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What is Communicative Language Teaching?

There are often buzz words that come up in education. For the past ten years or so we have been talking about, exploring, redefining and doing our best to implement communicative language teaching. If you were asked to define what this is exactly, what would you say? It’s a methodology that we tend to understand best when we see it, and we are often very capable of pointing out what is not communicative language teaching.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?  (French, Spanish) Bill Van Patten

Bill Van Patten was instrumental in my graduate education in applied linguistics and second language acquisition. We often cited his research and used his books in a several classes. I’ve continued to follow his research, publications, and now, his weekly podcast Talkin’ L2 with BVP.

He continues to explore the nature of language and the most effective and efficient ways to teach and learn a second language. On a recent episode of the podcast he talked about recent, short, concise and rather concrete piece that he wrote in response to teachers’ requests for an approachable, understandable and actionable definition of communicative language teaching. He discussed and provided that he titled Tenets of Comprehension-based Language Teaching with a Focus on Communicative Ability.

In this Communicative Language Teaching “manifesto” BVP lays out five facts about language acquisition based on empirical research. He then provides five principles that should underlie contemporary language teaching where the focus is on communicative ability. This is the most useful resource that I have come across that defines communicative language teaching, what it is, why it exists and how these factors should drive our lesson planing, curriculum and goals.