Jumat, 05 November 2010


Carl Rogers

The Silent Way

  1. Background

The Silent Way is the name of a method of language teaching devised by Caleb Gattegno. Gattegno's name is well known for his revival of interest in the use of coloured wooden sticks called cuisenaire rods and for his series Words in Colour, an approach to the teaching of initial reading in which sounds are coded by specific colours. His materials are copyrighted and marketed through an organization he operates called Educational Solutions Inc., in New York. The Silent Way represents Gattegno's venture into the field of foreign language teaching. It is based on the premise that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom and the learner should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible. Elements of the Silent Way, particularly the use of colour charts and the coloured cuisenaire rods, grew out of Gattegno's previous experience as an educational designer of reading and mathematics programs. (Cuisenaire rods were first developed by Georges Cuis­enaire, a European educator who used them for the teaching of math. Gattegno had observed Cuisenaire and this gave him the idea for their use in language teaching.)

The Silent Way shares a great deal with other learning theories and educational philosophies. Very broadly put, the learning hypotheses underlying Gattegno's work could be stated as follows:

1) Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than re­ members and repeats what is to be learned.

2) Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects.

3) Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned.

Let us consider each of these issues in turn.

1. The educational psychologist and philosopher Jerome Bruner distinguishes two traditions of teaching - that which takes place in the expository mode and that which takes place in the hypothetical mode. In the expository mode "decisions covering the mode and pace and style of exposition are principally determined by the teacher as expositor; the student is the listener." In the hypothetical mode "the teacher and the student are in a more cooperative position. The student is not a bench-bound listener, but is taking part in the "play the principal role in it" (Bruner 1966: 83),

The Silent Way belongs to the latter tradition, which views learning as a problem-solving, creative, discovering activity, in which the learner is a principal actor rather than a bench-bound listener. Bruner discusses the benefits derived from "discovery learning" under four headings: (a) the increase in intellectual potency, (b) the shift from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards, (c) the learning of heuristics by discovering, and (d) the aid to conserving memory (Bruner 1966: 83). As we shall see, Gattegno claims similar benefits from learners taught via the Silent Way.

2. The rods and the coded-coded pronunciation charts (called Fidel charts) provide physical foci for student learning and also create mem­orable images to facilitate student recall. In psychological terms, these visual devices serve as associative mediators for student learning and recall. The psychological literature on mediation in learning and recall is voluminous but, for our purposes, can be briefly summarized in a quote from Earl Stevick:

If the use of associative mediators produces better retention than repetition does, it seems to be the case that the quality of the mediators and the stu­dent's personal investment in them may also have a powerful effect on mem­ory. (Stevick 1976: 25)

3. The Silent Way is also related to a set of premises that we have called "problem-solving approaches to learning." These premises are succinctly represented in the words of Benjamin Franklin:

Tell me and I forget,

teach me and I remember,

involve me and I learn.

In the language of experimental psychology, the kind of subject involve­ment that promotes greatest learning and recall involves processing of material to be learned at the "greatest cognitive depth" (Craik 1973) or, for our purposes, involving the greatest amount of problem-solving activity. Memory research has demonstrated that the learner's "memory benefits from creatively searching out, discovering and depicting" (Bower and Winzenz 1970). In the Silent Way, "the teacher's strict avoidance of repetition forces alertness and concentration on the part of the learners" (Gattegno 1972: 80). Similarly, the learner's grappling with the problem of forming an appropriate and meaningful utterance in a new language leads the learner to realization of the language "through his own perceptual and analytical powers" (Selman 1977). The Silent Way student is expected to become "independent, autonomous and responsible" (Gattegno 1976) - in other words, a good problem solver in language.

  1. Approach

Theory of language

Gattegno takes an openly sceptical view of the role of linguistic theory in language teaching methodology. He feels that linguistic studies "may be a specialization, [that] carry with them a narrow opening of one's sensitivity and perhaps serve very little towards the broad end in mind" (Gattegno 1972: 84). Gattegno views language itself "as a substitute for experience, so experience is what gives meaning to language" (Gattegno 1972: 8). We are not surprised then to see simulated experiences using tokens and picture charts as central elements in Silent Way teaching.

Considerable discussion is devoted to the importance of grasping the "spirit" of the language and not just its component forms. By the "spirit" of the language Gattegno is referring to the way each language is composed of phonological and suprasegmental elements that combine to give the language its unique sound system and melody. The learner must gain a "feel" for this aspect of the target language as soon as possible, though how the learner is to do this is not altogether clear.

By looking at the material chosen and the sequence in which it is presented in a Silent Way classroom, it is clear that the Silent Way takes a structural approach to the organization of language to be taught. Language is seen as groups of sounds arbitrarily associated with specific meanings and organized into sentences or strings of meaningful units by grammar rules. Language is separated from its social context and taught through artificial situations, usually represented by rods. Lessons follow a sequence based on grammatical complexity, and new lexical and structural material is meticulously broken down into its elements, with one element presented at a time. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching, and the teacher focuses on prepositional meaning, rather than communicative value. Students are presented with the structural patterns of the target language and learn the grammar rules of the language through largely inductive processes.

Gattegno sees vocabulary as a central dimension of language learning and the choice of vocabulary as crucial. He distinguishes between several classes of vocabulary items. The "semi-luxury vocabulary" consists of expressions common in the daily life of the target language culture; this refers to food, clothing, travel, family life, and so on. "Luxury vocabulary" is used in communicating more specialized ideas, such as political or philosophical opinions. The most important vocabulary for the learner deals with the most functional and versatile words of the language, many of which may not have direct equivalents in the learner's native tongue. This "functional vocabulary" provides a key, says Gattegno, to comprehending the "spirit" of the language.

Theory of learning

Like many other method proponents, Gattegno makes extensive use of his understanding of first language learning processes as a basis for deriving principles for teaching foreign languages to adults. Gattegno recommends, for example, that the learner needs to "return to the state of mind that characterizes a baby's learning surrender" (Scott and Page 1982: 273).

Having referred to these processes, however, Gattegno states that the processes of learning a second language are "radically different" from those involved in learning a first language. The second language learner is unlike the first language learner and "cannot learn another language in the same way because of what he now knows" (Gattegno 1972: 11). The "natural" or "direct" approaches to acquiring a second language are thus misguided, says Gattegno, and a successful second language approach will "replace a 'natural' approach by one that is very 'artificial' and, for some purposes, strictly controlled" (1972: 12).

The "artificial approach" that Gattegno proposes is based on the principle that successful learning involves commitment of the self to language acquisition through the use of silent awareness and then active trial. Gattegno's repeated emphasis on the primacy of learning over teaching places a focus on the self of the learner, on the learner's priorities and commitments.

To speak... requires the descent of the will into the voluntary speech organs and a clear grasp by one's linguistic self of what one is to do to produce definite sounds in definite ways. Only the self of the utterer can intervene to make objective what it holds in itself. Every student must be seen as a will capable of that work. (Gattegno 1976: 7)

The self, we are told, consists of two systems — a learning system and a retaining system. The learning system is activated only by way of intelligent awareness. "The learner must constantly test his powers to abstract, analyse, synthesize and integrate" (Scott and Page 1982: 273). Silence is considered the best vehicle for learning, because in silence students concentrate on the task to be accomplished and the potential means to its accomplishment. Repetition (as opposed to silence) "con­sumes time and encourages the scattered mind to remain scattered" (Gattegno 1976: 80). Silence, as avoidance of repetition, is thus an aid to alertness, concentration, and mental organization.

The "retaining system" allows us to remember and recall at will linguistic elements and their organizing principles and makes linguistic communication possible. Gattegno speaks of remembering as a matter of "paying ogdens." An "ogden" is a unit of mental energy required to link permanently two mental elements, such as a shape and a sound or a label and an object. The forging of the link through active attention is the cost of remembering paid in ogdens. Retention by way of mental effort, awareness, and thoughtfulness is more efficient in terms of ogdens consumed than is retention attained through mechanical repetition. Again, silence is a key to triggering awareness and hence the preferred path to retention. Retention links are in fact formed in the most silent of periods, that of sleep: "The mind does much of this work during sleep" (Stevick 1980: 41).

