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Communicative Language Teaching Vs Traditional Methods of Teaching

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Communicative Language Teaching Vs Traditional Methods of Teaching Essay

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Grammar Translation Method
  3. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
  4. Characteristics of Teaching and Learning Process
  5. The way of teachers’ response to students’ error
  6. Methodology
  7. Bibliography:


No need to explain why nowadays everybody wants to speak good English! But what are the most efficient methods to teach a learner in the 21st century? In this research proposal, to answer this question I refer to different methodologies of teaching a foreign language and how they impact learners’ performances. Up-to-date Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has been compared with Grammar Translation Method (GTM). To address this topic an interview was chosen as a method of research.

Communicative Language Teaching can be described as “ an approach of teaching English as a foreign language based on communicative competences. Its main purpose is helping students to have not only implicit and explicit knowledge of grammar rules, but also have knowledge of the rules of language use.” (Swain, 1980). As far as the other method is concerned, “… GTM is applied for helping students to read and appreciate foreign language literature objectives. In the other words, the essential aim of learning a language is to be able to read literature written in the target language.” (Natsir M., January 2014).

This problem is vital in the light of recent changes made in the National Curriculum of the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the above mentioned document, the language learning outcomes shall not be restricted to acquiring language competencies only, but rather prepare global citizens who could freely integrate into the world community. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware of which methods to choose in order to meet national standards and requirements.

In an attempt to answer the question about the most efficient methods to teach a learner in the 21st century, we are going to look at some theories on learning a foreign language proposed by different linguistic researches. Basically, we are going to refer to analysis of Grammar-translation methods and Communicative methods of teaching, and how they are applied in the English as a Foreign or Second Language classroom.

Grammar Translation Method

Before any reforms made in the language teaching field, Grammar Translation Method was the dominant method to teach Latin and Greek languages back in the nineteenth century. Durani (2016) states that “The foundation of … GTM was an effort to teach grammar and translation and achieve the objective of languages so that the learners gain some knowledge about foreign languages after studying a number of grammatical rules. The learner applies the knowledge and the text is interpreted easily.” Larsen-Freeman’s idea cited in (Durrani, August 2016) states that GTM’s key concept was the idea that “the grammar of target language can be helpful for the students and they can learn their native language well, similarly this grammar can help them speak and write better in their native language”. (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).

She also emphasizes that all the classroom activities and tasks are prepared by the teacher in order to train the learners to pass tests and examinations. (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).Howatt (1984) and Rivers (1981) cited in (Durrani, August 2016) also express the same opinion about the purpose of GTM as Larsen-Freeman (2000), they say that Grammar Translation Method is designed to teach the students to “ pass their standardized exam after the preparation of reading and writing of only classical materials”.

In the article Grammar Translation Method (GTM) Versus Communicative Language Teaching (CLT); A Review of Literature by (Natsir M., January 2014) I came across the table by Larsen-Freeman and Anderson (2011) where they described key concepts of GTM. From the given table we can observe the following principles of GTM: grammar is taught deductively, learners are taught to translate from their mother language to target language, the lessons are more teacher-centered; there is a little peer work; there are no principles related to students’ feelings and emotions – learning is biological, the language skills that are on the spotlight are grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing; there is a great use of native language in teaching and learning process; getting the answer correctly is extremely important; and the teacher is the only source of information.Although nowadays GTM is considered to be outdated in most parts of the world, there are some countries, like Kyrgyzstan, that still use this method as a classical and traditional way of teaching a foreign language. There is a strong belief among Kyrgyz teachers that focusing mainly on grammar help learners to better understand and speak a foreign language.

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

After a numerous studies done by great psychologies and biologists like Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky the need for change in language teaching became crucial. Jean Piaget’s theory (1936) of cognitive development suggests that children can see and construct the model of the world by acting like small scientists: making observations and testing hypothesis. His studies prompted us that the learner is an active participant of the process and that the intelligence is not something that we are born with, but rather a trait which is gained and developed in the process.

A very good point is made by Lev Vygotsky about the fact that we should be paying more attention on the process than on the result. Piaget’s understanding of the child development can be paraphrased as biological development preceding learning.Unlike Jean Piaget (1936), the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky declared that learners actively make meaning and their social work is fundamental to this process. Vygotsky’s theory suggests that learning precedes the development. He stated that “… human learning supposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow in- to the intellectual life of those around them” (Vygotsky, 1978).

