Communicative Approach in English Teaching

By Helen Torres,2014-01-15 09:34
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Communicative Approach in English Teaching

Communicative Approach in English Teaching

    [Abstract] Language is a means of communication. Although it is not the only form of communication among human beings, it is certainly the most important. English teaching is to teach the students how to communicate with each other, to train the students’ good and complete language ability ——- to express their ideas correctly

    and to easily adjust themselves to every kind of social situation. English teaching is a case in point. This paper is to discuss some problems of present English teaching approach, to state the principles and advantages of communicative approach, and to give some advice on how to make the English class more communicative and improve the students’ ability of listening and speaking.

     KEY WORDS: communicative approach the ability of listening and speaking simulation communicative activities

     [摘要]语言是交流的工具, 尽管语言不是人类交流的唯一方式,但它却是人类交流最重要的

    一种方式 英语教学旨在教会学生如何进行交际, 培养学生良好的完整的语言能力——正确




     关键词: 交际法 听说能力 交际活动 情景

    Communicative Approach in English Teaching

    I. Problems in the present English teaching and causes of these problems

     As present, English teaching reform has been carried out in schools, some teaching reform has been succeeded, but there are still some problems in English teaching. The students who have had several years of training in English are still unable to actually use the language. For example, the students can’t understand what

    the teachers have said and they can’t express themselves, their ability of listening

    and speaking is not up to standard. They can’t communicate with others in English.

    What they have learned is only used in examination. Many people believe that is is because the teachers do not do their job properly. Actually, many teachers ignore the importance of the students’ ability of listening and speaking. Now the teachers

    have been faced with the problem of improving the students’ ability of listening and speaking.

    English teaching reform is carried out on a national-wide scale, how do we evaluate it? Most of headmasters and teachers only pay attention to the marks of the entrance examination. It seems that some students have got high marks in examination, but their listening and speaking are very poor, they can’t communicate with what they have learned. Secondary school students have taken six years to master the essential of English and still are not able to speak the language well in many cases. In essence, the students’ language ability is incomplete.

     Furthermore, many teachers think that they have taught the basic knowledge of the language to students; it is simple enough for the students to use the knowledge, later, to communicate. However, it wrong to think that knowledge of how sentences are used in communication follows from knowledge of the correct way to make them. The thought of teachers is also a reason resulting in the fact ——- the students’

    language is incomplete. Investigating the west education of foreign language, we can

    find that the teachers never divide the four abilities in their teaching. They always put the training students’ speaking ability at the first place, they drill the students’ listening ability in the whole communicative process. So our teachers face

    with the problem of changing our teaching methods to improve the students’ ability of listening and speaking.

    II. Introduce the communicative approach

    1. The definition of communicative approach

    Communicative approach refers to the theory of teaching according to the principle that the students and teachers should genuinely communicate with each other using the target language.

    2. Two principles of communicative approach

     Among the numerous principles of communicative approach, there are two pieces of principles, which are more important in China’s English teaching.

    .2.1 Create more realistic situation

     The current teaching methods don’t emphasize the real world situations and fail

    to cultivate students’ spontaneity. Artificial conventions and mechanical question-and-answer sequences fall short of the flexible, spontaneous kind of communicative interaction required for performing a task with the context of situation relevant to the real world. Such classroom teaching forces learners to talk about things that are not of their own choosing and not based on their actual needs. Instead, they are provided with a rigid set of guided structures in isolation. Taught in this way, the learners frequently fail when they are faced with the read to produce the language related to a specific situation.

    Simulation techniques seem to be a better alternative, as they seek to place learners in a situation where they are asked to take on different roles and to. accomplish their specific tasks, including problem solving. They offer an opportunity for the learners to practise using the language in the right place at the right time and as appropriately as possible.

     The most obvious advantage of these kind techniques is that it puts the learners in realistic situations. By simulating the physical circumstances of certain situations, the students can have the opportunity to use and to practice the sort of language, particularly the vocabulary related to that situation, so that learners are rehearsed for real life. In addition, they can express what they want to say whenever the situation calls for it. The teacher provides the best conditions for learning through creating the realist situation.

    2.2 The class should be students-centered

     The focus of classroom should be shifted from the teacher to students. The present teaching in China, however, is just the opposite; the class is just mainly teacher-centered.

     The teacher does most the talking and always has the whole class under his strict control by lecturing, questioning, correcting students and often supplying correct answers to the exercises.

     In such a class, the teacher is obviously the most authoritative person. Students always act according to what the teacher wants them to accomplish put not

what they themselves want to accomplish.

     Such kind of teachers’ role, in fact, encourages the students to depend too

    much on teachers without thinking independently. So it appears that sometimes, even if the students have understood the text they are reading, they do not have the courage to speak out when called upon, for fear that they may not be right. As a result, the long-term practice of teacher-centeredness in education has actually lessened the opportunities for the students to analyze and judge things for themselves, and it has possibly encouraged the students’ laziness in thinking. Giving up their natural instincts for active thinking, they may spend most of their time copying from the blackboard, following the teacher’s talk and taking the note. Too much of this will harm the students’ initiatives and reduce their enthusiasm in study.

