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The changing winds and shifting sands of the history of English Language Teaching
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
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Communicative Language Teaching

The need for communication has been relentless, leading to the emergence of the Communicative Language Teaching. Having defined and redefined the construct of communicative competence; having explored the vast array of functions of language that learners are supposed to be able to accomplish; and having probed the nature of styles and nonverbal communication, teachers and researchers are now better equipped to teach (about) communication through actual communication, not merely theorising about it.

At this juncture, we should say that Commuicative Language Teaching is not a method; it is an approach, which transcends the boundaries of concrete methods and, concomitantly, techniques. It is a theoretical position about the nature of language and language learning and teaching.

Let us see the basic premises of this approach:

• Focus on all of the components of communicative competence, not only grammatical or linguistic competence
• Engaging learners in the pragmatic, functional use of language for meaningful purposes
• Viewing fluency and accuracy as complementary principles underpinning communicative techniques
• Using the language in unrehearsed contexts


From all the above we can see that the manageable stockpile of research of just a few decades ago has given place to a systematic storehouse of information. Researchers the world over are meeting, talking, comparing notes, and arriving at some explanations that give the lie to past explanations. As Brown (2000: ix) notes, '[o]ur research miscarriages are fewer as we have collectively learned how to conceive the right questions'. Nothing is taken as gospel; nothing is thrown out of court without being put to the test. This "test" may always change its mechanics, but the fact remains that the changing winds and shifting sands of time and research are turning the dessert into a longed-for oasis.


Brown, H. D. (2000) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. New York: Longman.


Dimitrios Thanasoulas studied English Literature and Linguistics at Athens University and then did an MA in Applied Linguistics at Sussex University. After that, he earned an MBA from Mooreland University and is currently finishing the second year of my PhD studies in Education at Nottingham University. His academic interests include fostering cultural awareness and learner autonomy, as well as such issues as language and ideology, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, and the Psychology of Education.


Dimitrios can be contacted at:

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