In support of the above-mentioned theory another research project conducted by Savignon (1972) that was cited by (Muhammad, 2016) to look for the advantages of CLT in learning a second language environment. In this research project at the University of Illinois, Savignon (1972) used the term “communicative competence to characterize the ability of language learners to interact with other speakers, to make meaning, as distinct from their ability to perform on discrete-point tests of grammatical knowledge.” (Savignon, Summer, 1991).

The participants of the study were university students that were studying French as second language and had different proficiency levels. Savignon (1972) found that the students whose lessons were conducted by instructors using the CLT methods of teaching showed better results in fluency based and accuracy based tasks. In comparison, the results of students with only a structural – based approach were worse than the previous group.Going back to Larsen-Freeman’s and Anderson’s (2011) comparative analysis of GMT vs. CLT, we can emphasize the merits of the CLT approaches:

Characteristics of Teaching and Learning Process

Everything is mostly done with communicative intentb. Students use the language through communicative activities such as game and roleplaysc. Communication is purposefuld. Using authentic materialse. Activities are often carried out by students in small groupf. Grammar is taught inductively.

Teacher is a facilitator b. Teacher sometimes becomes co-communicatorc. Students interact with one another

Motivate the studentsb.Teacher gives the opportunity to the students to express their individualityc. Students’ security is enhanced by cooperative interaction

Students’ native language is permittedb. Most of the activities are explained by using target language and native language only for certain thing

The functions are reintroduced and the more complex forms are learnedb. Students work on all four skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) from the beginning.

The way of teachers’ response to students’ error

Error of form is tolerated during the fluency-based activitiesb. The teacher may note the learners’ error and return to the learners with accuracy-based activities.Review of the key concepts of CLT vs. GMT (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011) prompt us that communicative methods help learners master a foreign language in a relaxed and engaging environment, which allows us to shape an open-minded citizen-an independent thinker, decision-maker and a collaborator.


To pursue the research question an in-depth one-on-one interview was conducted. The interview was held at Lingua School, where the respondent studies English. The interview guide has been developed beforehand and consisted of seventeen questions that aimed at getting information on differences in methods of teaching English at Lingua School, where the Communicative Learning Teaching (CLT) methods are applied and the respondent’s high school, where Grammar Translation Method (GTM) is used. The respondent I chose is a high school graduate from a small village Gavrilovka, that is located not far from Bishkek. The reason I chose this person to be my respondent is the fact that she is an Access Microscholarship Program alumni that had experienced CLT methods of learning English during her two year Program.

Also, three times a week she attends Lingua School’s English language courses from September 2017, therefore she has been experiencing the methodology of CLT for nearly three years. As far as the experience in GTM methods, the respondent has studied English at public school since her third grade. At first, the official part of the interview was conducted, where I explained my respondent her rights, the topic of the research, its goals and objectives. The informed consent was given to the respondent, where all the details about the research, ethics, the guarantee of anonymity and confidentiality were written and then, the respondent was asked to sign the consent. The interviewee was informed about the fact that her answers are going to be informed. The interview lasted for about forty eight minutes


  2. Durrani, H. (August 2016). Attitudes of Undergraduates towards Grammar Translation Method and Communicative Language Teaching in EFL Context: A Case Study of SBK Women’s University Quetta, Pakistan. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, Vol. 7 No. 4.
  3. Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques & Priciples in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Muhammad, Z. (2016). Pakistani Government Secondary Schools Students’ Attitudes towards Communicative Language Teaching and Grammar Translation in Quetta, Balochistan. English Language Teaching; , Vol. 9, No. 3.
  5. Natsir M., S. D. (January 2014). Grammar Translation Method (GTM) Versus Communicative Language Teaching (CLT); A Review of Literature. International Journal of Education & Literacy Studies, Vol. 2 No. 1;.
  6. Savignon, S. (Summer, 1991). Communicative Language Teaching: State of the Art. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 261-277.
  7. Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Applied Linguistics., Vol. 1, No 1.
  8. Vygotsky, L., Cole, M., & et al., e. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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