     The class should be learners-centered. Communicative approach makes learners to be themselves and requires the classroom instructor to play a secondary role, trying to keep focus on the students not on himselfs and encouraging students to communicate among themselves. The teacher is expected to “lead from behind”, i.e,

    to act more as adviser and to participate in the interactions if possible. The teacher should allow full scope for his students’ spontaneous learning process and give more

    opportunities for the students to talk, perform and express their own ideas. In this way, the students will no longer feel inferior. Gradually, they will form a positive attitude toward English studying. The proposed teachers’ role in the classroom is significant not only for classroom methodological reasons, but also, as we shall see, for its effect on human relationships in classroom. This relationship will contribute favorably to effective learning.

     The role and relationship between the teacher and students are fixed by the students-centered principle. It is to say that the students are the main part in communication, while the teacher helps the students to communicate. The teacher can play several roles in the class: he directs the class activities, designs the scene of communication, and also he is a consultant —— guiding the communication and

    solving the problems in communication. At the same time, the teacher should be a partner of communication —— he takes part in the students’ communication. Of course, the students should throw themselves into communication actively. They can learn the target language through communication, and improve their listening and speaking ability through communication.

    These two pieces of principle, of course, will not solve all the problems, for communication teaching does not only involve methods and techniques but also material development, testing, class organization and possibly the retraining of the staff. These big issues have to be dealt with if a genuine communicative approach is to be followed.

    The communicative approach is an effective teaching method, which helps the students to develop the ability to use a new language practically. In specific language environment, it requires the students to communicate each other in the language they are learning. The students and teachers should put themselves into the “real” scene. Gradually, they accumulate the perceptual knowledge of English and then develop the sensibility of this language, thus, to achieve the purpose of

    grasping a language. Communicative approach, on the one hand, emphasizes teaching the students the real language; on the other hand, emphasizes that the students are the hubs of the class. The teacher should just organize and guide the students to have the communicative activities. From some aspects, we can say in the communicative activity, the process is more important than the result. So the teacher must arouse the students’ enthusiasm to the rein of their subjective initiative completely. It can not only avoid the drawbacks of grammar translation methods but also eliminate the ignorance of the students’ listening and speaking ability. It requires the stressing of listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also emphasizes the meaningful real communication. So in the teaching process, it sets up some language models which can be used in the real communication. Its focal point is to train the students to use the language in communicative circumstance. it helps the students to develop the skill of listening and speaking. It gives the students the chances to participate in the teaching activities. The aim of teaching English is to develop the student’s ability of using language communicative ability. We say the process of teaching is the process of communication, so English teaching should use the communicative approach.

    Achieve the goal of English teaching through communicative approach

    English is an international language. One of the most frequently given reason in today’s China for the teaching of English is that it affords “ a window on the

    world”. Moreover, as the result of frequent, contacts among people in differe nations,

    the ability of listening and speaking becomes more important. We accept that the purpose of learning a foreign language is to enable the learner to behave in such a way that he can participate to some degree and for certain purpose as a member of a community other than his own. Teachers, who adopt the traditional method of teaching, neglect the ability of students’ listening and speaking. Now the teachers have faced

    with the problem of improving the students’ ability of listening and speaking. But now we lack the environment of studying foreign language, and our English lessons are limited. Under these circumstances, communicative approach is a good method to improve the students’ ability of listening and speaking.

    In China, nowadays the teaching of English plays a very important role in socialist modernization. The world is the hope-for-world of economic growth, advanced technology and applied science. The role of English,

     In the teaching of English, the basic questions are why the students are learning English and what the students will use the language for. We think that the purpose of learning a foreign language is to enable the learner to behave in such a way that he can participate to some degree and for certain purposes as a member of a communicative with each other, and so the ability of listening and speaking is very important. We always talk about listening and speaking together. We must be aware of the fact that oral communication is a two-way process between speakers and listeners. In our class, both the teacher and students are speakers and listeners. Thus the speakers do not always imitate, they also respond to what they have heard (e.g. answering a question or making a comment). While the listeners do not always remain silent —— they are normal expected to make some sort of response.

     The old methods of learning a language are slow. Secondary school students have taken six years to master the essentials of English and still are not able to speak the language well in many cases. The traditional methods of teaching do not allow the learners to express their own ideas, activities and personality, which is though t to be important especially for students. For example, mechanical drills do not allow the students to express their own ideas, therefore , they will not be interested in listening, their listening efficient will be impaired. Under the present situation, communicative approach is a better way to improve our English teaching. For the teachers, the new method means more varieties to devise the lessons; for the students as well, the new method more opportunities to practice their listening and speaking, and to have the freedom to express themselves. Thus, the communicative approach makes the teaching more fulfilling. Just as some linguists have said: “English language teaching should be made of communication by communication and for communication.”


     English language teaching is an interdisciplinary subject for which human communication is an important source. The communicative approach is no doubt a manifestation of how this theory can be applied in the students’ English learning. It is a good teaching method to improve the students’ ability of listening and

    speaking. We should appreciate what it has contributed to us. In China, there are really many problems in English teaching, we must adopt the communicative approach. Good teaching is just good communication, thus, English teachers should make the communicative teaching by communication and for communication.


     1. Alan Juffs, An introduction to Communicative Methodology in English Teaching, Hunan Province Service Foreign Language Association, 1984

    2. H.G.Widdowson, Teaching Language as Communication, 上海外语教育出版社?1994

    3. Kenneth T. Hensen, Methods and Strategies for Teaching in Secondary and Middle Schools, Longman New York, 1992

    4. Raymond S.Ross, Speech Communication Fundamentals and Practice, Prentice-hall, 1980

     5. William Littlewood, Communicative Language Teaching, Oxford The University Press, 1991

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