communicative approach in ESL Teaching Assignment Sample

Exploring Communicative Approach in ESL Teaching

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Introduction The Effectiveness of the communicative approach in ESL Teaching

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Communicative approach or CLT- communicative language teaching refers to a teaching approach that reflects the importance of real communication so that learning can occur. Within the concept of the communicative approach, not only the learning objectives are interactions and real communication but also the objective lies in the means through which learning takes place. The approach was initiated during the 1970s and gradually became prominent as the concept was an alternative approach to the then "ubiquitous oriented approach" systems like audio-lingual methods and others (Usmonoy and Muhammadjonov, 2021). It implies that rather than concerning with learning vocabulary and grammar, the communicative approach has the goal to develop the learner's ability to communicate in a target language. Thus, it focuses on enhancing learners' communication competency with an increased focus on real-life situations rather than linguistic or grammatical competency. This approach has a huge impact on teaching techniques and teachers' roles and influence on English language learning and teaching.

Within the concept of the communicative approach, lessons have aims of communication. The main goal of Communicative language teaching (CLT) or communicative approach is communication and language is taken as a tool for the learners to meet the goal. Thus, the syllabus for the communicative approach includes a lesson that helps students to enhance their communicative competency rather than grammatical competency. Thus, it helps to learn English as Secondary Language (ESL) and to gain fluency in English easily. To achieve this competency, a different syllabus has been created including a "functional-notional" syllabus that helps learners to focus on the meaning of the language (such as the English language) and to practice it in a real setting (Zhang, 2020). However, it often includes activities related to four skills enhancement including listening, reading, writing, and speaking as such developments are crucial for students to learn a language such as English as a second language (Zakime, 2018). It works as an integrated approach for example, within a listening lesson students can be directed to watch an online video and to post their views in the comment section however, rather than leaving just comment, teachers work on vocabulary and language and monitor text explicitly, writing skills and other communication skills that enhance language capability as a whole. Likewise, this study shall explore the effectiveness of the communicative approach in ESL teaching in depth.

Research question

  • What is the historical background of the communicative approach?
  • What is the difference between traditional and communicative approaches?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the communicative approach?
  • How effective is the communicative approach in ESL teaching?

Research objectives

  • To trace the historical background of the communicative approach.
  • To understand the difference between traditional and communicative approaches.
  • To evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the communicative approach.
  • To identify the effectiveness of the communicative approach in ESL teaching.

Literature Review

This section shall review related literature to trace the history of CLT, its benefits and limitations, and to understand its effectiveness in ESL teaching.

Historical Background of Communicative Approach

CLT's origins are found in the changes in traditional British Language teaching since the 1960s. Onishchuk et al., (2020) mentioned that till the 1960s, situational language was the major representation for teaching English as a foreign language. Situational language teaching taught language through practicing basic structures and situation-based approaches and activities. Grammar learning was also given priority. However, the motivation for different teaching–learning approaches for foreign languages, came from the shifting educational realities of Europe. Due to enlarged interdependency within European countries, the greater need for teaching major languages that are used in European nations or in the European market increased and that enhanced the educational and cultural cooperation. Education became one of the major activity areas for the European Council and they started sponsoring language teaching, started publishing books and monographs about language teaching, and so on. Gradually, the requirement of developing alternative language teaching methods became a high priority.

Malekar (2016) highlighted that in 1971, some experts initiated investigating the chances of the development of language courses in the "unit-credit" system. It refers to a system where learning activities are broken into portions or units and each corresponds to elements of the learner's needs. Gradually experts researched the requirements of language learners in Europe. The documentary by D.A Williams- a British Linguistic who was published in 1972 supported the research and the documentary gave a communicative definition of language that can be used as a base for building a communicative syllabus related to language teaching. The contribution of Wilkins helped to analyze that language learners need to understand the importance of communication and expression rather than just describing the learning and describing the core traditional concept of vocabulary and grammar.

