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Communicative Language Teaching - A Guide


The language teaching methodologies have been going through a number of transformations over the years. Unquestionably, these changes have led to new pedagogical approaches that have strengthened the efficacy of language teaching. Communicative language teaching(CLT) is one such pedagogical approach that has enhanced the way language is taught and learned. Communicative language teaching as a teaching methodology fosters active learning as students will be actively involved in the learning process.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

Communicative Language Teaching is a methodology by which learners learn language through interaction. The interaction can be with teachers or their peers. The primary objective of CLT is to enable learners to communicate effectively in that second language or foreign language that they are trying to learn.

In CLT, generally, teachers and students do not follow textbook theories for acquiring language skills. However, it focused on building the language skills of students through active learning activities and thus, improving the communication skills in that language. In the past, language teaching and learning were all about grammar rules and learning those rules. Its effectiveness was very low compared to the modern methodologies as they focus on improving the communication skills of the learner in that particular language.

In Communicative language teaching, teachers act as facilitators rather than instructors or lecturers as they will be guiding learners in such a way that they will be able to use the language in a real environment. Now, let us look at the history of CLT to understand, how the language pedagogical approaches have evolved and reached CLT.

History of CLT

The inception of this teaching methodology is believed to have started in the 1960s. It was Noam Chomsky, the American linguistic theorist who has given rise to the communicative language teaching methodology. His theories have accelerated the shift from situational language teaching to CLT. Unlike, communicative language teaching, situational language teaching did not give importance to direct communication. The traditional language teaching approaches did not have much impact as the learners failed to master foreign languages in their true sense or rather failed to communicate effectively.

In the 1970s, when people started traveling from one country to the other for better prospects, second language learning became essential.  A lot of people around the world started migrating to Europe in the hope of better life. Expats had to master foreign languages in order to thrive in their careers.  Prior to this, the opportunity to learn a second language in school was only available to members of the elite classes, making it a sign of privilege. However, migration made it a necessity for all people to learn foreign languages as the need for communication became inevitable. Hence, people started learning different languages.

In addition, the Council of Europe played a vital role in fostering the development of CLT as they realized the inefficacy of situational language teaching. They focused on developing syllabi tailored to meet the requirements of European immigrants. It facilitated the growth of CLT, which later became the main approach for language teaching.

Noam Chomsky pointed out that structural language theories cannot cover the varieties that the spoken language would have. Moreover, linguists like Christopher Candlin and Henry Widdowson emphasized the ineffectiveness of situational language teaching methodologies. Subsequently, the concept of communicative competence gained popularity, and language learning shifted towards approaches that accentuated the importance of functional competence and communication skills.

Classroom Activities to Promote CLT

According to the CLT approaches, learning a language requires effective communication with others. Writing abilities are subordinate to it. As long as a person does not practice speaking in the language they wish to learn, they will not be able to do so fluently. Teachers can set up circumstances in which students can practice their language skills, point out their errors, and offer assistance in fixing them. There are a variety of activities you may run to help language learners improve their language abilities.

As mentioned above, teachers serve as a facilitator in CLT by being available to respond to the students' questions. Additionally, they offer the students feedback based on their performance, assisting them in improving their learning.

Speak, Speak and Speak

Teachers can motivate students to converse in the language they are trying to learn or the target language.  Teachers can correct their mistakes when made, and rectify them. In this way, they are improving their language skills and learning how to communicate well in that language. Teachers can also deliver their lectures in the target language to ensure exposure to the language.

Group Activities

Group activities are the best way to make the students interact with each other. The facilitators can ensure that the students are communicating with each other in the foreign language. When they are given situations to talk with each other in the language, they start thinking in that language and try their best to formulate sentences on their own. Moreover, students will correct each other and will have the scope to learn from each other.


Instructors can give students a topic to talk about for a few minutes. Also, they can give students some time to prepare for that particular topic. When they talk about the topic, the teacher can make a note of the error that the student makes and after the completion of the task, can give them feedback. It gives students a chance to get an idea about the errors they are making while articulating something in that language and hence they try to overcome them.

Information-Gap Activities

For information gap activities, students will have to communicate well with each other to connect the dots. Hence, they will try harder to speak well and understand well. This improves their communication skills and comprehension power. Hence, students will try hard to succeed in the competition through meaningful intelligible communication.


The intention of the article was to give you an overview of what communicative language teaching is all about. It is an effective teaching methodology that demands active participation from the students. This approach has positive results as students will become proficient in the language and will learn to communicate well. This model places more emphasis on the students' communication abilities. This method concentrates more on the practical components of language learning than on the theoretical ones.

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