April 18, 2024

Communicative Language Teaching for Language Learners

by Mateusz Wiącek

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is a method used to learn languages that focuses on both the process and goals of classroom learning. This approach emphasizes the ability to express, interpret, and negotiate meaning in a language. In this article, we’ll explore the origins, development, and key aspects of CLT, as well as its implications for language learners.

Origins and Development

CLT has its roots in both Europe and North America. In Europe, it emerged from the need to address the language requirements of immigrants and guest workers. Functional-notional concepts of language use were introduced, which focused on what learners should be able to do with the language. In Germany, for instance, CLT was influenced by social democratic concerns and aimed at empowering individuals through language learning.

In North America, scholars like Hymes emphasized the importance of communicative competence, which refers to the use of language in social contexts. This perspective shifted the focus from memorization to meaningful communication in language learning.

Focus on the Learner

One of the core principles of CLT is putting the learner at the center. Learner communicative needs shape the goals of language programs, focusing on functional competence rather than just grammar drills. Assessment methods are evolving to include more qualitative evaluations, such as essay writing and portfolio assessments, to better reflect learner achievement.

What about Grammar?

While CLT prioritizes communication, it doesn’t neglect grammar. Grammar is essential for effective communication, but it’s integrated into meaningful language activities rather than isolated drills. Research shows that learners develop better communicative skills when grammar is taught in relation to their practical language needs.

Sociolinguistic Issues

Sociolinguistics plays a crucial role in CLT, highlighting the importance of cultural awareness and variability in language use. Learners are encouraged to engage with authentic language data to understand context and appropriacy in communication. This helps them develop intercultural communicative competence, essential in a globalized world.

From Theory to Classroom Practice

CLT is not just a teaching method; it’s a philosophy that guides language instruction. It emphasizes task-based, interactive learning that mirrors real-life communication situations. However, implementing CLT in classrooms can be challenging due to entrenched teaching beliefs and practices. Teachers need support and training to effectively integrate CLT into their lessons.


Communicative Language Teaching offers a student-centered approach to language learning that focuses on meaningful communication. By prioritizing learner needs, integrating grammar with practical language use, and fostering intercultural competence, CLT aims to prepare learners for real-world language use. Despite challenges in implementation, CLT represents a shift towards more effective and engaging language instruction.

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