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UNIT 1:
DIDACTIC EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGES. PRESENT-DAY APPROACHES
TO THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH. THE COMMUNICATIVE
APPROACHES
1. INTRODUCTION
2. FIRST APPROACHES TO THE TEACHING OF MODERN LANGUAGES
2. 1. The grammar-translation method
2. 2. The direct method
3. 20TH CENT. APPROACHES TO THE TEACHING OF MODERN LANGUAGES
3. 1. The audio-lingual method
3. 2. The silent way
3. 3 Suggestopedia
3. 4. Communicative language learning
3. 5. The Total-Physical response method
4. PRESENT-DAY TRENDS: THE COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH
4. 1. Meaning and use
4. 2. Appropriacy
4. 3. Skills and Strategies
4. 4. Syllabus design
4. 5. Methodology
5. CONCLUSION
6. BIBLIOGRAPHY

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1. INTRODUCTION
The need for instruction in other languages has led to a variety of educational
approaches which are aimed at fostering L2 acquisition.
Approaches designed to promote L2 acquisition which have been used since
last century have tended to reflect different views on how a foreign language is
best learned.
2. FIRST APPROACHES TO THE TEACHING OF MODERN LANGUAGES
2.1. The grammar-translation method
It has its roots in the traditional approach to the teaching of Latin. In the first
decades of the 20th century, this method was used for the purpose of helping
students read and appreciate foreign language literature. The principles of this
method are the following:

A fundamental purpose of learning a foreign language is to be able to read


literature written in the target language.

The teacher is the authority in the classroom. Therefore, most of the


interaction in the classroom is from the teacher to the students.

Students are taught to translate from one language to another. They study
grammar deductively (they are given the grammar rules and examples, are
told to memorize them and then are asked to apply the rules to other
examples).

Vocabulary and grammar are emphasized. Reading and writing are the
primary skills that the students work on.

Evaluation is accomplished through written tests (translation from their


native language to the target language or vice versa, questions about the
foreign culture, etc.).

If the students make errors or dont know the answer the teachers supplies
them with the correct answer.

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2. 1. The direct method


It recreates the exposure that young children have in language acquisition.
This method receives its name from the fact that meaning is to be connected
directly with the target language, without going through the process of translating
into the students native language. The principles of this method are the following:

Although the teacher directs the class activities, the student role is less
passive than in the previous method.

Teachers who use this method intend that students learn how to
communicate in the target language.

When the teacher introduces a new target language word or phrase, he


demonstrates its meaning through the use of realia, pictures or pantomime.
Students speak in the target language a great deal and communicate as if
they were in real situations.

Grammar is taught inductively (the students are presented with examples


and they figure the rules for the examples).

The initiation of the interaction goes from teacher to students and from
students to teacher. Students converse with one another as well.

Vocabulary is emphasized over grammar. Oral communication is seen as


basic. Thus the reading and writing exercises are based upon what the
students practice orally first.

The students native language should not be used in the classroom.

Evaluation: The students might be interviewed orally by the teacher or


might be asked to write a paragraph about something they have studied.

3.

The teacher tries to get students to self-correct whenever possible.


20th CENTURY APPROACHES TO THE TEACHING OF MODERN

LANGUAGES
3. 1. The audio-lingual method

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It was developed in the United States during World War II. At that time there
was a need for people to learn foreign languages rapidly for military purposes.
This approach was strongly influenced by a belief that the fluent use of a language
was essentially a set of habits which could be developed with a lot of practice.
The principles of this method are the following:

Teachers want their students to be able to use the target language


communicatively.

The teacher directs and controls the language behaviour of his/her


students.

New vocabulary and structures are presented through dialogues that are
learned through imitation and repetition. Grammar is induced from the
examples given.

There is a student-to-student interaction in chain drills or when students


take different roles in dialogues. Most of the interaction is between teacher
and students and it is initiated by the teacher.

The natural order of skills presentation is adhered to listening, speaking,


reading and writing.

Evaluation: Students might be asked to distinguish between words in a


minimal pair, for example, or to supply an appropriate verb form in a
sentence.
3. 2. The silent way

Cognitive psychologists and transformational-generative linguists argued that


speakers form rules, which allow them to understand and create new utterances.
Thus, language must not be considered a product of habit formation, but rather of
rule formation. Accordingly, language acquisition must be a procedure whereby
people use their own thinking processes to discover the rules of the language they
are acquiring.
The principles of this method are the following:

Students should be able to use the language for self-expression.

