involve the natural use of language in realistic situations.

Those who write about communicative methodology (e.g., Brumfit) tend to draw a clear distinction between fluency and accuracy. With activities designed to promote fluency (e.g., free discussion or making daily entries in a journal), the main purpose is to get students using the language. When students engage in this type of activity, the teacher does not usually intervene to make corrections-in fact, to do so may be counterproductive. However, in activities where there is a focus on accuracy (e.g., students are asked to make a sentence using a particular structure), such teacher intervention is appropriate.

Finally, CLT tends to view success in terms of whether or not students have developed certain well-defined skills. According to adherents of this approach, successful language learners are those who are able to: a) manipulate the linguistic system; b) distinguish between the forms mastered and the communicative functions which they perform; c) use feedback to judge their success; d) recognize the social meaning of language forms (Littlewood, 1981).

The following descriptions indicate how ELS Language Centers can be said to follow a communicative approach within each course in our typical programs:

1. Structure/Speaking Practice. This is the basic “grammar” course, but is organized so that students’ practice with the language is of primary importance. The text used, Interchange, is filled with exercises (tasks) that get students to use various structures in realistic situations. For example , after learning about the past with “used to,” students circulate to find out which of their classmates used to go jogging as a teenager.

2. Conversation. The focus of Conversation is building fluency. In this class, students have the opportunity to talk about a variety of subjects relevant to their age and interests and learn a great deal of vocabulary while doing so. Smoking in public places, parent-child relations, dating, ethical questions on the job, what to take with you to a desert island are typical of the kinds of topics discussed. Frequently, students work in a small groups or pairs so that individuals have more chance to speak.

3. Reading. The Reading course combines individualized reading with skills teaching, a teacher-led activity during which students focus on important reading skills such as predicting content, identifying the main idea of a passage, skimming, scanning, drawing inferences and conclusions, etc. The communicative aspect of this course relates to the emphasis on skills development, the attempt to select readings which are interesting and relevant, and the opportunity given to students to choose from the materials which they can read on their own.

4. Writing. The writing class is similar to Reading in that it alternates between periods of overt skills teaching and those during which students work on individualized writing projects. The emphasis is tutorial, and the goal is to improve each student’s ability to communicate in writing. In this class students also have a great deal of choice in terms of the topics in the terms of the topics they decide to write on.

5. Multi-Media Lab. This class is an individualized study course par excellent, with an emphasis on developing listening comprehension skills. Students are able to choose the medium in which they work (audio, video, computer) as well as from among the various programs that are available at their level. The lower-level programs contain stated language objectives but it is expected that students using the upper-level programs (many of which were not developed specifically for ESL students) will learn language as a result of their interest in and exposure to the specific content.

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