THE COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH (1960s-2000s)
The Communicative Approach was originally developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen, this acquisition-focused approach sees communicative competence progressing through three stages: (a) aural comprehension, (b) early speech production, and (c) speech activities, all fostering "natural" language acquisition, much as a child would learn his/her native tongue. Following an initial "silent period", comprehension should precede production in speech, as the latter should be allowed to emerge in natural stages or progressions. Lowering of the Affective Filter is of paramount importance. Only the target language is used in class now, introducing the "total immersion" concept for the very first time, with auditory input for the student becoming paramount.
Errors in speech are not corrected aloud. Now enters the era of glossy textbooks, replete with cultural vignettes, glossaries, vocabulary lists, and glazed photographs. A deliberate, conscious approach to the study of grammar is considered to have only modest value in the language learning process. Pairing off of students into small groups to practice newly acquired structures becomes the major focus. Visualization activities that often times make use of a picture file, slide presentations, word games, dialogues, contests, recreational activities, empirical utterances, and realia provide situations with problem-solving tasks which might include the use of charts, maps, graphs, and advertisements, all to be performed on the spot in class. Now the classroom becomes more student-centered with the teacher allowing for students to output the language more often on their own. Formal sequencing of grammatical concepts is kept to a minimum.
Since communication is a process, it is insufficient for students to simply have knowledge of target language forms, meanings, and functions. Students must be able to apply this knowledge in negotiating meaning. It is through the interaction between speaker and listener (reader and writer) that meaning becomes clear.
The Principles of the Communicative Approach
1) The goals are to become communicatively competent, able to use the language appropriate for a given social context, to manage the process of negotiating meaning with interlocutors.
2) Teacher facilitates students’ learning by managing classroom activities, setting up communicative situations. Students are communicators, actively engaged in negotiating meaning.
3) Activities are communicative. They represent an information gap that needs to be filled. Speakers have a choice of what to say and how to say it. They receive feedback from the listener that will verify that a purpose has been achieved. Authentic materials are used. Students usually work in small groups.
4) Teacher initiates interactions between students and participates sometimes. Students interact a great deal with each other in many configurations.
5) Emphasis is on developing motivation to learn through establishing meaningful, purposeful things to do with the target language. Individuality is encouraged, as well as cooperation with peers which both contribute to sense of emotional security with the target language.
6) Language is for communication. Linguistic competence must be coupled with an ability to convey intended meaning appropriately in different social contexts. Culture is the everyday lifestyle of native speakers of the target language.
7) Functions are emphasized over forms with simple forms learned for each function at first, then more complex forms. Students work at discourse level. They work on speaking, listening, reading, and writing from the beginning.
8) The students’ native language has no particular role in the communicative approach.
9) A teacher evaluates not only his students’ accuracy, but also their fluency.
10) Errors of form are tolerated and are seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills.