“The appeal and poverty of CLT” – I always love a good attack on CLT

Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has enormous intuitive appeal. Despite this, I have come to believe that at the heart of CLT – especially in fundamentalist versions of it – we find a naive, even impoverished view of language. To demonstrate what I mean, let me examine six propositions upon which I think CLT is based. I am going to argue that if these propositions are true at all, they are only superficially and trivially true – and true only in essentially uninteresting ways. In other words, they are just as true as statements like “When people speak, they use words”. Such a statement tells us nothing about what kinds of relationships there may be between words, how people learn to assemble them into larger units, or what else they do to construct or interpret meaning. I will try to show this through six counter-propositions. Then – finally -I will briefly suggest an alternative – and also suggest reasons why pluralist methodologies are more likely to be successful than any single orthodoxy.

I really do like a good attack on CLT. All those smug teachers I had in the 90s pushing this method with little critical discussion really put me off of prescribed methods altogether. For this, I should probably thank them.

This piece has some great points. I’m not entirely thrilled with the way that fundamentalist CLT is positioned as the strawman in this arguments though. This view of CLT is so rarely pushed that I find the arguments quite weak in that regard. However, discussion of the basic tenets are still valid.

We are in a post-method era. Reasonable (yes, that is loaded speech for people like me 🙂 teachers and teacher-trainers don’t teach methods, but rather a whole tool chest of methodologies that can be used situated a particular context.

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