Awareness is educable. As one learns "in awareness," one's powers of awareness and one's capacity to learn become greater. The Silent Way thus claims to facilitate what psychologists call "learning to learn." Again, the process chain that develops awareness proceeds from attention, production, self-correction, and absorption. Silent Way learners acquire "inner criteria," which play a central role "in one's education throughout all of one's life" (Gattegno 1976: 29). These inner criteria allow learners to monitor and self-correct their own production. It is in the activity of self-correction through self-awareness that the Silent Way claims to differ most notably from other ways of language learning. It is this capacity for self-awareness that the Silent Way calls upon, a capacity said to be little appreciated or exercised by first language learners.

But the Silent Way is not merely a language teaching method. Gattegno sees language learning through the Silent Way as a recovery of innocence — "a return to our full powers and potentials." Gattegno's aim is not just second language learning; it is nothing less than the education of the spiritual powers and of the sensitivity of the individual. Mastery of linguistic skills are seen in the light of an emotional inner peace resulting from the sense of power and control brought about by new levels of awareness. Silent Way learning claims to "consolidate the hu­man dimensions of being, which include variety and individuality as essential factors for an acceptance of others as contributors to one's own life" and even moves us "towards better and more lasting solutions of present-day conflicts" (Gattegno 1972: 84).



The general objective of the Silent Way is to give beginning level students oral and aural facility in basic elements of the target language. The general goal set for language learning is near-native fluency in the target language, and correct pronunciation and mastery of the prosodic elements of the target language are emphasized. An immediate objective is to provide the learner with a basic practical knowledge of the grammar of the language. This forms the basis for independent learning on the learner's part. Gattegno discusses the following kinds of objectives as appropriate for a language course at an elementary level (Gattegno 1972: 81-83). Students should be able to correctly and easily answer questions about themselves, their education, their family, travel, and daily events; speak with a good accent; give either a written or oral description of a picture, "including the existing relationships that concern space, time and numbers"; answer general questions about the culture and the literature of the native speakers of the target language; perform adequately in the following areas: spelling, grammar (production rather than explanation), reading comprehension, and writing.

Gattegno states that the Silent Way teaches learners how to learn a language, and the skills developed through the process of learning a foreign or second language can fee employed in dealing with "unknowns" of every type. The method, we are told, can also be used to teach reading and writing, and its usefulness is not restricted to beginning level stu­dents. Most of the examples Gattegno describes, however, as well as the classes we have observed, deal primarily with a basic level of aural/ oral proficiency.

The syllabus

The Silent Way adopts a basically structural syllabus, with lessons planned around grammatical items and related vocabulary. Gattegno does not, however, provide details as to the precise selection and arrangement of grammatical and lexical items to be covered. There is no general Silent Way syllabus. But from observation of Silent Way programs developed by the Peace Corps to teach a variety of languages at a basic level of proficiency, it is clear that language items are introduced according to their grammatical complexity, their relationship to what has been taught previously, and the ease with which items can be presented visually. Typically, the imperative is the initial structure introduced, because of the ease with which action verbs may be demonstrated using Silent Way materials. New elements, such as the plural form of nouns, are taught within a structure already familiar. Numeration occurs early in a course, because of the importance of numbers in everyday life and the ease with which they can be demonstrated. Prepositions of location also appear early in the syllabus for similar reasons.

Vocabulary is selected according to the degree to which it can be manipulated within a given structure and according to its productivity within the classroom setting. In addition to prepositions and numbers, pronouns, quantifiers, words dealing with temporal relations, and words of comparison are introduced early in the course, because they "refer to oneself and to others in the numerous relations of everyday life" (Stevick 1979). These kinds of words are referred to as the "functional vocabulary" of a language because of their high utility.

The following is a section of a Peace Corps Silent Way Syllabus for the first ten hours of instruction in Thai. It is used to teach American Peace Corps volunteers being trained to teach in Thailand. At least 15 minutes of every hour of instruction would be spent on pronunciation. A word that is italicised can be substituted for by another word having the same function.



1. Wood colour red.

wood, red, green, yellow, brown, pink, white, orange, black, colour

2. Using the numbers 1—10

one, two,... ten

3. Wood colour red two pieces.

take (pick up)

4. Take (pick up) wood colour red two pieces

give, object pronouns

5. Take wood colour red two pieces hive him

where, on, under, near, far, over, next to, here, there

6. Wood red where? Wood red on table.

Question-forming rules. Yes. No.

7. Wood colour red on table, is it? Yes, on. Not on.

adjectives of comparison

8. Wood colour red long. Wood colour green longer. Wood colour orange longest.

9. Wood colour green taller. Wood colour red is it?

10. Review. Students use structures taught in new situations, such as comparing the heights of stu­dents in the class.

(Joel Wiskin, personal communication)

Types of learning and teaching activities

Learning tasks and activities in the Silent Way have the function of encouraging and shaping student oral response without direct oral instruction from or unnecessary modelling by the teacher. Basic to the method are simple linguistic tasks in which the teacher models a word, phrase, or sentence and then elicits learner responses. Learners then go on create their own utterances by putting together old and new information. Charts, rods, and other aids may be used to elicit learner responses. Teacher modelling is minimal, although much of the activity may be teacher directed. Responses to commands, questions, and visual cues thus constitute the basis for classroom activities.

Learner roles

Gattegno sees language learning as a process of personal growth re­sulting from growing Student awareness and self-challenge. The learner first experiences a "random or almost random feeling of the area of activity in question until one finds one or more cornerstones to build on. Then starts a systematic analysis, first by trial and error, later by directed experiment with practice of the acquired sub areas until mastery follows" (Gattegno 1972: 79). Learners are expected to develop independence, autonomy, and responsibility. Independent learners are those who are aware that they must depend on their own resources and realize that they can use "the knowledge of their own language to open up some things in a new language" or that they can "take their knowledge of the first few words in the new language and figure out additional words by using that knowledge" (Stevick 1980: 42). The autonomous learner chooses proper expressions in a given set of circumstances and situations. "The teacher cultivates the student's 'autonomy' by deliberately building choices into situations" (Stevick 1980: 42). Responsible learners know that they have free will to choose among any set of linguistic choices. The ability to choose intelligently and carefully is said to be evidence of responsibility. The absence of correction and repeated modelling from the teacher requires the students to develop "inner criteria" and to correct themselves. The absence of explanations requires learners to make generalizations, come to their own conclusions, and formulate whatever rules they themselves feel they need.

Learners exert a strong influence over each other's learning and, to a lesser degree, over the linguistic content taught. They are expected to interact with each other and suggest alternatives to each other. Learners have only themselves as individuals and the group to rely on, and so must learn to work cooperatively rather than competitively. They need to feel comfortable both correcting each other and being corrected by each other.

In order to be productive members of the learning group, learners-thus have to play varying roles. At times one is an independent individual, at other times a group member. A learner also must be a teacher, a student, part of a support system, a problem solver, and a self-evaluator. And it is the student who is usually expected to decide on what role is most appropriate to a given situation.

Teacher roles

Teacher silence is, perhaps, the unique and, for many traditionally trained language teachers, the most demanding aspect of the Silent Way. Teach­ers are exhorted to resist their long standing commitment to model, remodel, assist, and direct desired student responses, and Silent Way teachers have remarked upon the arduousness of self-restraint to which early expedience of the Silent Way has subjected them. Gattegno talks of subordinating "teaching to learning," but that is not to suggest that the teacher's role in Silent Way is not critical and demanding. Gattegno anticipates that using the Silent Way would require most teachers to change their perception of their role. Stevick defines the Silent Way teacher's tasks as (a) to teach, (b) to test, and (c) to get out of the way (Stevick 1980: 56). Although this may not seem to constitute a radical alternative to standard teaching practice, the details of the steps the teacher is expected to follow are unique to the Silent Way.

By "teaching" is meant the presentation of an item once, typically using nonverbal clues to get across meanings. Testing follows immediately and might better be termed elicitation and shaping of student production, which, again, is done in as silent a way as possible. Finally, the teacher silently monitors learners' interactions with each other and may even leave the room while learners struggle with their new linguistic tools and "pay their ogdens." For the most part, Silent Way teacher's manuals are unavailable (however, see Arnold 1981), and teachers are responsible for designing teaching sequences and creating individual lessons and lesson elements. Gattegno emphasizes the importance of teacher-defined learning goals that are clear and attainable. Sequence and timing in Silent Way classes are more important than in many kinds of language teaching classes, and the teachers' sensitivity and man­agement of them is critical.

More generally, the teacher is responsible for creating an environment that encourages student risk taking and that facilitates learning. This is not to say that the Silent Way teacher becomes "one of the group." In fact, observers have noted that Silent Way teachers often appear aloof or even gruff with their students. The teacher's role is one of neutral observer, neither elated by correct performance nor discouraged by error. Students are expected to come to see supportive but emotionally uninvolved.

The teacher uses gestures, charts, and manipulates in order to elicit and shape student responses and so must be both facile and creative as a pantomimist and puppeteer. In sum, the Silent way teacher, like the complete dramatist, writes the script, chooses the props, sets the mood, models the action, designates the players, and is critic for the performance.

The role of instructional materials

The Silent Way is perhaps as well known for the unique nature of its teaching materials as for the silence of its teachers. The materials consist mainly of a set of coloured rods, coded-coded pronunciation and vocabulary wall charts, a pointer, and reading/writing exercises, all of which are used to illustrate the relationships between sound and meaning in the target language. The materials are designed for manipulation by the students as well as by the teacher, independently and cooperatively, in promoting language learning by direct association. The number of languages and contain symbols in the target language for all of the vowel and consonant sounds of the language. The symbols are colour coded according to pronunciation; thus, if a language possesses two different symbols for the same sound, they will be coloured alike. Classes often begin by using Fidel charts in the native language, colour coded in an analogous manner, so that students learn to pair a sound with its associated colour. There may be from one to eight of such charts, depending upon the language. The teacher uses the pointer to indicate a sound symbol for the students to produce. Where native-language Fidels are used, the teacher will point to a symbol on one chart and then to its analogue on the Fidel in the other language. In the absence of native-language charts, or when introducing a sound not present in the native language, the teacher will give one clear, audible model after indicating the proper Fidel symbol in the target language. The charts are hung on the wall and serve to aid in remembering pronunciation and in building new words by sounding out sequences of symbols as they are pointed to by the teacher or student.

Just as the Fidel charts are used to visually illustrate pronunciation, the coloured cuisenaire rods are used to directly link words and structures with their meanings in the target language, thereby avoiding translation into the native language. The rods vary in length from one to ten centimetres, and each length has a specific colour. The rods may be used for naming colours, for size comparisons, to represent people build floor plans, constitute a road map, and so on. Use of the rods is intended to promote inventiveness, creativity, and interest in forming communicative utterances on the part of the students, as they move from simple to more complex structures. Gattegno and his proponents believe that the range of structures that can be illustrated and learned through skilful use of the rods is as limitless as the human imagination. When the teacher or student has difficulty expressing a desired word or concept, the rods can be supplemented by referring to the Fidel charts, or to the third major visual aid used in the Silent Way, the vocabulary charts.

The vocabulary or word charts are likewise colour coded, although the colours of the symbols will not correspond to the phonetics of the Fidels, but rather to conceptual groupings of words. There are typically twelve such charts containing 500 to 800 words in the native language and script. These words are selected according to their ease of application in teaching, their relative place in the "functional" or "luxury" vocab­ulary, their flexibility in terms of generalization and use with other words, and their importance in illustrating basic grammatical structures. The content of word charts will vary from language to language, but the general content of the vocabulary charts (Gattegno 1972) is paraphrased below:

Chart 1: the word rod, colours of the rods, plural markers, simple im­perative verbs, personal pronouns, some adjectives and question words

Charts 2, 3: remaining pronouns, words for "here" and "there," of, for, and name

Chart 4: numbers

Charts 5, 6: words illustrating size, space, and temporal relationships, as well as some concepts difficult to illustrate with rods, such as order, causality, condition, similarity and difference

Chart 7: words that qualify, such as adverbs

Charts 8, 9: verbs, with cultural references where possible

Chart 10: family relationships

Charts 11, 12: words expressing time, calendar elements, seasons, days, week, month, year,


Other materials that may be used include books and worksheets for practicing reading and writing skills, picture books, tapes; videotapes, films, and other visual aids. Reading and writing are sometimes taught from the beginning; and students are given assignments to do outside the classroom at their own pace. These materials are of secondary im­portance, and are used to supplement the classroom use of rods and charts. Choice and implementation depends upon need as assessed by teachers and/or students.


A Silent way lesson typically follows a standard format. The first part of the lesson focuses on pronunciation. Depending on student level, the class might work on sounds, phrases, or even sentences designated on the Fidel chart. At the beginning stage, the teacher will model the appropriate sound after pointing to a symbol on the chart. Later, the teacher will silently point to individual symbols and combinations of symbols, and on monitor student utterances. The teacher may say a word and have a student guess what sequence of symbols compromised the word.

The pointer is used to indicate stress, phrasing, and intonation. Stress can be shown by touching certain symbol more forcibly than others when pointing out a word. Intonation and phrasing can be demonstrated by tapping on the chart to the rhythm of the utterance.

After practice with the sounds of the language, sentence patterns, structure, and vocabulary are practiced. The teacher models an utterance while creating a visual realization of it with the coloured rods. After modelling the utterance, the teacher will have a student attempt to produce the utterance and will indicate its acceptability. If a response is incorrect, the teacher will attempt to reshape the utterance or have another student present the correct model. After a structure is introduced and understood, the teacher will create a situation in which the students can practice the structure through the manipulation of the rods. Vari­ations on the structural theme will be elicited from the class using the rods and charts.

The sample lesson that follows illustrates a typical lesson format. The language being taught is Thai, for which this is the first lesson.

1. Teacher empties rods onto the table. .

2. Teacher picks up two or three rods of different colours, and after each rod is picked up says: [mai].

3. Teacher holds up one rod of any colour and indicates to a student that a response is required. Student says: [mai]. If response is incorrect, teacher elicits response from another student, who then models for the first student.

4. Teacher next picks up a red rod and says: [mai sti daeng].

5. Teacher picks up a green rod and says: [mai sii khiawj.

6. Teacher picks up either a red or green rod and elicits response from stu­dent, If response is incorrect, procedure in step 3 is followed (student modeling).

7. Teacher introduces two or three other colors in the same manner.

8. Teacher shows any of the rods whose forms were taught previously and elicits student response. Correction technique is through student model­ing, or the teacher may help student isolate error and self-correct.

9. When mastery is achieved, teacher puts one red rod in plain view and says: [mai sii daeng nung an].

10. Teacher then puts two red rods in plain view and says: [mai sii daeng song an].

11. Teacher places two green rods in view and says [mai sii khiaw song an];

12. Teacher holds up two rods of a different color and elicits student response.

13. Teacher introduces additional numbers, based on what the class can comfortably retain. Other colors might also be introduced.

14. Rods are put in a pile. Teacher indicates, through his or her own ac­tions, that rods should be picked up, and the correct utterance made. All die students in the group pick up rods and make correction is encouraged.

15. Teacher then says: [kep mai sii daeng song an].

16. Teacher indicates that a student should give the teacher the rods called for. Teacher asks other students in the class to give him or her the rods that he or she asks for. This is all done in the target language through unambiguous actions on the part of the teacher.

17. Teacher now indicates that the students should give each other com­mands regarding the calling for of rods. Rods are put at the disposal of the class.

18. Experimentation is encouraged. Teacher speaks only to correct an incor­rect utterance, if no peer group correction is forthcoming.

(Joel Wiskin, personal communication)


Despite the philosophical and sometimes almost metaphysical quality of much of Gattegno's writings, the actual practices of the Silent Way are much less revolutionary than might be expected. Working from what is a rather traditional structural and lexical syllabus, the method exemplifies many of the features that characterize more traditional methods, such as Situational Language Teaching and Audiolingualism, with a strong focus on accurate repetition of sentences modeled initially by the teacher and a movement through guided elicitation exercises to freer communication. The innovations in Gattegno's method derive primarily from the manner in which classroom activities are organized, the indirect role the teacher is required to assume in directing and monitoring learner performance, the responsibility placed upon learners to figure out and test their hypotheses about how the language works, and the materials used to elicit and practice language.


These 8 charts present all of the spellings of each of the sounds of English arranged so that all the spellings of a given sound are in the same column. It can immediately be seen, for example, that - there are only 3 ways to spell "oy" but 12 to spell "you". The learners, not the teacher, use these charts to point to the spellings of different words and learn from experience, not from memorization, to choose for example "i" in the middle of words and "y" at the end.


Each colour corresponds to a sound in the language.The colour code is the same as that of the fidel and word charts. This chart enables students to work with precision on the fine phonetical distinctions of the language in question. They can refine their capacity to produce the sounds of the language with the melody and rhythm necessary. It is this capacity to produce the sounds themselves which will lead to their being able understand the spoken language.


