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Richards Perspective On Clt And Teaching Conversation English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1421 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Majority of language instructors presume CLT as “teaching conversation”, “an absence of grammar” or “an emphasis on open ended discussion activities” (Richards 2003) while according to what Jack C. Richards mentioned in his “communicative language teaching today” CLT “can be understood as a set of principles about the goals of language teaching, how learners learn a language, the kind of classroom activities that best facilitate learning, and the roles of teachers and learners in the classroom”. This vapid insipid thought, however, should not be regarded as plausible. Flashing back to the early days of CLT, we see it as an offspring of Audio-lingual Method although it had its focus shifted from behaviorism to real learner’s needs. On the other hand, looking at its new up-to-date version, we see a great shift from meaning-form based to be totally meaning based. That is why Richards concretely explains CLT as letting the learner grab the language” through using it to do things rather than through studying how language works and practicing rules” or “people learn a language through communicating it”. Richards named these two versions of CLT. He asserted that the first one is classical CLT, starting from 1970s to 1990s and the latter one is current CLT. He called all the previous methods Traditional approaches. This study examines the first two methods with a brief introduction on the third one.

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Traditional Approaches (up to late 1960s)

Traditional approaches is a term used by Richards to refer to approaches like ALM or structural-situational approach; also known as situational language teaching. The entire curriculum in these methods shed lights on grammar, that is, every aspect of a language class, from teaching to evaluation, revolves around grammar and its appropriate use in appropriate context. Although traditional methods have some parts in accordance with the current culture and they use dialogues as a prominent exercise, all the parts are for the purpose of mastering the grammar not for reaching communicative competence-using the appropriate language in the real context. To clear everything up let’s walk through approach:

1.”Students first hear a model dialogue (either by the teacher or on tape)”. In this procedure students are introduced to the new grammar rule with reminding the previous forms studied via a cultural text. After listening to the dialogue students are supposed to repeat each line after the teacher or the tape. The instructor here pays careful attentions to “pronunciation, intonation, and fluency” .corrections are immediate and direct even if they interrupt the flow of speech.

2. Key words of the dialogue are changed repeatedly through practice-with actually keeping the grammar rule the same- to help the learner stick the grammar rule in to their mind.

3. Some selected grammatical rules will be the focus of the following exercises. These exercises are structured on the basis of over repetition to make the grammar a part of subconscious mind. That is using it spontaneously when it’s needed. All the exercises are controlled to ban any type of possible mistake; actually, creativity is not welcomed at all in these methods. Some grammatical explanation may be offered at this point, but this is kept to absolute minimum.

4. After oral exercises come the written ones. Students may be referred to their text books to have some reading, writing or vocabulary activities on the basis of the dialogue presented.

5. Further practice to thoroughly master the form is done in the language laboratory.

In sum Richards brings up the P-P-P lesson structure:

Presentation: is actually the presentation of the new grammar point inductively. The instructor explains the new structure and makes sure of students comprehension of it.

Practice: In a “controlled context” students practice the use of the grammar point.

Production: In a much freer context, and yet controlled, students —with the teacher`s monitoring-use their own c1ontent or information for furthered practice, in order to develop fluency with the new pattern.

All these syllabus designs lead to great accuracy at the cost of loosing fluency. However, under the influence of CLT all the form-based methodologies are modified to be in sync with communicative competence .this fluency-first pedagogy have accuracy activities such as such as grammar practice been replaced by fluency activities based on interactive small-group work. This approach paves the way for Richard`s Classic Communicative Language teaching.

Classic Communicative Language Teaching (1970s to 1990s)

This method was a reaction to traditional ones modifying them by the insertion of Communicative competence. As explained in Richard`s applied linguistic dictionary, the term communicative competence is broken down to 4 parts:

Grammatical competence: that is the knowledge of the grammar, vocabulary, morphology and phonology of a language. GC was of highest importance in all traditional methods. It is argued in CLT that communicative competence and not simply grammatical competence ,should be the goal of language teaching

Sociolinguistic competence: according to Richard`s Dictionary of Applied Linguistics it is

“Knowledge of the relationship between language and its nonlinguistic context, knowing how to use and respond appropriately to different types of speech acts, such as requests, apologies, thanks, and invitations knowing which address form should be used”

It is highly associated with interlocutors” age, sex, and ethnic groups. Traditional grammatical and vocabulary syllabuses and teaching methods did not include information of this kind. It was assumed that this kind of knowledge would be picked up informally.

Discourse competence: the knowledge of knowing how to begin and end conversations.

Strategic competence: the communicative strategies used for covering the weakness in conveying the message in communications.

In former methods, i.e. traditional grammatical and vocabulary syllabi, there is no trace of these kinds of information. They were believed to be learned informally. However, Richards (2003) argues that “communicative competence and not simply grammatical competence should be the goal of language teaching”. He added some more practical aspect of language use to this new method to make it more tangible:

Purposes for which the leaner wishes to acquire the target language

The setting in which the student want to use the target language

Role of the learners, for instance, as a traveler, as a sales person talking to their clients.

Communicative competence: “everyday situations, vocational or professional situations, academic situations and so on.” ( 2003)

Language functions: “what the learner will be able to do with or through language”

Discourse and rhetorical skills

He also added “grammatical content” and “lexical content” to make his method comprehensive

He defined two types of syllabus: skill-based syllabus, functional syllabus. In the first one the main focus is on four skills -speaking, reading, writing, and speaking- this one sort of covers ESP (English for specific purposes) in a way that it gives each skill its specific look by the use of needs analysis. Usually it overcomes the differences in vocabulary choice, grammar, functions, and particular skills. The latter one, however, consider the functions the students should be able to carry out in English. This syllabus best suits speaking and listening courses.

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Current communicative language teaching ( from 1990s up to current time)

This new up-to-date version of CLT mainly focuses on students’ needs and learning. According to Richards this method is a set of “agreed upon principles” that help the learner acquire the language with the respect of “social nature of learning”. They usually give more attention to unity of language through current methodologies of communication and interaction. In short, it could be said that giving more attention to psychological aspects of learning led to the emergence new CLT.


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