Throughout history, scholars, philosophers and linguists tried to define language. There are countless numbers of definition of language. However, they almost all describe the functions of language. Therefore, I believe that language is a systematic and generative system that is consisted of arbitrary symbols. The primarily symbols are sounds, but they also can be visual. These symbols possess conventional meanings. These symbols are used for communication. Language in its generic meaning is solely a human characteristic. It is what distinguishes humans from other species. Although communication is not exclusive to humans, but only humans can communicate through language ideas, thoughts and feelings other than their basic instinct needs. Universally, language is acquired by all people in the same way (Fromkin, Rodman, Hyams 2011).
In language teaching, the main focus had always been the linguistic knowledge and grammar teaching. The concern was that learners must achieve nearnative linguistic competence. Accordingly, students received information through the lectures teachers recited. Teachers were considered the source of knowledge. Hence, the communication’s level was seldom to nonexistent (Catalano and Catalano, 1999). However, the concern has shifted to include communicative competence which refers to the human capacity that allows us to communicate, interpret and convey messages and their meanings in a particular context (Brown, 2007). The focus has become the fluency of the learner in the targeted language. The authors of a number of studies and articles agreed that the learner’s goal of learning a language is to be communicatively competent. Therefore, a communicative approach in the language class will benefit students and shift the class dynamic to student centered.
Sauvignon (2001), states that Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has been considered the most efficient approach in the field to teach language since it was first introduced in the late 70’s / early 80’s. The result that is hoped to be achieved through the use of CLT is having students learn how to communicate, and how to use language in various forms, situations and contexts. Therefore, language learning curricula, programs, activities, textbooks, objectives and goals have all been constructed to improve the learner’s communicative competence. The reason why teachers are advised to use CLT based strategies is because they create an atmosphere that is affable and warm, hence, lowering the student’s affective filter (Alharbi, 2015).
On the account of the previous, I employ a teaching approach that is mostly based on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), with the integration of the Context Approach. According to Brown (2007), CLT is an approach that is concerned with the meaningful, authentic and real world language use. It emphasizes on communicative and task based activities in a student centered classroom (Brown, 2007). Students learn through gathering information themselves. Teachers are just observers and guiders resulting in the domination of the two way communication in the classroom (Catalano and Catalano, 1999). Although Bax (2003) calls for the abandonment of CLT, he also suggests an approach that is considerate towards the context in which we, teachers, teach language. It accounts for the learners’ in context more than the methodology teachers apply in their classrooms. Bax’s Context Approach is based on context analysis. The analysis is done by the teacher to analyse the needs, learning style, and culture of every student if possible. Thus, the analysis allows for a more eclectic approach. The claim is that every student will be addressed in the learning methodology that best fit his/her needs and culture (Bax, 2003).
I believe the best way to benefit the most from CLT is to integrate it with other approaches. The reason behind the integration of other approaches with CLT is that CLT has its own limitation and shortcomings, which resulted in a gap between the theory of CLT and the practice and application of CLT in classrooms. It is believed that the gap between the practice and theory of CLT is due to the inadequate training programs that focus on only teaching theories of communicative approaches, but distract teachers from the effectiveness of CLT in practice. In fact, it is believed that communicative teaching approaches have dominated language teaching theory, but still have not efficiently revolutionized the actual teaching practices (Karavas Doukas, 1996). Therefore, Bax (2003) suggests that teachers get the best training in analysing their students’ context of learning before the application of any approach.
Going back to the main focus of my teaching philosophy, I believe in the enhancing the linguistic competence and the communicative competence of students simultaneously. It is equally important for students to be fluent and accurate at the same time. In contrast of traditional and communicative approach together that happen to ignore the context of language learning as well. For example, integrating written and visual literature in curricula benefits students in raising their awareness of not only what authentic language is communicating but also of how the given literature is using language to communicate. According to McKay (2001), the most beneficial factor of using literature in the ESL / EFL classroom is cross cultural awareness that could benefit students in this era of globalization. It is an important tool to identify cultural differences and be sensitive towards cultures. It can be beneficial to destruct stereotypes. Both visual and written literature are also tools to teach inferential / critical thinking skills and comprehension skills. Whether in a form of a novel, essay or films, there will be always a room to based a whole integrated skills lesson based on a given literary form.
Another aspect that CLT lacks is the teaching of explicit grammar instruction in the target language. The courses and curricula that employ exclusive CLT techniques integrate the main four skills of English. However, grammar is not a main focus of these courses and curricula. They only incorporate some grammar activities. Those exercises, however, are not exhaustive. They only shed light on some implicit grammar rules. They are not tailored to teach explicit grammar. Therefore, I believe that designing lesson plans, curricula, or adapting a methodology that incorporates the explicit explanation of grammar can compensate for the shortcoming of CLT in the syntax area.
Finally, as an ESL / EFL educator, I believe that combining culture on the pedagogy is the most beneficial to the enhancing of learners’ communicative and linguistic competences. Language and culture are inseparable. Cultures depends on language to express their traditions, norms and heritage. The context in which culture uses to express the contexts varies from greetings, humour, emotions to documentation of history. Language is what sustains culture and preserve nation’s heritage. Therefore, it is to be said that language expresses the appropriate social behaviour of the people speaking it. Therefore, the culture of the targeted language must be taught along with the linguistics aspects. Language learners can only make sense of the languages they’re acquiring when they learn more about the culture of the people of the targeted language. However, I also believe that preserving students culture as well is important. It makes students feel appreciated, especially in an ESL context. Therefore, it makes their affective filter low and they’re more prone to learning when they feel their pride is preserved as well (Brown, 2007).
Alharbi, H. (2015). Improving students’ English speaking proficiency in Saudi public schools. International Journal of Instruction, 8 (1), 105116
Brown, H. D. (2007) Principles of language learning and teaching. (5th ed.) New York: Pearson Longman.
Brown, H. D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy (3rd ed.). White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
Catalano, G., & Catalano, K. (1999). Transformation: From Teacher Centered to Student Centered Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education, 88(1), 5964.
CelceMurcia, M. (2001). Teaching English as a second or foreign language. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
KaravasDoukas, E. (1996). Using attitude scales to investigate teachers’ attitudes to the communicative approach. ELT Journal, 50(3), 187198. doi:10.1093/elt/50.3.187
Savignon, S. J. (2002). Communicative language teaching: Linguistic theory and classroom practice. In Savignon S. J. (Ed.), Interpreting Communicative Language Teaching: Contexts and concerns in teacher education (pp.1–27). New Haven: Yale University Press.