One of the 12 word charts on which the functional words of the language are printed in colour.
The colour code is the same as that of the rectangle chart and the fidel.

Only the structural vocabulary of the language (about 500 words) is included: pronouns, articles, prepositions, common adjectives and adverbs, conjunctions, auxiliary
verbs and a few other common verbs but very few nouns.
The use of colour enables students to read directly in languages with a different alphabet or characters and to pronounce correctly what they read.

Community Language Learning


Community Language Learning (CLL) is the name of a method developed by Charles A. Curran and his associates. Curran was a specialist in counseling and a professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago. His application of psychological counseling techniques to learning is known as Counseling-Learning. Community Language Learning represents the use of Counseling-Learning theory to teach languages.

Within the language teaching tradition Community Language Learning is sometimes cited as an example of a "humanistic approach." Links can also be made between CLL procedures and those of bilingual education, particularly the set of bilingual procedures referred to as "language alternation" or "code switching”. Let us discuss briefly the debt of Community Language Learning to these traditions.

As the name indicates, CLL derives its primary insights, and indeed its organizing rationale, from Rogerian counseling. Counseling, as Rogerians see it, consists of one individual (the counselor) assuming "insofar as he is able the internal frame of reference [of the client], perceiving the world as that person sees it and communicating something of this empathetic understanding" (Rogers 1951). In lay terms, counseling is one person giving advice, assistance, and support to another who has a problem or is in some way in need. Community Language Learning draws on the counseling metaphor to redefine the roles of the teacher (the counselor) and learners (the client?) in the language classroom. The basic procedures of CLL can thus be seen as derived from the counselor-client relationship.

Consider the following CLL procedures: A group of learners sit in a circle with the teacher standing outside the circle; a student whispers a message in the native language (LI); the teacher translates it into the foreign language (L2); the student repeats the message in the foreign language into a cassette; students compose further messages in the foreign language with the teacher's help; students reflect about their feelings. We can compare the client—counselor relationship psychological counseling with the learner—knower relationship in Community Language Learning


Psychological counseling (client-counselor)

Community Language Learning (learner-knower)

1. Client and counselor agree [con­tract] to counseling.

1. Learner and knower agree to language learning.

2. Client articulates his or her prob­lem in language of affect.

2. Learner presents to the knower (in LI) a message he or she wishes to deliver to another.

3. Counselor listens carefully.

3. Knower listens and other learners overhear.

4. Counselor restates client message in language of cognition.

4. Knower restates learner's message in L2.

5. Client evaluates the accuracy of counselor's message restatement.

5. Learner repeats the L2 message form to its addressee.

6. Client reflects on the interaction of the counseling session.

6. Learner raptors (from tape or memory) and reflects upon the messages exchanged during the language class.

CLL techniques also belong to a larger set of foreign language teaching practices sometimes described as humanistic techniques (Moskowitz 1978). Moskowitz defines humanistic techniques as those that blend what the student feels, thinks and knows with what he is learning in the target language. Rather than self-denial being the acceptable way of life, self-actualization and self-esteem are the ideals the exercises pursue. [The techniques] help build rapport, cohesiveness, and caring that far transcend what is already there... help students to be themselves, to accept themselves, and be proud of themselves... help foster a climate of caring and sharing in the foreign language class. (Moskowitz 1978: 2)

In sum, humanistic techniques engage the whole person, including the emotions and feelings (the affective realm) as well as linguistic knowledge and behavioral skills.

Another language teaching tradition with which Community Language Learning is linked is a set of practices used in certain kinds of bilingual education programmes and referred to by Mackey (1972) as "language alternation." In language alternation, a message/lesson/class is presented first in the native tongue and then again in the second language. Students know the meaning and flow of an L2 message from their recall of the parallel meaning and flow of an L1 message. They begin to holistically piece together a view of the language out of these message sets. In CLL, a learner presents a message in L1 to the knower. The message is translated into L2 by the knower. The learner then repeats the message in L2, addressing it to another learner with whom he or she wishes to communicate. CLL learners are encouraged to attend to the "overhears" they experience between other learners and their knowers. The result of the "overhear" is that every member of the group can understand what any given learner is trying to communicate (La Forge 1983: 45). In view of the reported success of language alternation pro­cedures in several well-studied bilingual education settings (e.g., Lim 1968; Mackey 1972), it may be that this little-discussed aspect of CLL accounts for more of the informally reported successes of CLL students than is usually acknowledged.


Theory of language

Curran himself wrote little about his theory, of language. His .student La Forge (1983) has attempted to be more explicit about this dimension of Community Language Learning theory, and we draw on his account for the language theory underlying the method. La Forge reviews lin­guistic theory as a prelude to presenting the CLL model of language. He seems to accept that language theory must start, though not end, with criteria for sound features, the sentence, and abstract models of language (La Forge 1983: 4). The foreign language learners' tasks are "to apprehend the sound system, assign fundamental meanings, and to construct a basic grammar of the foreign language.'' He cites with pride that "after several months a small group of students was able to learn the basic sound and grammatical patterns of German" (1983: 47).

A theory of language built on "basic sound and grammatical patterns" does not appear to suggest any departures from traditional structuralist positions on the nature of language. However, the recent writings of CLL proponents deal at great length with what they call an alternative theory of language, which is referred to as Language as Social Process.

La Forge (1983) begins by suggesting that language as social process is "different from language as communication." We are led to infer that the concept of communication that La Forge rejects is the classic sender-message-receiver model in information theory. The social-process model is different from earlier information-transmitting models, La Forge sug­gests, because

Communication is more than just a message being transmitted from a speaker it at the same time both subject and object of his own message….communication involves not just the unidirectional transfer of information to the other, but the very constitution of the speaking subject in relation to its other. . . . Communication is an exchange which is incom­plete without a feedback reaction from the destinee of the message. (La Forge 1983: 3)

The social-process view of language is then elaborated in terms of six qualities or subprocesses:

1. The whole-person process

2. The educational process

3. The interpersonal process

4. The developmental process

5. The communicative process

6. The cultural process

La Forge also elaborates on the interactional view of language un­derlying Community Language Learning . "Language is people; language is persons in contact; language is persons in response" (1983: 9), CLL interactions are of two distinct and fundamental kinds: interactions between learners and interactions between learners and knowers. Interactions between learners are unpredictable in content but typically are said to 'involve exchanges of affect. Learner exchanges deepen in intimacy as the class becomes a community of learners. The desire to be part of this growing intimacy pushes learners to keep pace with the learning of their peers. Tranel (1968) notes that "the students of the experimental group were highly motivated to learn in order to avoid isolation from the group." Intimacy then appears to be defined here as the desire to avoid isolation.

Interaction between learners and knowers is initially dependent. The learner tells the knower what he or she wishes to say in the target language, and the knower tells the learner how to say it. In later stages interactions between learner and knower are characterized as self-as­sertive (stage 2), resentful and indignant (stage 3), tolerant (stage 4), and independent (stage 5). These changes of interactive relationship are paralleled by five stages of language learning and five stages of affective conflicts (La Forge 1983: 50).

These two types of interactions may be said to be microcosmically equivalent to the two major classes of human interaction — interaction between equals (symmetrical) and interaction between unequals (asymetrical) (Munby 1978). They also appear to represent examples of (a) interaction that changes in degree(learner to learner) and (b) interaction that changes in kind (learner to knower). That is, learner-learner interaction is held to change in the direction of increasing intimacy and trust, whereas learner-knower interaction is held to change in its very nature from dependent to resentful to tolerant to independent.


Sender è Message èReceiver


Sender è Message èReceiver

Comparison of the information-transmission model (left) and the social-process model (right) of communication

Theory of learning

Curran's counseling experience led him to conclude that the techniques of counseling could be applied to learning in general (this became Counseling-Learning) and to language teaching in particular (Community Language Learning). The CLL view of learning is contrasted with two other types of learning, which Curran saw as widespread and undesir­able. The first of these describes a putative learning view long popular in Western culture. In this view, "the intellectual and factual process alone are regarded as the-main intent of learning, to the neglect of engagement and involvement of the self" (Curran 1972: 58). The second view of learning is the behavioral view. Curran refers to this kind of learning as "animal learning," in which learners are "passive" and their involvement limited (Curran 1976: 84).

