Combinations of ‘L’ and ‘P’

There has been a long-standing debate in the design of language teaching about the possible combinations of the various interpretations of communicative language teaching, several of which were used as illustrations in this chapter. This kind of discussion introduces the idea of a combined or eclectic approach, a recurrent theme in language teaching design, that we shall return to below (chaps. 7 and 9). In this section, we limit the discussion to the potential combination of just two of these interpretations of communicative language teaching : the mainstream or ‘L’ direction, and the humanistic or ‘P’ direction.

For a start, the so-called natural approach, developed by Terrell (cf. Terrell 1985; Krashen and Terrell 1983) in collaboration with Krashen, who devised the Input hypothesis i utilizes methods and techniques, such as TPRi that help teachers to make their classrooms places of joy and energy, free from embarrassment, fear and anxiety. The natural approach constitutes a deliberately selected variety of techniques and teaching styles that are combined to make a stress-free learning environment possible. In the same way, Di Pietro’s so-called strategic interaction method (Roberts 1983; Weideman 2002: 69f.) has as its goal the attainment by language learners of a higher level of communicative competence, which may be called transactional competence. The strategic interaction method combines a focus on language with a sensitivity for the affective factors that are present when learning a new language in a classroom. Di Pietro’s proposals are similar to communicative teaching in that an information gap is always present, and role plays and scenarios are employed, but the added design component is that communicative interactions are often deliberately short-circuited, so that the learners are forced to negotiate and sometimes renegotiate understanding in order to complete the task lingually:

By adding a strategic edge to language use, we have therefore acknowledged, in the teaching of second or foreign languages, that language is not merely used, but that it is used with specific aims in mind in our interaction with other people. (Weideman 2002: 71)

Despite their similarities, all methods have the potential of introducing something new, and this may be one of the benefits of thinking eclectically about the design of language teaching tasks. The effect of the innovation is reduced, however, when language teaching designs do not take a method to its conclusion, or push it to its limits . An example of how a deliberate combination of task designs can be employed can be found in the Starting English course for young beginners (Rousseau and Weideman 1996), from which several exercises in the preceding discussion illustrating new techniques have been taken. In this course, the authors designed a number of the language teaching tasks by using methods that are essentially known as suitable for adult learning. Nonetheless, when adaptations of some of the techniques and styles of teaching discussed in this chapter, in particular the Silent Way and Community Language Learning . were deliberately included in the piloting phase of the materials, they worked exceptionally and surprisingly well with young learners.

Eclecticism is not a new phenomenon in the design of language teaching. The first kind of language teaching used as an illustration in this chapter, the audiolingual method, can indeed be viewed as the first such combination. It combined the emphases of the grammar-translation method (on reading and writing) and of the direct method (on listening and speaking) into an emphasis on all four so-called skills. When a combination of methods and styles of teaching is not done deliberately, however, it may have less than beneficial results, in suggesting conflicting styles of teaching, or in providing those who are resistant to change with an excuse for hanging on to the old designs. We return to that discussion below (Chap. 9).

 
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