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The teacher should give the students only what they need to promote their
learning.

Students begin their study of the language through its basic building
blocks, its sounds.

The teacher sets up situations that focus students attention on the structure
of the language.

Student-student verbal interaction is encouraged.

The teacher assesses student learning all the time. The teacher must be
responsive to immediate learning needs and help them overcome negative
feelings.

Students errors are considered an indispensable part of the learning


process. They are used as a basis for deciding whether further work is
necessary. The teacher works with the students in getting them to selfcorrect
3. 3. Suggestopedia

Suggestopedia, the application of the study of suggestion to pedagogy, has


been developed to help students eliminate the feeling that they cannot be
successful, and thus, help them overcome the barriers of learning.
The principles of this method are the following:

The teacher is the authority in the classroom. The students must trust and
respect him/her.

There is a relaxing environment available. So the students do not need to


try hard to learn the language.

Posters displaying grammatical information about the target language are


hung around the room.

The students work with handouts containing lengthy dialogues in the target
language.

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After listening to the dialogue and reading it, students will realize some
activities to gain facility with the new material: dramatizations, games,
songs, question-and-answer exercises

Vocabulary is emphasized. Grammar is dealt with explicitly but minimally.


It is believed that students will learn best if their conscious attention is
focused on using the language.

Evaluation is usually conducted on students normal class performance and


not through formal tests.
3. 4. Communicative language learning

Students are considered whole persons. This means that teachers consider
not only their students feeling and intellect, but also have some understanding of
the relationship among students, their instinctive protective reactions and their
desire to learn.
This method takes its principle from the counselling- learning approach
developed by Charles A. Curran. He believed that a way to deal with the fears of
students is for teachers to become language counsellors.
The principles of this method are the following:

Teachers who use this method want their students to learn how to use the
target language communicatively. In addition, they want students to learn
about their own learning.

Initially, the teacher structures the class, but later the students may assume
more responsibility for this.

Responding to the students feeling is very important. By showing students


he/she understands how they feel the teacher can help them overcome
negative feelings that might otherwise block their learning.

Language is for communication. The focus shifts from grammar and


sentence formation to a sharing and belonging between persons. Curran
also believes that language is for developing creative thinking.

The most important skills are understanding and speaking the language.

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3. 5. The Total-Physical Response Method


This is an example of a new general approach to foreign language instruction
which has been named the comprehensive approach. It is called this because of
the importance it gives to listening comprehension.
The principles of this method are the following:

Teachers who use this method believe in the importance of having their
students enjoy their experience in learning to communicate in a foreign
language.

Initially, the teacher is the director of all students behaviour. The students
are imitators of her/his non-verbal model.

The instructor issues commands to a few students, then performs the


actions with them. In the second phase, the same students demonstrate that
they can understand the commands by performing them alone.

The teacher next recombines elements of the commands to have students


develop flexibility in understanding unfamiliar utterances. After learning to
respond to some oral commands, the students learn to read and write
them.

4. PRESENT-DAY TRENDS: THE COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH


The most recent approach to L2 teaching that is widely used is generally
described as a communicative approach. It is partially a reaction against the
artificiality of the pattern-practice and also against the belief that consciously
learning the grammar of a language will result in an ability to use the language.
During the last few years, under the influence of the Communicative
approach, language teaching seems to have made a great progress. Syllabus
design has become a good deal more sophisticated and we are able to give our
students a better and more complete picture than before of how language is used.
In methodology, the change has been dramatic. The boring and mechanical
exercises that were so common 15 or 20 years ago have virtually disappeared to

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be replaced by a splendid variety of exciting and engaging practice activities. This


progress in course design has resulted in a real improvement in the speed and
quality of language learning.
The

Communicative

Approach

starts

from

theory

of

language

as

communication. The goal is to attain communicative competence. This notion of


competence set by Hymes comprises not only the abstract abilities that speakers
possess that enable them to produce grammatically correct sentences (Chomskys
view).
Hymes states that, when a native speaker speaks he does not only utter
grammatically correct forms, he also knows where and when to use these
sentences and to whom. Hymes, then, said, that competence by itself is not
enough to explain a native speakers knowledge, and he replaced it with his own
concept of communicative competence. Hymes distinguished four aspects of this
competence:
1. Systematic potential: It means that the native speaker possesses a system that
has a potential for creating a lot of language. This is similar to Chomskys
competence.
2. Appropriacy: the native speaker knows what language is appropriate in a
given situation. His choice is based on the following variables, among others:
setting,

participants,

purpose,

channel,

and

topic.