In contrast, CLL advocates a holistic approach to language learning, since "true" human learning is both cognitive and affective. This is termed whole-person learning. Such learning takes place in a commu­nicative situation where teachers and learners are involved in -"an in­teraction ... in which both experience a sense of their own wholeness" (Curran 1972: 90). Within this, the development of the learner's rela­tionship with the teacher is central. The process is divided into five stages and compared to the ontogenetic development of the child.

In the first, "birth" stage, feelings of security and belonging are es­tablished. In the second, as the learner's abilities improve, the learner, as child, begins to achieve a measure of independence from the parent. By the third, the learner "speaks independently" and may need to assert his, or her own identity, often rejecting unasked-for advice. The fourth stage sees the learner as secure enough to take criticism, and by the last stage, the learner merely works upon improving style and knowledge of linguistic appropriateness. By the end of the process, the child has become adult. The learner knows everything the teacher does and can become knower for a new learner. The process of learning a new language, then, is like being reborn and developing a new persona, with all the trials and challenges that are associated with birth and maturation. Insofar as language learning is thought to develop through creating social rela­tionships, success in language learning follows from a successful rela­tionship between learner and teacher, and learner and learner. "Learning is viewed as a unified, personal and social experience." The learner "is no longer seen as learning in isolation and in competition with others" (Curran 1972: 11-12).

Curran in many places discusses what he calls "consensual valida­tion," or "convalidation," in which mutual warmth, understanding, and a positive evaluation of the other person's worth develops be­tween the teacher and the learner. A relationship characterized by con-validation is considered essential to the learning process and is a key element of CLL classroom procedures. A group of ideas concerning the psychological requirements for successful learning are collected under the acronym SARD (Curran 1976: 6), which can be explained/as follows.

S stands for security. Unless learners feel secure, they will find it difficult to enter into a successful learning experience.

A stands for attention and aggression. CLL recognizes that a loss of attention should be taken as an indication of the learner's lack of in­volvement in learning, the implication being that variety in the choice of learner tasks will increase attention and therefore promote learning.

Aggression applies to the way in which a child, having learned something, seeks an opportunity to show his or her strength by taking over and demonstrating what has been learned, using the new knowledge as a tool for self-assertion.

R stands for retention and reflection. If the whole person is involved in the learning process, what is retained is internalized and becomes a part of the learner's new persona in the foreign language. Reflection is a consciously identified period of silence within the framework of the lesson for the student "to focus on the learning forces of the last hour, to assess his present stage of development, and to re-evaluate future goals" (La Forge 1983: 68). .

D denotes discrimination. When learners "have retained a body of material, they are ready to sort it out and see how one thing relates to another" (La Forge 1983: 69). This discrimination process becomes more refined and ultimately "enables the students to use the language for purposes of communication outside the classroom" (La Forge 1983: 69).

These central aspects of Curran's learning philosophy address not the psycholinguistic and cognitive processes involved in second language acquisition, but rather the personal commitments that learners need to make before language acquisition processes can operate. CLL learning theory hence stands in marked contrast to linguistically or psycholinguistically based learned theories, such as those informing Audiolingualism or the Natural Approach.



Since linguistic or communicative competence is specified only in social terms, explicit linguistic or communicative objectives are not defined in the literature on Community Language Learning. Most of what has been written about CLL describes its use in introductory conversation courses in a foreign language. The assumption seems to be that through the method, the teacher can successfully transfer his or her knowledge and proficiency in the target language to the learners, which implies that attaining near-native like mastery of the target language is set as a goal. Specific objectives are not addressed.

The syllabus

Community Language Learning is most often used in the teaching of oral proficiency, but with some modifications it may be used in the teaching of writing, as Tranel (1968) has demonstrated. CLL does not use a conventional language syllabus, which sets out in advance the grammar, vocabulary, and other language items to be taught and the order in which they will be covered. If a course is based on Curran's recommended procedures, the course progression is topic based, with learners nominating things they wish to talk about and messages they wish to communicate to other learners. The teacher's responsibility is to provide a conveyance for these meanings in a way appropriate to the learners' proficiency level. Although CLL is not explicit about this, skilled CLL teachers seem to sift the learners´ intentions through the teacher's implicit syllabus, providing translations that match what learners can be expected to do and say at that level. In this sense then a CLL syllabus emerges from the interaction between the learner's expressed commu­nicative intentions and the teacher's reformulations of these into suitable target language utterances. Specific grammatical points, lexical patterns, and generalizations will sometimes be isolated by the teacher for more detailed, study and analysis, and subsequent specification of these as a retrospective account of what the course covered could be a way of deriving a CLL language syllabus. Each CLL course would evolve its own syllabus, however, since what develops out of teacher-learner in­teractions in one course will be different from what happens in another.

Types of learning and teaching activities

As with most methods, CLL combines innovative learning tasks and activities with conventional ones. They include:

1. Translation. Learners form a small circle. A learner whispers a message or meaning he or she wants to express, the teacher translates it into (and may interpret it in) the target language, and the learner repeats the teach­er's translation.

2. Group Work. Learners may engage in various group tasks, such as small-group discussion of a topic, preparing a conversation, preparing a sum­mary of a topic for presentation to another group, preparing a story that will be presented to the teacher and the rest of the class.

3. Recording. Students record conversations in the target language.

4. Transcription. Students transcribe utterances and conversations they have recorded for practice and analysis of linguistic forms.

5. Analysis. Students analyze and study transcriptions of target language sen­tences in order to focus on particular lexical usage or on the application of particular grammar rules.

6. Reflection and observation. Learners reflect and report on their experience of the class, as a class or in groups. This usually consists of expressions of feelings - sense of one another, reactions to silence, concern for something to say, etc.

7. Listening. Students listen to a monologue by the teacher involving ele­ments they might have elicited or overheard in class interactions.

8. Free conversation. Students engage in ´free conversation with' the teacher or with other learners. This might include discussion of what they learned as well as feelings they had about how they learned.

Learner roles

In Community Language Learning, learners become members of a community - their fellow learners and the teacher - and learn through in­teracting with members of the community. Learning is not viewed as an individual accomplishment but as something that is achieved collaboratively. Learners are expected to listen attentively to the knower, to freely provide meanings they wish to express, to repeat target utterances without hesitation, to support fellow members of the community, to report deep inner feelings and frustrations as well as joy and pleasure, and to become counselors to other learners. CLL learners are typically grouped in a circle of six to twelve learners, with the number of knowers varying from one per group to one per student. CLL has also been used in larger schools classes where special grouping arrangements are necessary, such as organizing learners in temporary pairs in facing parallel lines.

Learner roles are keyed to the five stages of language learning outlined earlier. The view of the learner is an organic one, with each new role growing developmentally out of the one preceding. These role changes are not easily or automatically achieved. They are in fact seen as out­comes of affective crises.

When faced with a new cognitive task, the learner must solve an affective crisis. With the solution of the five affective crises, one for each CLL stage, the student progresses from a lower to a higher stage of development. (La Forge 1983: 44)

Learning is a "whole person" process, and the learner at each stage is involved not just in the accomplishment of cognitive (language learning) tasks but in the solution of affective conflicts and “the respect for the enactment of values" as well (La Forge 1983: 55).

CLL compares language learning to the stages of human growth. In stage 1 the learner is like an infant, completely dependent on the knower for linguistic content. "A new self of the learner is generated or born in the target language" (La Forge 1983:45). The learner repeats utterances made by the teacher in the target language and "overhears" the inter­changes between other learners and knowers.

In stage 2 the "child achieves a measure of independence from the parent" (La forge 1983:46), Learners begin to establish their own self-affirmation and independence by using simple expressions and phrases they have previously heard.

In stage 3, "the separate-existence stage," learners begin to understand others directly in the target language. Learners will resent uninvited assistance provided by the knower/parent at this stage.

Stage 4 may be considered "a kind of adolescence." The learner func­tions independently, although his or her knowledge of the foreign lan­guage is still rudimentary. The role of "psychological understanding" shifts from knower to learner. The learner must learn how to elicit from the knower the advanced level of linguistic knowledge the knower possesses.

Stage 5 is called "the independent stage." Learners refine their un­derstanding of register as well as grammatically correct language use. They may become counselors to less advanced students while profiting from contact with their original knower.

