Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching (CCLT) is a teaching approach that encourages teachers to embrace the essential role of comprehension and understanding as a first step in acquiring language. I’d like to dive into CCLT, taking inspiration from the incredible work of Claudia Fernandez, who writes about this topic in the book “Honing Our Craft.”
What is Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching?
CCLT is a teaching approach that redefines the role of comprehension in language acquisition. To understand the significance of CCLT, we must first look at its roots in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which emphasized the importance of communication. CLT introduced the concept of Communicative Competence (Canale and Swain, 1980), highlighting the role of interaction and production in language learning. However, it was Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (1985) that shifted the spotlight towards comprehension, suggesting that understanding messages is essential and sufficient for language acquisition.
What is Communication…Really?
One common misconception in language teaching is equating communication solely with oral production. This misconception has led to a disproportionate emphasis on production within current teaching practices, often relegating comprehension to a secondary role. CCLT aims to dispel this notion and place input (comprehension) at the center of the curriculum. While production is not neglected, it’s the understanding of messages that takes precedence.
How Do We DO CCLT?
In a CCLT classroom, remember to speak the target language for most of the class time. Make input activities meaningful and engaging, fostering an environment where students naturally strive for comprehension.
Don’t forget that accuracy in language is developed gradually, and comprehension is, in fact, a form of communication. Avoid planning classes solely around grammar points—grammar is a tool, not the ultimate goal of language learning.
Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching offers a fresh perspective on language education. It shifts the focus from rote production to meaningful comprehension, aligning with how language is acquired in the real world. By embracing CCLT, you empower your students to not just speak the language but truly understand and communicate with confidence—a goal at the heart of language education.
Claudia Fernandez (2024) “Chapter 4: What is and What is Not Comprehension-Based Communicative Language Teaching? (CCLT) ” in Henshaw, Florencia G., et al. Honing Our Craft: World Language Teaching Today. Klett World Languages, 2024.
Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.
Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York: Longman.