Rakhimova et al., (2022), mentioned that the ideas of learning communication functions rather than just learning grammar were applied by textbook writers and rapidly it was accepted by teaching specialists of British Language, curriculum development centers, and the government also supported the approach and gradually nationally and internationally, communicative approach or CLT became prominent. The shift in teaching methods was mainly initiated by British innovation that had a focus on an alternative approach for syllabus since the middle of the 1970s and gradually the scope of CLT increased. However, currently, British and American people see CLT as an approach and not as a method to enhance communication competence within language teaching.

Comparison between traditional and communicative approaches

Communicative learning approaches are defined as a method for teaching mainly English as a foreign language depending on communicative competence. Traditionally, the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) was used. Al-Maamari, (2021), discussed that GTM was used as a traditional method of teaching Greek language, Latin, and others during the 19th century. The foundation of this approach was to teach translation and grammar and to understand language so that learners can gain knowledge about foreign languages and about their grammatical rules. When learners applied the knowledge, it helped them to interpret text easily. The teaching method helped to learn the grammar of their native as well as foreign language; it also helped them to write and speak following the actual rules of the language. Moreover, the article has mentioned that GTM emphasizes classroom activities that aim to train the learners so that they can pass their standard examinations after being prepared to read and write classical materials and it does not aim to enhance language fluency.

To describe GTM from a practical approach, it shall be mentioned that within the concept of GTM, grammar is taught deductively and learners are trained to translate in a target language from their mother language. Khan et al., (2020), highlighted that the lessons in GTM are teacher-centered and need minimum peer work. The principles of the teaching process are not related to the emotions or feelings of the learners rather the learning process is more biological. The skills learned are mainly focused on reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar and the teacher is the only source of information. However, currently, GTM is considered outdated in many areas. Due to the inefficiency of the traditional teaching method, many psychologists such as Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and others conducted many studies to identify and highlight the importance of changing the language teaching process.

BHETUWAL, (2022), mentioned that gradually in 1936, Jean Piaget gave a theory of Cognitive development and mentioned that children can construct the world's model by behaving like a little scientists through observations and testing hypotheses. The theory helped to understand that intelligence is not that with which individuals are born rather it is gained via a developmental process. Light, and Clarke, (2021), mentioned that Vygotsky (another psychologist) stated that people shall not focus on the result but rather shall concern about the process. He mentioned that human learning needs a significant social nature and a process through which children grow in intellectual life. In support, Savignon 1972 highlighted the advantages of CLT for learning a second language. Thus, the article mentioned that language teaching shall be a social process and children shall learn language through observation and interaction with other people in real life. It shall help in real development. Similarly, Savigon in his research project for the University of Illinois mentioned that communicative competence helps to characterize the language learner's ability to interact with other speakers, to build meaning, and is different from performing grammatical knowledge.

The article by BHETUWAL, (2022), mentioned that Savignon in 1972 included a study and the participants were university students who were studying French as a second language. Savignon traces that participants whose lessons were developed using CLT approaches reflected better fluency and accuracy as compared to students who got a structural-based approach of GTM. Likewise, CLT came in where students are taught language using the methods of roleplays, and games. Activities are carried out in small groups and grammar is taught inductively. The teacher also becomes a co-communicator sometimes.

Traditional teaching emphasizes the patterns of language that are grammar rather than communicative functions of language. Teh, (2021), discussed that more focus is given to writing and reading activities rather than speaking and listening activities. Traditional teaching emphasizes accuracy. The lessons are exam-oriented. On the other hand, communicative approaches emphasize communicative functions. Light, (2021), discussed that CLT reflects the needs and interest of the learners and are based on games and other approaches. They are focused on skills required in language and not just on forms of language. It encourages work in groups and emphasizes fluency and not accuracy. Here students listen to various authentic languages for real-life purposes such as students can listen to airport announcement recordings. Students communicate with each other in real life along with English speaker such as information gap exercise is included that helps to find information that was not known. Students use reading skills to trace information such as from newspapers that can be used in real-life and so on.