3. Occurrence means that the native speaker knows how often something is
said

in

the

language

and

act

accordingly.

4. Feasibility means that the native speaker knows whether something is


possible in the language. Even if there is no grammatical rule to ban 20-adjective
prehead construction we know that these constructions are not possible in the
language.
The origins of communicative language teaching (CLT, also called
communicative approach or notional- functional approach) can be traced in the
changes in the British language teaching tradition in the 1960s. That is the time

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when British applied linguists began to call into question some of the theoretical
assumptions underlying Situational Language teaching in different senses, such as:
1. The fact that the current standard structural theories of language did not
account for the fundamental characteristic of language: its creativity.
2.The

fact

that

proper

teaching

method

should

focus

upon

communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastery of structures.


This new approach to language teaching can also be considered as the result of
different efforts and initiatives to give shape to an improved perspective on
language and language teaching. These initiatives can be summarised as follows:
The work of the Council of Europe at the beginning of the 1 970s: a group
of linguists used studies of the needs of European language learners and British
linguist D. A. Wilkins proposed (1972) a functional or communicative definition
of language that could be used as a basis for developing communicative
syllabuses for language teaching. He organised language around systems of
meanings that lay behind the communicative uses of language.
3. The fact that the Council of Europe incorporated this semanticcommunicative analysis into a set of specific requirements for first level
communicative language syllabus These threshold levels specifications have had
a strong influence on the design of communicative language programs and
textbooks in Europe.
4. 1. Meaning and use
There are two levels of meaning in language: usage and use, or
signification and value. Traditional courses taught one of these kinds of
meaning but neglected the other. All kinds of utterances can express intentions
that are not made explicit by the grammatical form in which the utterance is
expressed. For example, the sentence The policeman is crossing the road might

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serve a number of communicative functions, depending on the contextual and/or


situational circumstances in which it was used.
What is perhaps more novel is the suggestion that the value of any utterance in
a given situation can be specified by rules (rules of communication and rules of
use), and that it is our business to teach these rules to our students.
The precise value of an utterance is given by the interaction of its structural
and lexical meaning with the situation in which it is used. For example, if you
indicate that you are hungry, the words Theres some stew in the fridge are
likely to constitute an offer, not because you have learnt a rule about the way
these words can be used, but simply because the utterance takes on that value in
that situation.
Of course, cultures differ somewhat in their behaviour, and these differences
are reflected in language. Although most utterances will retain their value across
language boundaries, problems will arise in specific and limited cases. For
instance, there may be languages where all requests are marked as such, so that a
simple unmarked statement such as Theres a window open cannot function in
these languages as requests.
4. 2. Appropriacy
This is the notion that our choice of language is crucially determined by the
setting in which the language is used, the speakers relationship with the listener,
and similar matters.
So important is this that appropriacy is the real goal of language teaching.
English has a wealth of colloquial, slang and taboo expressions, for instance,
whose use is regulated by complex restrictions. This is an area where the
Communicative Approach has contributed a great deal to the coverage of our
teaching.
The teaching of lexis has certainly been greatly improved by the recent
concern with communicative competence. Teachers and course designers are
more aware than before of the vast range of conventional and idiomatic

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expressions that have to be learnt if a student is to be able to perform ordinary


communicative tasks.

