REINFORCING THE UNDERSTANDING OF GRAMMAR AMONG ESL LEARNERS THROUGH COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING
For most people, the essence of language lies in grammar (Nunan, 1999). However, for second and foreign language learners, mastering the target language grammar is always a problem. Hence, it is vital that ESL teachers find out more on how to improve their learners’ knowledge of the target language grammar (Embi and Mohd Amin, 2010). Traditionally, grammar was considered as prescriptive, that is by telling pupils the grammar rules they should know and how they should speak and write. However, the teaching of grammar for the past decades has undergone a significant change in people’s traditional attitudes and approaches. Changes have been taking place and more teachers have been paying attention to the spoken English and discourse structure, making out between language use and language usage (Celce-Murcia, 1991).
COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is regarded as a key innovation in language teaching in England in the 1970’s, as it focuses on developing learners’ communicative competence in the target language (Nikian et. al., 2016). Ramasivam and Nair (2019) view that Communicative Language Teaching is a teaching approach which highlights the teaching of communicative competence; it is based on the principle of language as communication or a social tool that speakers use to make meaning.
Communicative activities in general encourage students to learn in creative and meaningful ways while promoting fluency (Richards and Rodgers, 2010). Richards and Rogers (2010) also highlight that “language learning is best served when students are interacting, completing a task, learning content or resolving real life issues as the goal of language is to develop communicative competence”.
PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING
Meaning is given prime importance: The main focus of the approach is to make the learners able to understand the intention and expression of the writers and speakers.In this approach, communicative functions are more important rather than linguistic structures. Littlewood (1981: 1) states that “one of the most important features of communicative language teaching is that it pays systematic attention to functional as well as structural aspects of language, combine these into a more fully communicative view’’.
The target language is used in the classroom. The target language is a medium for class room communication, not just the object of study (Larsen-Freeman, 2000). This is important as if the learners continue to use their native languages, they will not be able to communicate in the target language. It is believed that native language should be used judiciously. Richards and Rodgers (1986) state that language learners are expected to interact with other people, either in the flesh, through pair and group work, or in their writings.
Language accuracy is not the main focus in Communicative Language teaching. However, it comes at the later stage. It is believed that when the learners learn to use the language appropriately, accuracy comes automatically. Errors are tolerated by the teacher because what is more significant is to make them able to speak in the target language. Teacher should not correct them during the activities in which they are using target language.
Language should be taught by integrating all language skills. This means communication approach is not limited to only speaking skill; reading and writing skills should be integrated and developed.
Language should be learnt through social interaction. Pupils cannot learn a language through rote memorization and in isolation but it involves interactions. Perhaps, some learners may struggle to communicate in the target language. Richards and Rodgers (1986) state that the target linguistic system will be learned best through the process of struggling to communicate.
Pupils are given opportunities to use the target language in a real-world situation. The teacher should create situations which promotes real-life communication. The teacher should teach them how language should be used in a social context through activities such as role play and interviews. The Communicative Language Teaching focuses on getting students to use language effectively in purposeful communication (Brown, 2000; Chitravelu et al., 2001).
TEACHER’S AND LEARNER’S ROLES
In the Communicative Language Teaching, teachers are merely facilitators who facilitate the learning process. It is the responsibility of teachers to create such situations in which communication can take place among the students. Teachers need to monitor the learning process and do not interrupt during the learning process to correct the errors the learners make. They only note the errors and correct it at a later point. Moreover, teachers also have to design activities which help to accelerate the communication process. The teachers are also active participants of the communicative process (Richards and Rodgers, 1986).
On the other hand, the learners are expected to participate in the communication process actively. They are required to embrace the cooperative approach (rather than individualistic) approach to learning. Learners are recommended to see that failed communication is a joint responsibility and not the fault of speaker or listener. Likewise, successful communication is the accomplishment jointly achieved and acknowledge (Richards and Rodgers, 1986).
APPLYING COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING IN REINFORCING GRAMMAR LEARNING
Though Communicative Language Teaching does not give emphasis on grammar or language accuracy it does not mean that grammar is not touched on at all. Personally, I believe, Communicative Language Teaching can be integrated in the teaching of grammar as a way to reinforce the grammar rules learnt in the previous lessons.
Based on the two examples shared above, it is evident that through Communicative Language Teaching, the rules of grammar learnt previously can be used in the social interactions or the communicative activities. Even though Communicative Language Teaching exclusively focuses on meaning, I do not see any controversial issue for me to embrace Communicative Language Teaching to teach grammar. Learners still use the target language to interact in the classroom and their interactions still reflect real-life situations. In short, the grammar activities like the examples below still apply other principles of Communication Language Teaching despite having grammar as its main content.
Brown, H.D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). New York: Longman.
Celce-Murcia, M. (1991). Grammar Pedagogy in Second and Foreign Language Teaching. TESOL Quaterly, 25(3), 459-477. https://doi.org/10.2307/3586980
Chitravelu, N, Sithamparam, S., and Teh, S.C. (2001). ELT methodology: Principles and practice. Selangor: Penerbit Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd.
Embi, M.A. and Mohd Amin, M.Z. (2010). Strategies for Successful English Language Learning. Shah Alam: Karisma Publications Sdn Bhd.
Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (2nd.eds.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Littlewood, W. (1981). Communicative Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nikian, S, F. Mohamad Nor, A. Rejab, H. Hassan and Z. Zainal. (2016). The Challenges in Instilling Communicative Competence in Second Language Learners. Journal of Advanced Review on Scientific Research ISSN (online): 2289-7887 | Vol. 26, No.1. Pages 1-12, 2016
Richards, J., and Rodgers, T. (1986). Approaches and Methods in Language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J. C., and Rodgers, T. (2010). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: Description and Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ramasivam, N.D. and Nair, S.M. (2019). Challenges faced by teachers in adopting Communicative Language Teaching. City University e-Journal of Academic Research (CUeJAR) CUeJAR Volume 1 | Issue 2 | 2019