Figure 1: Showing the CLT approaches

Showing the CLT approaches

Advantages and disadvantages of the communicative approach

There are certain advantages of the communicative approach. Dos Santos, (2020), mentioned that one of the advantages is that it is pupil oriented as it is based on the needs and interests of the students. Thus, it motivates the learners and they tend to learn the language faster. The communicative approach seeks to localize and personalize language and to adopt it according to the learner's interest and meaningful language is retained for the long term by the learners. Moreover, the communicative approach utilizes authentic life resources such as listening to the language from any online video, announcements in stations, and others that tend to motivate the children more. The approach has the goal to personalize language thus, it becomes easy for the children to adopt and use it efficiently. (Doddy Irmawati, 2012) discussed that Children also acquire grammatical knowledge from CLT which is required to speak thus, the speaking becomes more efficient as well as fluent. A communicative approach is used worldwide to teach English as it is easier to include in a class along with trained teachers.

However, there are certain disadvantages of the communicative approach and there is a lack of context. Hien, (2021), mentioned that CLT gives insufficient focus on the context based on which teaching-learning usually takes place rather focus on real-life teaching sources. Another disadvantage is that CLT focuses more on fluency rather than accuracy. As per information in education summary (2022), the communicative approach does not concern with reducing the errors in sentences but rather develops a situation where speaking fluently is emphasized. Thus, students can end up producing incoherent as well as grammatically wrong sentences.

Effectiveness of communicative approach in ESL Teaching

The communicative approach has been known as the method of teaching a foreign or second language, especially English. Toro et al., (2019), discussed that CLT has been included in English language teaching for more than 50 years. It is effective to be used in ESL or English as Secondary Language as it focuses on the use of language. The communication approach is not limited to one skill and it taught speaking, reading, listening, and writing. Moreover, the method is effective as it believes that language cannot be learned through isolation or memorization but rather can be learned via social interaction, and through struggling to communicate, language and fluency can be learned. Communicative language teaching allows communicating in English and the functional role of the approach helps the learners to communicate fluently in their daily lives. Mamajanova, (2020), agrees with such a fact and reveals that activities in the CLT approach such as drama, games, role play, and others make it an appropriate and enjoyable process. Students are pushed in real-life situations and it is effective as students understand how the English language works outside the classroom. Moreover, as group work is given priority thus, students tend to learn more quickly. Moreover, it is effective as the approach is student-centered.

Zhang, (2020), comprehend that in Communicative language teaching, the Teacher develops a situation where students start to communicate and the teacher does not interrupt them and only monitors their performance. Error corrections are not done immediately. When the teacher notes any mistake then the teacher later works on it through an accuracy-based approach activity. The idea is to learn English as a second language and the learner has to communicate real meanings by involving in real communication thus, it is effective to learn English. On the other hand, it shall be mentioned that it is ineffective from some aspects as the approach does not focus on accuracy and believes that when students will learn to use the language, accuracy shall follow. Moreover, errors are tolerated and are not given much concern.


The methodology shall be discussed based on the research onion model by Saunders. The model shall help to reveal different elements which are involved in the methodology of research as follows-

Research philosophy- It is defined as a set of principles based on which research is being conducted. There are different philosophies such as positivism, interpretivism, and others (Al-Ababneh, 2020). Positivism assumes that knowledge is not dependent on the subject studied whereas interpretivism reflects that researchers or individual observers have an independent understanding or perception of reality. Interpretivism is more qualitative. This research includes interpretivism philosophy as it helps the research to understand the reality of the communicative approach and to interpret the subject in depth.

Research Approach- There are mainly two types of approaches including deductive and inductive. The deductive approach includes a hypothesis and based on gathered data, the hypothesis is tested to reach the findings. It initiates from general theory and reflects a specific theory. On the other hand, the inductive approach initiates with specific observations and traces underlying patterns (Asadpour et al., 2022). Similarly, this study includes an inductive approach where a specific theory related to the communicative approach has been observed and underlying patterns such as its origin, importance, limitations, and others have been studied. Then a general theory has been reflected mentioning the effectiveness of the communicative approach in teaching ESL.