Teacher roles

At the deepest level, the teacher’s function derives from the functions of the counselor in Rogerian psychological counseling. A counselor’s clients are people with problems, who in a typical counseling session will often use emotional language to communicate their difficulties to the counselor. The counselor's role is to respond calmly and non-judgmentally, in a supportive manner, and help the client try to understand his or her problems better by applying order and analysis to them. The counselor is not responsible for paraphrasing the client's problem ele­ment for element but rather for capturing the essence of the client's concern, such that the client might say, "Yes, that's exactly what I meant." "One of the functions of the counseling response is to relate affect... to cognition. Understanding the language of 'feeling', the coun­selor replies in the language of cognition" (Curran 1976: 26). It was the model of teacher as counselor that Curran attempted to bring to language learning.

There is also room for actual counseling in Community Language Learning. Explicit recognition is given to the psychological problems that may arise in learning a second language. "Personal learning conflicts ... anger, anxiety and similar psychological disturbance - understood and responded to by the teacher's counseling sensitivity - are indicators of deep personal investment" (J. Rardin, in Curran 1976: 103). In this case, the teacher is expected to play a role very close to that of the "regular" counselor. The teacher's response may be of a different order of detachment, consideration, and understanding from that of the av­erage teacher in the same circumstances.

More specific teacher roles are, like those of the students, keyed to the five developmental stages. In the early stages of learning the teacher operates in a supportive role, providing target language translations and a model for imitation on request of the clients. Later, interaction may be initiated by the students, and the teacher monitors learner utterances, providing assistance when requested. As learning progresses, students become increasingly capable of accepting criticism, and the teacher may intervene directly to correct deviant utterances, supply idioms, and advise on usage and fine points of grammar. The teacher's role is initially likened to that of a nurturing parent. The student gradually "grows"' In ability, and the nature of the relationship changes so that the teacher's position becomes somewhat dependent upon the learner. The knower derives a sense of self-worth through requests for the knower's assistance.

One continuing role of the teacher is particularly notable in Com­munity Language Learning. The teacher is responsible for providing a safe environment in which clients can learn and grow. Learners, feeling secure, are free to direct their energies to the tasks of communication and learning rather than to building and maintaining their defensive positions. Curran describes the importance of a secure atmosphere as follows

As whole persons, we seem to learn best in an atmosphere of personal secu­rity. Feeling secure, we are freed to approach the learning situation with the attitude of willing openness., Both the learner's and the knower's level of se­curity determine the psychological tone of the entire learning experience. (Curran 1976: 6)

Many of the newer nontraditional teaching methods stress teacher responsibility for creating and maintaining a secure environment for learning; probably no method attaches greater importance to this aspect of language learning than does Community Language Learning. Thus, it is interesting to note two "asides" in the discussion of learning security in CLL.

First, security is a culturally relative concept. What provides a sense of security in one cultural context may produce anxiety in another. La Forge gives as an example the different patterns of personal introduction and how these are differentially expressed and experienced in early stages of CLL among students of different backgrounds. "Each culture had unique forms which provide for acquaintance upon forming new groups. These must be carefully adopted so as to provide cultural security for the students of the foreign language" (La Forge 1983: 66).

Second, it may be undesirable to create too secure an environment for learners. "The security of the students is never absolute: otherwise no learning would occur" (La Forge 1983: 65). This is reminiscent of the teacher who says, "My students would never learn anything if the fear of examination failure didn’t drive them to it." How much insecurity is optimal for language learning in Community Language Learning is unfortunately not further discussed in the literature.

The role of instructional materials

Since a CLL course evolves out of the interactions of the community, a textbook is not considered a necessary component. A textbook would impose a particular body of language content on the learners, thereby impeding their growth and interaction. Materials may be developed by the teacher as the course develops, although these generally consist of little more than summaries on the blackboard or overhead projector of some of the linguistic features of conversations generated by students. Conversations may also be transcribed and distributed for study and analysis, and learners may work in groups to produce their own ma­terials, such as scripts for dialogues and mini-dramas.

In early accounts of CLL the use of teaching machines (the Chromachord Teaching System) is recommended for necessary "rote-drill and practice" in language learning. "The... design and use of machines...now appear[s] to make possible the freeing of the teacher to do what only a human person can do... become a learning counselor" (Curran 976: 6). In more recent CLL descriptions (e.g., La Forge 1983) teaching machines and their accompanying materials are not mentioned, and we assume that contemporary CLL classes do not use teaching machines at all.


Since each Community Language Learning course is in a sense a unique experience, description of typical CLL procedures in a class period is problematic. Stevick distinguishes between "classical" CLL (based di­rectly on the model proposed by, Gurran) and personal interpretations of it, such as those discussed by different advocates of CLL (e.g., La Forge 1983). The following description attempts to capture some typical activities in CLL classes.

Generally the observer will see a circle of learners all facing one an­other. The learners are linked in some way to knowers or a single knower as teacher. The first class (and subsequent classes) may begin with a period of silence, in which learners try to determine what is supposed to happen in their language class. In later classes, learners may sit in silence while they decide what to talk about (La Forge 1983:72). The observer may note that the awkwardness of silence becomes sufficiently agonizing for someone to volunteer to break the silence. The knower may use the volunteered comment as a way of introducing discussion of classroom contacts or as a stimulus for language interaction regarding how learners felt about the period of silence. The knower may encourage learners to address questions to one another or to the knower. These may be questions on any subject a learner is curious enough to inquire about. The questions and answers may be tape recorded for later use, as reminder and review of topics discussed and language used.

The teacher might then form the class into facing lines for three-minute pair conversations. These are seen as equivalent to the brief wrestling sessions by which judo students practice. Following this the class might be reformed into small groups in which a single topic, chosen by the class or the group, is discussed. The summary of the group discussion may be presented to another group, who in turn try to repeat or para­phrase the summary back to the original group.

In an intermediate or advanced class a teacher may encourage groups to prepare a paper drama for presentation to the rest of the class. A paper drama group prepares a story that is told or shown to the counselor. The counselor provides or corrects target language statements and suggests improvements to the story sequence. Students are then given materials with which they prepare large picture cards to accompany their story. After practicing the story dialogue and preparing the accom­panying pictures, each group presents its paper drama to the rest of the class. The students accompany their story with music, puppets, and drums as well as with their pictures (La Forge 1983: 81-2).

Finally, the teacher asks learners to reflect on the language class, as a class or in groups. Reflection provides the basis for discussion of contracts (written or oral contracts that learners and teachers have agreed upon and that specify what they agree to accomplish within the course), personal interaction, feelings toward the knower and learner, and the sense of progress and frustration.

Dieter Stroinigg (in Stevick 1980: 185-6) presents a protocol of what a first day's CLL class covered which is outlined here:

1. Informal greetings and self-introductions were made.

2. The teacher made a statement of the goals and guidelines for the course.

3. A conversation session in the foreign language took place.

  1. A circle was formed so that everyone had visual contact with each other and all were in easy reach of a tape recorder microphone,
  2. One student initiated conversation with another student by giving a message in the L1 (English).
  3. The instructor, standing behind the student, whispered a close equivalent of the message in the L2 (German).
  4. The student then repeated the L2 message to its addressee and into the tape recorder microphone as well.
  5. Each student had a chance to compose and record a few messages
  6. The tape recorder was rewound and replayed at intervals.
  7. Each student repeated the meaning in English of what he or she had said in the L2 and helped to refresh the memory of others.

4. Students then participated in a reflection period, in which they were asked to express their feelings about the previous experience with total frankness.

5. From the material just recorded the instructor chose sentences to write on the blackboard that highlighted elements of grammar, spelling, and pecul­iarities of capitalization in the L2.

6. Students were encouraged to ask questions about any of the above.

7. Students were encouraged to copy sentences from the board with notes on meaning and usage. This became their "textbook" for home study.

This inventory of activities encompasses the major suggestions for class­room practices appearing in the most recent literature on CLL. Other procedures, however, may emerge fortuitously on the basis of learner—knower interactions in the classroom context.


Community Language Learning is the most responsive of the methods we have reviewed in terms of its sensitivity to learned communicative intent. It should be noted, however, that this communicative intent is constrained by the number and knowledge of fellow learners. A learner's desire to understand or express technical terms used in aeronautical engineering is unlikely to receive adequate response ill the CLL class. Community Language Learning places unusual demands on language teachers. They must be highly proficient and sensitive to nuance in both L1 and L2. They must be familiar with and sympathetic to the role of counselors in psychological counseling. They must resist the pressure "to teach" in the traditional senses. As one CLL teacher notes, "I had to relax completely and to exclude my own will to produce something myself. I had to exclude any function of forming or formulating some­thing within me, not trying to do something"(Curran 1976: 33).

