Definition of CLT
In general, CLT is understood as a way of teaching that requires the use of language as a means of communication. CLT has been introduced and signified in many ways in the literature (Richards & Schmidt, 2013, Hymes, 1972). As for its most recent definitions, CLT is recognized as an approach to foreign language learning that gives pride of place to communicative competence and its key elements (Richards & Schmidt, 2013). Considering the focus of CLT, specialists using this method organize classroom activities in a way that maximizes students’ opportunity to engage in verbal communication and use this experience to improve the use of linguistic structures. Therefore, CLT promotes communicative competence over linguistic competence by focusing on practical, authentic, functional fluency in a variety of contexts through active, authentic, cooperative, learner-centered activities in a language-rich environment (Brown, 2014).
Difficulties and Challenges in Implementing CLT in classroom
Although the extant literature shows that many teachers have a positive perception of CLT in an EFL context, several studies also establish that teachers face several difficulties that can hinder the implementation of CLT (Wu1 & Alrabah, 2014; Abate 2015; Huang, 2016; Al Asmari, 2015). Notably, the majority of activities in the EFL classroom are aimed at evaluating students’ ability to memorize and use grammar and its concepts correctly. For that reason, both learners and instructors are bounded by the need to meet certain standards while such an approach contradicts the communicative teaching orientation (Ghanbari & Ketabi, 2011; Orafi, 2013; Wu & Alrabah, 2014).
The study of language teachers conducted in Kuwait by Wu and Alrabah (2014) demonstrated that the majority of education workers included in the sample had positive perceptions of the use of CLT for the development of speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills. Despite the seeming unanimity of opinion concerning the method, the results referring to the implementation of CLT were contradictory. This fact was related to the peculiarities of traditional tests measuring the level of English proficiency. Instead of focusing on the extent to which students’ knowledge allows them to communicate, such tests usually emphasize the correctness of grammatical forms. In addition, Orafi (2013) mentioned that, in many cases, the bias towards grammar on the test leads to a neglect speaking and listening skills. Such an approach contradicts the CLT methodology that aims to equip students with communicative skills.
Apart from that, the problem lies in the fact that teachers lack sufficient training to be able to employ the CLT approach in their classrooms. Overall, instructors need to possess specific abilities and know useful techniques to introduce a certain teaching method. Nowadays, many researchers support an opinion that the implementation of new methods of teaching requires specific efforts. For example, according to Gilakjani and Sabouri (2017), teachers’ beliefs and skills “determine their approach to language teaching”, which means that new beliefs should be formed prior to the implementation of new teaching practices (p. 79).
However, frequently enough, teachers are not trained to accommodate their instructional methods so that they reflect the functional use of a foreign language. This instance has been discussed as one of the greatest problems of the contemporary EFL classroom by multiple researchers (Al Rabadi, 2012; Anto, Coenders, & Voogt, 2012; Abate, 2014). For example, AlRabadi (2012) conducted a qualitative study that investigated the way CLT was used in Jordanian educational institutions. The research respondents indicated that they lack sufficient training towards the use and application of CLT Methods. In particular, they did not make effective use of such CLT activities as group work and error corrections. The research by Anto et al. (2012) revealed similar results as applied to Ethiopian universities. The study revealed a significant number of teachers lacked the appropriate professional preparation to enact CLT effectively. As a remedy, the investigators suggested that teachers should be provided with an opportunity to improve their CLT application through in-service professional development.
CLT is a methodology which implies that students should gradually engage in the four activities (which are reading, writing, speaking, and listening). This should proceed through constant interaction with the teacher and the peers (Wyatt, 2009). Nevertheless, many instructors are not satisfied with the amount of time allotted to teaching the communicative skills (Abdel Latif, 2012; Al Asmari, 2015). For instance, the study by Abdel Latif (2012) delves into the topic using different methods of data collection such as questionnaires for teachers, half-structured interviews, and class-based observations. The main purpose of the study was to evaluate the book for English learners in Egypt regarded as the tool emphasizing communicative skills. Despite the fact that the book was structured so as to establish a communicative educational environment, the activities and tasks in it were taught in a non-CLT manner. Importantly, the instructors were limited in time and did not have an opportunity to teach students how to use the English language functionally (Abdel Latif, 2012).
Language proficiency is another factor that negatively affects the efficiency of communicative language teaching. In this method, learners need to construct meaning when cooperating with the teacher and their peers. Nevertheless, low language proficiency does not allow them to adapt to the learner-centered CLT environment (Ahmad & Rao, 2013; Huang, 2016; Ansarey, 2012). For example, Ahmad and Rao (2013) conducted research among the students of Pakistan, and its results supported the claim made. Low English proficiency among students hindered the successful application of CLT in the classroom. Moreover, this instance became a demotivating factor as applied to the Pakistani learners. Notably, the students stressed that they had to concentrate on the proficiency exam rather than on studying English for communicative purposes (Ahmad & Rao, 2013). By and large, these findings are consistent with Huang’s (2016) mixed method study in rural Taiwan, which found that the primary barriers to CLT implementation included students having a low level of English proficiency, difficulties with communication, and minimal learning motivation.
Huang (2016) also found that teachers’ concerns about their own English proficiency emerged as a legitimate impediment to utilizing the principles of CLT in their classrooms. Without a high level of English proficiency, EFL teachers can struggle to effectively introduce communicative activities (Huang, 2016). If a teacher did not possess a good command of English, they could not introduce the principles of CLT in their classroom effectively. The descriptive study by Farooq (2015) was conducted in order to explore the way that language teachers in Saudi Arabia evaluated the opportunity to implement the method of CLT. It revealed that the perceptions of Saudi instructors in terms of their linguistic competency affected the proficiency of students directly. Based on this understanding, it may be assumed that the implementation of CLT cannot proceed successfully if the teacher is not proficient in English (Farooq, 2015).
Gilakjani, A. P., & Sabouri, N. B. (2017). Teachers’ beliefs in English language teaching and learning: A review of the literature. English Language Teaching, 10(4), 78-86.