Reflections on language teaching and learning by a Brazilian teacher
sábado, 25 de julho de 2009
Global English and the CLT - part 2
This post is the second and final part of a reflection about the limitations of the Communicative Language Teaching concerning the present reality where English has become the new lingua franca. The fist part is here.
As CLT misses the point about pour present world, so it does concerning the classroom. Once the typical CLT class aims to prepare students for “real life” situations, the classroom itself tends to be seen as an artificial environment. This very conception endangers the quality of classroom interaction as the real communication is assumed to happen later, out there. One enters a new paradigm when sees that the classroom “is in fact a real social context – only too real, sometimes, for young people who spend such a large part of their lives there!” (Andrewes, 2005b.:4-5). It should be added that for a teacher who spends about 40 hours a week in classrooms, the class cannot be anything else but a real social context either.
As probably many English teachers around the world, I have questioned myself why I was supposed to give so much importance to topics such as asking and giving directions and other tasks that are typically part of materials produced by followers or proponents of CLT when teaching students who do not have plans to travel abroad or welcome speakers of English in Brazil. Instead of “real life”, these tasks may seem unreal to many of our students.
What are the benefits of following such syllabus? Should we just follow what is assumed as necessary by an author, publisher or language institution? It seems quite obvious that classes should meet our students’ needs. But should we not also help the students to understand their own needs? Certainly there is a necessity to assess and rethink what we have been taught to teach in terms of content.
The idea of teaching either a second, foreign or additional language assumes that the learner already has at least one language that he/she uses to communicate. CLT has traditionally created a problem in its view of the non-native’s mother tongue, going “as far as to consider the L1 as a dangerous source of contamination of the target language” (Andrewes, 2007:9). In other words, the traditional thinking could be summarized as follows: “The two languages cannot inhabit the same space. It is either the one or the other” (Rajagopalan, idem: 16). If one considers that learning happens through experiencing the new knowledge in contact with the previous knowledge, how unrealistic is the idea that a student has to forget his/her language to acquire or learn another.
From this brief overview that outlined some of the limitations CLT presents in our day, it is clear that a new paradigm for language teaching is needed and such shift has to start with the understanding of English as a global language.