Figure 2: Showing the inductive approach

Showing the inductive approach

Research Strategy- The research onion model suggests that there are different strategies including action research, interviews, surveys, case study, and others (Wisenthige, 2023). Similarly, this study includes a case study strategy and different case studies have been selected to gather the required data and information to understand the effectiveness of the communicative approach in studying English as a Second Language (ESL).

Research choice- The model reflects that there are three types of choice including mono-method where either qualitative method or quantitative method is used. Next is a mixed method where both methods are used and a multi-method where various methods are used. Similarly, this study includes mono-method and includes only qualitative or non-numerical data. Such a choice is also suitable with the interpretivism philosophy and secondary data collection method.

Time-horizon- It reflects the time frames and that observation can be made from two-time frames mainly. First is the longitudinal time horizon, where observations are made over a long period of time. Observation for a significant variable can be done for several days, months, quarters, or years. Next is cross-sectional where observations are done from a single point in time as used in surveys (Assadpour et al., 2023). However, for this study, a longitudinal time horizon shall be used and data related to the effectiveness of CLT has been gathered for many years to understand the history of the communicative approach, its difference from a traditional approach, its applicability and effectiveness in the current times, and others.

Data collection- Data can be collected through primary methods such as interviews, surveys, and others or via secondary methods where data is collected from already published sources. Likewise, this research includes a secondary data collection method. Key search terms were formulated including “communicative approach”, “ESL”, and others. Using the terms, related journals, and articles were searched from databases like Google Scholar, CINAHL, and others. Data were also collected from other internet sources. Secondary data helps to gather wider knowledge based on the selected topic and thus, has helped to understand various perspectives and the effectiveness of the communicative approach for ESL (Asher and Popper, 2019). Views of other researchers on the topic have also been understood.

Data Analysis- Data analysis shall be done using thematic analysis (Iovino and Tsitsianis, 2020). It shall help to generate different themes and the themes shall help to understand the history of the communicative approach, its difference from the traditional approach, the benefits and limitations of the communicative approach, and its effectiveness in teaching ESL.


It was noted through the study that there is a huge amount of difference between the traditional aspects of learning and the communicative method with due respect to the development and career reach of the students. In this case, it was found that the Traditional learning can only be done in physical space with face-to-face interactions while the communicative learning can be done in the digital or virtual space through which the students are able to enhance their understanding with the current examples or interactions with the outside world (Graphy, 2022). Apart from this, the traditional learning helps to promote the understanding of the students at a predetermined time period and the communicative method can be adopted anytime anywhere through which proper interactions among the students and the professor can be maintained for the long term. However, with the change in the dynamics of the social environment and the constant growing needs of the students to learn from the online or digital tools has increased the demand for communicative methods. The communicative methods in association to digital learning has also helped the students to remove the linguistic barriers as they are able to learn new concepts in different languages from any corner of the world. The applications like Skype and Zoom Meeting are further useful by the professionals to boost the learning outcomes and maintain timely engagement with the students (University of Louisiana Monroe, 2021).

The main advantages of communicative learning in this case, shows that it helps the students to seek the knowledge through authentic sources which further helps to boost their performance and motivation at the same time. Apart from this, the professors maintain the learning by focusing on the needs and interests through which the students are able to speak proficiently in the social environment as well as the classrooms. In association to this, the communicative aspects of learning also help to maintain the personalization of understanding through which the issues of misconduct can be reduced in the academic field. The disadvantages on the other hand, includes the insufficient attentions to one student through which the teachers are unable to ensure proper knowledge and skills sets of the weak students in the academic field. The native speakers can sometimes find this technique a little tough as it takes a long period to understand the basic concepts and learning modules provided by the professors in terms of CLT.


