CLT or a task-based approach is not a panacea to language teaching. There are numerous challenges to making communicative language teaching happen. These issues have to do with the choice of content, context, specific skill areas (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, etc.), and particular learning tasks that determine a curriculum.
These choices are tightly linked to questions about what it means to ―know‖ a language, to be proficient in a language, and what communicative abilities entail. While the literature on language teaching has attempted to provide answers to such questions, there are no universally accepted standards. The proficiency and standards movements have attempted to provide some guidelines, but they often remain broad in learner performance descriptions. This ultimately makes assessment of individual learners‘ communicative ability challenging, and it essentially leaves judgment of learner progress up to the teachers.
Communicative abilities cannot be simply categorized as speaking, listening, reading, or writing skills, as it was done in a traditional four skills approach. For example, when two people talk to each other, the process normally involves speaking and listening skills as well as active communicative strategies such as asking for clarification and adjusting language to make each other understood. The endeavor to teach languages in a way that encompasses all skills, based on an interactive view of language behavior, has posed many challenges on how to go about integrating the four skills effectively in a daily and long-term curriculum.
The teaching of proficiency and communicative-based skills raises the question not only about content but also about the choice of learning tasks or best teaching practices. CLT does not promote one standardized method or curriculum, but is eclectic in its approach. Being eclectic means it promotes the best or most effective techniques or methodologies. At the same time, the choice of techniques and learning tasks is not an arbitrary decision, but is firmly grounded in principles of learning as they are motivated by research in second language acquisition (SLA) and educational psychology. Learning what constitutes effective ways of learning and teaching initially requires intensive training and in the long run staying in touch with current SLA research findings.
As a last point, the quality of CLT also often depends on the quality of teaching materials. Unfortunately, only in the most commonly taught languages—such as English, Spanish, French, and German—does an abundance of materials exist to support the development of communicative language abilities over a wide range of skills.
Read the following activities and select the one that is in line with a communicative approach:
- A Students are asked to write a dialogue on the blackboard and read it out loud.
- B Students are asked to write a business letter to respond to a complaint by a customer
- C A video of a meeting is played and students are asked to repeat the pronunciation of a greeting.
- D Students complete the missing words in a newspaper report and then use these words to write a new report.
- E The teacher plays music, asks students to close their eyes and imagine, for one minute, that they are animals, birds, trees, or flowers.