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English is the most widely-studied foreign language in the world, as it
has been the dominant medium used in education, commerce, science, communication,
and technology in the global village (Liu, 2005). To compensate for the limitations of the traditional language teaching
methods, communicative language teaching (CLT) has been introduced in English
as Foreign Language (EFL) settings to improve learners’ communicative
competence in real contexts (Littlewood, 2007). CLT is an innovational language teaching
methodology which was developed in the U.K. It is aimed to
develop learners’ all the components of
communicative abilities in pragmatic and
authentic social circumstance (Chang, 2011). The successful implementation of CLT in Taiwan is a long-term process
and faces many challenges like situational factors and constraints which weaken
the practice of CLT. This essay argues that CLT is an ineffective teaching method
with considerable resistance for teaching English in universities and high
schools in Taiwan.

 

Teachers’ position and their inadequate training and skills about CLT
will impede the implementation of CLT. In a CLT-oriented classroom, teachers
should be regarded as a facilitator to guide students in learning activities (Richards
and Rodgers 2001), while in traditional Asian
teacher-centered classrooms, the students usually view their teachers as
authorities. They are used to following the teachers’ directions and gradually
becoming inactive. They are rarely encouraged to express their own opinions or
challenge their teachers (Bulter, 2011). Furthermore,
teachers’ sufficient teaching experience and professional skills are still
required in a real classroom in implementing CLT. Many teachers have learnt
lots of theories and educational policies of CLT in recent years, and also devote themselves to differentiate teaching based upon students’
proficiency levels, however, they do not know how to design and teach lessons with CLT
method in real contexts. As a result, even though the students try many
communicative activities, they acquire little valuable skills. The
fact shows that implementing CLT requires that a teacher with a high-level
English proficiency (Su, 2003). When a new teaching
approach is implemented, teacher’s professional training and more realistic
help should be provided to support teachers’ teaching rather than just telling
them what to teach
(Gorsuch, 2000).

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Students’ attitudes towards CLT and lack of English environment
for Taiwanese students to practice are the main barriers to implementing CLT. Firstly,
students’ willingness and needs of using English in real life develop their
essential motivation for CLT practice (Chang and Goswami, 2011). For example, if a student wants to make friends from
other countries, he may naturally have more willingness to enhance his English
communicative abilities than others. Secondly, compared with high English proficiency
students, to some extent, low English proficiency students have difficulties to understand
teachers’ or classmates’ meaning and is hard for them to express their own
thoughts in English as well. For example, learners with introverted personality
are simply disappointed and upset about the inability to express clearly and
fluently in English and felt frustrated about it (Su, 2003). Instead of making
a mistake or feeling embarrassed, they tend to rely on others high proficiency
peers or resistant to join in group work. As a result, developing group work
and giving them rights to choose interesting topics, to some degree, could
motivate them to communication (Su, 2003). For example, it could be more acceptable for students to acquire
knowledge in a creative way like role-play instead of just telling them to
memorize. Apart from this, compared with ESL (English as Second
Language) students meeting native speakers of English in daily life, the classroom
becomes the single practicing environment for EFL students. Thus, they have
lack of English environment and little practicing chance (Huang, 2011).

 

Old educational system, inappropriate class size and
insufficient teaching hours also lead to the ineffectiveness of CLT
implementation. The common educational system is test-oriented. Students are used to requiring passing English tests during the study
life, which is seen as a crucial qualification of graduate, further education,
and job hunting. Therefore, most students and parents just concern for the
result of grades rather than the necessity of communicative practice.
Similarly, it also gives the teacher pressure. Most people considered that qualified teachers
could improve the students’ grades directly. Although CLT can help the
students’ long-term English progress, it cannot increase the students’ grades
in a short time (Bulter, 2011). Additionally,
in CLT method, students should be given opportunities
to take part in communications. However, it is difficult to control and monitor the
whole class with 50 students. It is also true that, due to the limited teaching
hours, teachers cannot finish the original syllabus if giving practical opportunities
to every student. Considering these facts, the national government and school
can modify current educational system gradually for CLT curricula and
examination criteria which could increase students’ time, atmosphere and
opportunities to practice English.

 

In conclusion, CLT with its approaches
is not a panacea in every teaching or learning context. It is based on Western philosophies
of teaching and learning, which conflicts with the traditional philosophy
of education in many ways in Taiwan. The situation regarding the implementation of CLT in Taiwanese
education is complex and the gap between theories and practices still exists. The restrictions are mainly
related to the teachers’ competence, the students’ attitudes, and the
traditional educational system. Therefore, by closely analyzing the
degree of implementation of this Western teaching approach in Taiwan as well as
the challenges, it should be possible to learn more about how to transfer this
Western teaching innovation in a more flexible way to Asian contexts. One approach could be to focus on Internet-based learning, as it reduces the limitations of time and space, providing learners as well
as teachers with more language resources and greater opportunities for
communication.           

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