4. 3. Skills and strategies


Discussion of language skills is no longer limited to a consideration of the four
basic skills. We are more inclined nowadays to think in terms of the various
specific types of behaviour that occur when people are producing or
understanding language for a particular purpose in a particular situation, and
there has been a proliferation of sub-skills and strategies in recent teaching
materials.
One of the comprehensive skills that we teach foreigners is that of prediction.
It has often been observed that native listeners/readers make all sorts of
predictions about the nature of what they are about to hear or read, based on their
knowledge of the subject, their familiarity with the speaker or writer, and other
relevant features.
Another strategy that we are encouraged to teach is that of negotiating
meaning. Language learners already know, in general, how to negotiate meaning.
What they do not know is what words are used to do it in a foreign language.
They need lexical items like What do you mean by? Look at this way,
etc.
Guessing, too, is something which learners are apparently unable to do outside
their mother tongue.
The important thing is that students should be exposed to appropriate samples
of language and given relevant and motivating activities to help them learn. This
is what the communicative approach does.
4. 4. Syllabus Design
Defective language learning is often attributed to defective syllabus design: the
student does not learn the language properly because we do not teach the right
things, or because we organize what we teach in the wrong way. Recently the
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attention of linguists has been focused on meaning and it has come to be widely
believed that the secret of successful language teaching lies in incorporating
meaning properly into our syllabuses.
Traditional language courses taught forms, but did not teach what the forms
meant or how to use them. They may indeed have failed to teach people to do
some important things with language. It is also true that many traditional courses
adopted a very mechanical approach to drilling what was taught, that is to say,
meaning was often neglected during the practice phase of a lesson.
Traditional courses taught one kind of meaning (that found in the grammar and
dictionary), but did not teach another kind (the communicative value that
utterances actually have in real-life exchanges). It is this second kind that we
really need to teach.
Traditional courses failed to teach students how to express or do certain things
with language. We must incorporate these things (notions, functions, strategies)
into our syllabuses.
Even if older structure-based language courses taught meanings as well as
forms, they did so very untidily and inefficiently. A communicative syllabus
approaches the teaching of meaning systematically.
For many people, the central idea in communicative teaching is probably
that of a semantic syllabus. In a course based on a semantic syllabus, it is
meanings rather than structures that are give priority, and which form the
organizing principle or skeleton of the textbook. Lessons deal with such matters
as greetings, agreeing and disagreeing, comparisons and so on.
Unfortunately, grammar has not become any easier to learn since the
communicative revolution. Some points of grammar are difficult to learn and need
to be studied in isolation before students can do interesting things with them.
When deciding what to teach to a particular group of learners, we need to take
into consideration several different meaning categories and several different
formal categories. We must make sure that our students are taught to operate key
functions such as, for example, greeting, agreeing or warning. They are also
taught basic notions such as size, definiteness, texture or ways of moving, and to
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discuss topics which correspond to their main interests and needs (music,
football). At the same time we shall need to draw up lists of phonological
problems that will need attention, as well as lists of high-priority structures and
vocabulary that our students will need to learn.
A great deal of language does involve knowing what is conventionally said in
familiar situations (interrupting, asking for something, correcting oneself and so
on). This stereotyped, idiomatic side of language accounts for a substantial
proportion of the things we say, and this is the area in which the Communicative
Approach is perhaps mainly concerned.
Not all language, of course, is stereotyped. Students need to learn to say new
things as well as old things. To sum up, one might say that there are two kinds of
language: stereotyped and creative. Semantic syllabuses are needed to help us
teach the first; only structural lexical syllabuses will enable us to teach the
second.
Language work should involve genuine exchanges, and classroom discourse
should correspond as closely as possible to real-life use of language.
4. 5. Methodology
Each individual in a class already possess a vast private store of knowledge,
opinions and experiences, and each individual has an imagination which is
capable of creating whole scenarios at moments notice.
In fact, it is obviously desirable to use both scripted and authentic material at
different points in a language course for different reasons. Scripted material is
useful for presenting specific language items economically and effectively: the
course designer has total control over the input, and can provide just the linguistic
elements he/she wishes. Authentic material gives students a taste of real language
in use, and provides them with valid linguistic data for their unconscious
acquisition processes to work on.
5. CONCLUSION

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To sum up, I would like to say that the theories of learning and teaching
languages I have mentioned here must lead us to the conclusion that a sensible
methodological approach to the teaching of languages should take into account
both input practice and communicative output. While students need a lot of
input, and while there must be an emphasis on communicative activities that
improve the students ability to communicate, there is also place for controlled
presentation of input and semi-controlled practice. What is required in the
classroom is a balanced approach of input and output. This balance is the
essential ingredient of the methodology, both for pedagogical reasons and for our
students continuing interests in foreign language learning.
6. BIBLIOGRAPHY
Brumfit, C. and Johnson, K. The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching.
OUP. Oxford, 1981.
Harmer, J. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman. London, 1983.
Howatt, A.P.R. A History of English Language Teaching. OUP. Oxford, 1981
Johnson, K. Communicative Syllabus Design and Methodology. OUP. Oxford,
1982,
Littlewood, W. Communicative Language Teaching. CUP. Cambridge, 1981.
Stem H. H. Fundamental Concepts in language teaching, OLJP 1983.

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