The teacher must also be relatively nondirective and must be prepared to accept and even encourage the "adolescent" aggression of the learner as he or she strives for independence. The teacher must operate without conventional materials, depending on student topics to shape and mo­tivate the class. In addition, the teacher must be prepared to deal with potentially hostile learner reactions to the method. The teacher must also be culturally sensitive and prepared to redesign tile language class into more culturally compatible organizational forms. And the teacher must attempt to learn these new roles and skills without much specific guidance from CLL texts presently available. Special framing in Com­munity Language Learning techniques is usually required.

Critics of Community Language Learning question the appropriate­ness of the counseling metaphor upon which it is predated, asking for evidence that language learning ;in classrooms indeed parallels the proc­esses that characterize psychological counseling. Questions also arise about whether teachers should attempt counseling without special train­ing. CLL procedures were largely developed and tested with groups of college-age Americans. The problems and successes experienced by one or two different client groups may not necessarily represent language learning universals. Other concerns have been expressed regarding the lack of a syllabus, which makes objectives unclear and evaluation difficult to accomplish, and the focus on fluency rather than accuracy, which may lead to inadequate control of the grammatical system of the target language. Supporters of CLL, on the other hand, emphasize the positive benefits of a method that centers on the learner and, stresses the humanistic side of language learning, and not merely its linguistic dimensions.

The Direct Method


Gouin had been one of the first of the nineteenth-century reformers to attempt to build a methodology around observation of child language learning. Other reformers toward the end of the century likewise turned their attention to naturalistic principles of language learning, and for this reason they are sometimes referred to as advocates of a "natural" method. In fact at various times throughout the history of language teaching, attempts have been made to make second language learning more like first language learning. In the sixteenth century, for example, Montaigne described how he was entrusted to a guardian who addressed him exclusively in Latin for the first years of his life, since Montaigne's father wanted his son to speak Latin well. Among those who tried to apply natural principles to language classes in the nineteenth century was L. Sauveur (1826-1907), who used intensive oral interaction in the target language, employing questions as a way of presenting and eliciting language. He opened a language school in Boston in the late 1860s, and his method soon became referred to as the Natural Method.

Sauveur and other believers in the Natural Method argued that a foreign language could be taught without translation or the use of the learner's native tongue if meaning was conveyed directly through demonstration and action. The German scholar F. Franke wrote on the psychological principles of direct association between forms and mean­ings in the target language (1884) and provided a theoretical justification for a monolingual approach to teaching. According to Franke, a language could best be taught by using it actively in the classroom. Rather than using analytical procedures that focus on explanation of grammar rules in classroom teaching, teachers must encourage direct and spontaneous use of the foreign language in the classroom. Learners would then be able to induce rules of grammar. The teacher replaced the textbook in the early stages of learning. Speaking began with systematic attention to pronunciation. Known words could be used to teach new vocabulary, using mime, demonstration, and pictures.

These natural language learning principles provided the foundation for what came to be known as the Direct Method, which refers to the most widely known of the natural methods. Enthusiastic supporters of the Direct Method introduced it in France and Germany (it was officially approved in both countries at the turn of the century), and it became widely known in the United States through its use by Sauveur and Maximilian Berlitz in successful commercial language schools. (Berlitz, in fact, never used the term; he referred to the method used in his schools as the Berlitz Method.)

In practice it stood for the following principles and procedures:

1. Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.

2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.

3. Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.

4. Grammar was taught inductively.

5. New teaching points were introduced orally.

6. Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pic­tures; abstract

vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.

7. Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.

8. Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.

These principles are seen in the following guidelines for teaching oral language, which are still followed in contemporary Berlitz schools:

Never translate: demonstrate

Never explain: act

Never make a speech: ask questions

Never imitate mistakes: correct

Never speak with single words: use sentences

Never speak too much: make students speak much

Never use the book: use your lesson plan

Never jump around: follow your plan

Never go too fast: keep the pace of the student

Never speak too slowly: speak normally

Never speak too quickly: speak naturally

Never speak too loudly: speak naturally

Never be impatient: take it easy


The Direct Method was quite successful in private language schools, such as those of the Berlitz chain, where paying clients had high motivation and the use of native-speaking teachers was the norm. But despite pressure from proponents of the method, it was difficult to implement in public secondary school education. It overemphasized and distorted the similarities between naturalistic first language learning and classroom foreign language learning and failed to consider the practical realities of the classroom. In addition, it lacked a rigorous basis in applied linguistic theory, and for this reason it was often criticized by the more academically based proponents of the Reform Movement. The Direct Method represented the product of enlightened amateurism. It was perceived to have several drawbacks. First, it required teachers who were native speakers or who had nativelike fluency in the foreign language. It was largely dependent on the teacher's skill, rather than on a textbook, and not all teachers were proficient enough in the foreign language to adhere to the principles of the method. Critics pointed out that strict adherence to Direct Method principles was often counterproductive, since teachers were required to go to great lengths to avoid using the native tongue, when sometimes a simple brief explanation in the student's native tongue would have been a more efficient route to com­prehension.

The Harvard psychologist Roger Brown has documented similar problems with strict Direct Method techniques. He described his frustration in observing a teacher performing verbal gymnastics in an attempt to convey the meaning of Japanese words, when translation would have been a much more efficient technique to use.

By the 1920s, use of the Direct Method in noncommercial schools in Europe had consequently declined. In France and Germany it was gradually modified into versions that combined some Direct Method techniques with more controlled grammar-based activities. The European popularity of the Direct Method in the early part of the twentieth century caused foreign language specialists in the United States to attempt to have it implemented in American schools and colleges, although they decided to move with caution. A study begun in 1923 on the state of foreign language teaching concluded that no single method could guarantee successful results. The goal of trying to teach conversation skills was considered impractical in view of the restricted time available for foreign language teaching in schools, the limited skills of teachers, and the perceived irrelevance of conversation skills in a foreign language for the average American college student. The study - published as the Coleman Report - advocated that a more reasonable goal for a foreign language course would be a reading knowledge of a foreign language, achieved through the gradual introduction of words and grammatical structures in simple reading texts. The main result of this recommen­dation was that reading became the goal of most foreign language pro­grams in the United States (Coleman 1929). The emphasis on reading continued to characterize foreign language teaching in the United States until World War II.

Although the Direct Method enjoyed popularity in Europe, not every­one had embraced it enthusiastically. The British applied linguist Henry Sweet had recognized its limitations. It offered innovations at the level of teaching procedures but lacked a thorough methodological basis. Its main focus was on the exclusive use of the target language in the class­room, but it failed to address many issues that Sweet thought more basic. Sweet and other applied linguists argued for the development of sound methodological principles that could serve as the basis for teaching tech­niques.

In the 1920s and 1930s applied linguists systematized the principles proposed earlier by the Reform Movement and so laid the foundations for what developed into the British approach to teaching English as a foreign language.

Subsequent developments led to Audio-lingualism in the United States and the Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching in Britain.



The Natural Approach


In 1977, Tracy Terrell, a teacher of Spanish in California, outlined "a proposal for a 'new' philosophy of language teaching which [he] called the Natural Approach" (Terrell 1977; 1982: 121). This was an attempt to develop a language teaching proposal that incorporated the "naturalistic" principles researchers had identified in studies of second language acquisition. The Natural Approach grew out of Terrell's experiences teaching Spanish classes. Since that time Terrell and others have exper­imented with implementing the Natural Approach in elementary- to advanced-level classes and with several other languages. At the same time he has joined forces with Stephen Krashen, an applied linguist at the University of Southern California, in elaborating a theoretical ra­tionale for the Natural Approach, drawing on Krashen's influential theory of second language acquisition. Krashen and Terrell's combined statement of the principles and practices of the Natural Approach appeared in their book, The Natural Approach, published in 1983. The Natural Approach has attracted a wider interest than some of the other innovative language teaching proposals discussed in this book, largely because of its support by Krashen. Krashen and Terrell's book contains theoretical sections prepared by Krashen that outline his views on second language acquisition (Krashen 1981; 1982), and sections on implemen­tation and classroom procedures, prepared largely by Terrell.