The communication methods can be used on the ESL learning to encourage communication of the students through which they are able to come out from their mould and interact with the social world efficiently. This can also encourage the students to stay engaged with their lecturers and perform effectively throughout their academic life. The teachers on the other hand, who use communicative methods are able to increase the understanding level of the students and reduce the issues of misconduct for the time being (University of Louisiana Monroe, 2021). The ESL teachers can also help the students to maintain direct corrections through which they are able to ace the examinations and learn from their mistakes. This also increases the ability of the students to learn a new language every time and it also reduces the awkwardness of the students. This also increases their capability of utilising the resources appropriately through which the performance of the students can be increased over time. It was also noted that the students are able to provide proper feedback regarding the study materials through which their issues are solved by the professors on time. The communication methods also help to resolve the grammatical errors of the students which further enhances their future scope and helps them to stay focused on their career goals for the long run (University of Louisiana Monroe, 2021).

The meaningful communications hold a significant space through which the students are able to maintain efficient performance with the group members. This also improves the fluency of the individuals through which they are able to stay competent in nature and earn confidentiality in their performance. The students will also be able to gain some practical knowledge on the language skills through which they will be able to reduce the linguistic barriers in future and will be able to help other students to further maintain a highly efficient team. The fear of making mistakes can also be resolved among the students and they will be able to learn a fun way to interact which can also reduce their introverted behaviour in the academic field (University of Louisiana Monroe, 2021). Active participation is another significant benefit of implementing the communication methods in the ESL learning through which the students will be able to be outspoken in terms of the problems faced by them in the educational field. This can further boost the performance of the companies in future through which they are able to become a successful leader in the world's best renowned companies.

Author David Nunan in this case also showed that the communicative methods can help to maintain high interaction of the students in the academic field through which they are able to learn the target language (Blog, 2023). It also helps the students to gain proper understanding of the authentic texts through which they are able to gain various opportunities in future such as being a language expert. It can also increase the learning experiences of the individuals through which they are not only able to communicate effectively within the classroom but they are also able to interact with the unknown persons in the outside world in that particular language without any issues of mistakes. The main advantages which can be noted as per the study includes that the CLT method helps to learn a particular language or aspects with a particular set of objectives through which the students are able to stand competent in future (Blog, 2023). In this case, the communicative method is also useful because it provides a student-centred approach through which the students are able to share their ideas and thoughts efficiently as well as self-direct themselves in every aspect of learning.


Thus, to conclude it shall be mentioned that the communicative approach is based on the teaching-learning process related to a second or foreign language than an emphasis on fluency and functional unit of language rather than a structural or grammatical component. The study has helped to understand that the communicative approach is student-centric and includes group activities that influence learners to focus on listening and speaking skills to enhance their fluency rather than only learning grammar. The study is based on interpretivism research philosophy, an inductive approach, and includes qualitative and secondary methods. Data has been gathered from internet sources, magazines, newspapers, and others and the findings reflect that the communicative approach is effective and it shall be used to learn a language.

To summarize the findings, it shall be discussed that Initially language learning was based on grammar learning however, gradually researchers such as Piaget and others understood that it is not only sufficient to learn grammar and to read and write to learn a language specifically foreign or second language thus, four skills are needed including reading, writing, speaking and listening. It gave rise to the concept of the communicative approach. The new approach helps to acquire a new language completely. It is being practically taught in class using games, role plays, listening to videos or recordings, and others. However, some researchers have mentioned that there are certain disadvantages such as it do not focus on accuracy, errors, or correct grammar and the main focus is on fluency. However, the approach has gained popularity as it is effective in real world. The communicative approach is effective to learn English as a second language as it helps to include interactive and interesting activities and pushes the learner to real-life situations where students can learn beyond the class and grasp the language easily and rapidly. Thus, it is an effective way to learn the language.

However, it shall be recommended that focusing on the errors and grammar shall help to make the teaching-learning process in CLT more efficient.


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