Saturday, January 16, 2021 | ePaper

CLT What Really Happens In Our Classrooms?

Masum Billah

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It has been a debating issue for long whether we should teach grammar for teaching English language. However, we cannot deny the fact that we use language with grammar and without grammar we don't use it that unfolds that the problem is not grammar itself, rather the ways grammar has been taught and learned. Communicative competence does not mean an absence of grammar instruction but rather grammar instruction that leads to the ability to communicate effectively. Grammar instruction and lessons are not limited to introducing a grammar item or items, having learners do controlled exercises, and then later assessing students on their ability to understand grammar items. It means designing grammar lessons to include a communicative task or activity. A communicative grammar lesson gives students the opportunity to practice the target grammar. The beginning stages of a communicative grammar lesson often focus on accuracy while fluency becomes more important during practice stage.
Grammar Translation Method ( GTM) is only good at teaching language rules and will never be good at teaching language skill such as speaking and listening, the method typically creates a teacher-centric classroom which means teacher dominates all activities in the classroom from explaining the lessons to correcting the students' errors, the lessons provide no opportunity for speaking practice, learning tedious grammar rules and long lists of vocabulary does not prepare students to communicate in real-world situations. According to an expert, learning English may not be viewed as a process of mastering language rules, which is merely focused on making correct sentences of English, but it also has to be seen as a process of developing fluency by involving functional and social dimensions of English. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) principles require students not to simply have knowledge of target language forms, structures, and functions. They must be able to apply this knowledge in negotiating meaning. During the negotiation of meaning, the learners need to learn directly from each other, share information and knowledge they possess no matter whether they missed or misunderstood. Therefore, CLT activities frequently take the form of pair and group work requiring negotiation and cooperation between learners, fluency-based activities that encourage learners to develop their confidence, role-plays in which students practice and develop language functions, as well as judicious use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities.
Most teachers always rely on blackboard and posters as their teaching aids. Due to the influences of teaching English from the beginning learners are familiar with doing grammar exercises. Therefore, English grammar always plays a crucial role in learning the language. People are not able to comprehend deeply without knowledge of grammar. Sentences without appropriate grammar structures are also hard for readers and listeners to fully understand the meaning. Even if the words or sentences do not put on correct grammar structures, it may cause misunderstanding when conveying information to listeners. It is the reason for learning English grammar and it cannot avoid learning English grammar. So how to bring practical contexts in English grammar lessons, it should have three main characteristics that a good context should attain: they are authentic, informative and interesting.
Firstly, the contexts should be authentic. When the matters are close to life, it will bring much more effects in teaching and learning. And the most important thing is that it needs to provide fully contents of the structures, usages, meanings and some model samples that the learners are able to redo, regain and recover it well with what are happening in their real situation. Experts state that the appropriateness of context can be achieved if the teacher brings something real and useful from the outside classroom. Secondly, an informative context should be comprehensible and easy to remember. It also should have many clues to attain the target languages and provide various forms. The information of different situation should be clear, useful and practical with daily activities. Thirdly, learners always feel interested in real contexts. They also feel excited with learning, willing to study; play the roles and eager for attending the class.
In order to attain the target language, the teachers need to help the learners know how to apply forms or structures in doing tasks, spoken languages or written texts. Especially, learners can know how to recognize the form and meaning in the real situation, and they can produce both written and spoken form.  Teachers need to design real contexts by using suitable model structures.
Whatever training Bangladeshi English teachers of  the secondary and higher secondary level receive, real change in the English classroom still stands far from teaching grammar communicatively using the context. Going beyond the existing tradition seems to be a difficult task for them and the national examination does not reflect learners' real ability to use English in their practical world. Hence grammar teaching with different clarifications and structural patterns still dominates the English teaching that stands as a big barrier to develop the communicative ability of the learners.  

(Mr. Masum Billah Works for BRAC Education and is President:  English  Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB).  Email: masumbillah65@gmail.com)

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