Krashen and Terrell have identified the Natural Approach with what they call "traditional" approaches to language teaching. Traditional approaches are defined as "based on the use of language in communicative situations without recourse to the native language" - and, perhaps, needless to say, without reference to grammatical analysis, grammatical drilling, or to a particular theory of grammar. Krashen and Terrell note that such "approaches have been called natural, psychological, phonetic, new, reform, direct, analytic, imitative and so forth" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 9). The fact that the authors of the Natural Approach relate their approach to the Natural Method has led some to assume chat Natural Approach and Natural Method are synonymous terms. Although the tradition is a common one, there are important differences between the Natural Approach and the older Natural Method, which it will be useful to consider at the outset.

The Natural Method is another term for what by the turn of the century had become known as the Direct Method.. It is described in a report on the state of the art in language teaching com­missioned by the Modern Language Association in 1901 (the report of the "Committee of 12"):

The term natural , used in reference to the Direct Method, merely emphasized that the principles underlying the method were believed to conform to the principles of naturalistic language learning in young children. Similarly, the Natural Approach, as defined by Krashen and Terrell, is believed to conform to the naturalistic principles found in successful second language acquisition. Unlike the Direct Method, however, it places less emphasis on teacher monologues, direct repetition, and formal questions and answers, and less focus on accurate production of target language sentences. In the Natural Approach there is an em­phasis on exposure, or input, rather than practice; optimizing emotional preparedness for learning; a prolonged period of attention to what the language learners hear before they try to produce language; and a will­ingness to use written and other materials as a source of comprehensible input. The emphasis on the central role of comprehension in the Natural Approach links it to other comprehension-based approaches in language teaching.


Theory of language

Krashen and Terrell see communication as the primary function of language, and since their approach focuses on teaching communicative abilities, they refer to the Natural Approach as an example of a communicative approach. The Natural Approach "is similar to other com municative approaches being developed today" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 17). They reject earlier methods of language teaching, such as the Audiolingual Method, which viewed grammar as the central component of language. According to Krashen and Terrell, the major problem with these methods was that they were built not around "actual theories of language acquisition, but theories of something else; for example, the structure of language" (1983: 1). Unlike proponents of Communicative Language Teaching, however, Krashen and Terrell give little attention to a theory of language. Indeed, a recent critic of Krashen suggests he has no theory of language at all (Gregg 1984). What Krashen and Terrell do describe about the nature of language emphasizes the primacy of meaning. The importance of the vocabulary is stressed, for example, suggesting the view that a language is essentially its lexicon and only inconsequently the grammar that determines how the lexicon is exploited to produce messages. Terrell quotes Dwight Bolinger to support this view:

The quantity of information in the lexicon far outweighs that in any other part of the language, and if there is anything to the notion of redundancy it should be easier to reconstruct a message containing just words than one containing just the syntactic relations. The significant fact is the subordinate role of grammar. The most important thing is to get the words in. (Bolinger, in Terrell 1977: 333).

Language is viewed as a vehicle for communicating meanings and mes­sages. Hence Krashen and Terrell state that "acquisition can take place only when people understand messages in the target language (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 19). Yet despite their avowed communicative approach to language, they view language learning, as do audiolingualists, as mastery of structures by stages. "The input hypothesis states that in order for acquirers to progress to the next stage in the acquisition of the target language, they need to understand input language that includes a structure that is part of the next stage" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 32). Krashen refers to this with the formula "I + 1" (i.e., input that contains structures slightly above the learner's present level). We assume that Krashen means by structures something at least in the tradition of what such linguists as Leonard Bloomfield and Charles Fries meant by structures. The Natural Approach thus assumes a linguistic hierarchy of structural complexity that one masters through encounters with "input" containing structures at the "1 + 1" level.

We are left then with a view of language that consists of lexical items, structures, and messages. Obviously, there is no particular novelty in this view as such, except that messages are considered of primary im­portance in the Natural Approach. The lexicon for both perception and production is considered critical in the construction and interpretation of messages. Lexical items in messages arc necessarily grammatically structured, and more complex messages involve more complex gram­matical structure. Although they acknowledge such grammatical structuring, Krashen and Terrell feel that grammatical structure does not require explicit analysis or attention by the language teacher, by the language learner, or in language teaching materials.

Theory of learning

Krashen and Terrell make continuing reference to the theoretical and research base claimed to underlie the Natural Approach and to the fact that the method is unique in having such a base. "It is based on an empirically grounded theory of second language acquisition, which has been supported by a large number of scientific studies in a wide variety of language acquisition and learning contexts" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 1). The theory and research are grounded on Krashen's views of language acquisition, which we will collectively refer to as Krashen's language acquisition theory. Krashen's views have been presented and discussed extensively elsewhere (e.g., Krashen 1982), so we will not try to present or critique Krashen's arguments here.


The Acquisition/Learning Hypothesis claims that there are two distinctive ways of developing competence in a second or foreign language. Acquisition is the "natural" way, paralleling first language development in children. Acquisition refers to an unconscious process that involves the naturalistic development of language proficiency through under­standing language and through using language for meaningful com­munication. Learning, by contrast, refers to a process in which conscious rules about a language are developed. It results in explicit knowledge about the forms of a language and the ability to verbalize this knowledge. Formal teaching is necessary for "learning" to occur, and correction of errors helps with the development of learned rules. Learning, according to the theory, cannot lead to acquisition.


The acquired linguistic system is said to initiate utterances when we communicate in a second or foreign language. Conscious learning can function only as a monitor or editor that checks and repairs the output of the acquired system. I he Monitor Hypothesis claims that we may call upon learned knowledge to correct ourselves when we communicate, hut that conscious learning (i.e., the learned system) has only this func­tion. Three conditions limit the successful use of the monitor:

1. Time. There must be sufficient time for a learner to choose and apply a learned rule.

2. Focus on form. The language user must be focused on correctness or on the form of the output.

3. Knowledge of rules. The performer must know the rules. The monitor does best with rules that are simple in two ways. They must be simple to describe and they must not require complex movements and rearrangements.


According to the Natural Order Hypothesis, the acquisition of grammatical structures proceeds in a predictable order. Research is said to have shown that certain grammatical structures or morphemes are ac­quired before others in first language acquisition of English, and a similar natural order is found in second language acquisition. Errors are signs of naturalistic developmental processes, and during acquisition (but not during learning), similar developmental errors occur in learners no mat­ter what their mother tongue is.


The Input Hypothesis claims to explain the relationship between what the learner is exposed to of a language (the input) and language acqui­sition. It involves four main issues.

First, the hypothesis relates to acquisition, and not to learning.

Second, people acquire language best by understanding input that is slightly beyond their current level of competence:

An acquirer can "move" from a stage I (where I is the acquirer's level of competence) to a stage I +1 (where I + 1 is the stage immediately following I along some natural order) by understanding language containing I + 1. (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 32)

Clues based on the situation and the context, extra linguistic information, and knowledge of the world make comprehension possible.

Third, the ability to speak fluently cannot be taught directly; rather, it "emerges" independently in time, after the acquirer has built up lin­guistic competence by understanding input.

Fourth, if there is a sufficient quantity of comprehensible input, I + 1 will usually be provided automatically. Comprehensible input refers to utterances that the learner understands based on the context in which they are used as well as the language in which they are phrased. When a speaker uses language so that the acquirer understands the message, the speaker "casts a net" of structure around the acquirer's current level of competence, and this will include many instances of I + 1. Thus, input need not be finely tuned to a learner's current level of linguistic competence, and in fact cannot be so finely tuned in a language class, where learners will be at many different levels of competence.

Just as child acquirers of a first language are provided with samples of "caretaker speech," rough-tuned to their present level of understand­ing, so adult acquirers of a second language are provided with simple codes that facilitate second language comprehension. One such code is "foreigner talk," which refers to the speech native speakers use to simplify communication with foreigners. Foreigner talk is characterized by a slower rate of speech, repetition, restating, use of Yes/No instead of Who- questions, and other changes that make messages more compre­hensible to persons of limited language proficiency.


Krashen sees the learner's emotional state or attitudes as an adjustable filter that freely passes, impedes, or blocks input necessary to acquisition. A low affective filter is desirable, since it impedes or blocks less of this necessary input. The hypothesis is built on research in second language acquisition, which has identified three kinds of affective or attitudinal variables related to second language acquisition.

1. Motivation. Learners with high motivation generally do better.

2. Self-confidence. Learners with self-confidence and a good self-image tend to be more successful.

3. Anxiety. Low personal anxiety and low classroom anxiety are more con­ducive to second language acquisition.

The Affective Filter Hypothesis states that acquirers with a low affective filter seek and receive more input, interact with confidence, and are more receptive to the input they receive. Anxious acquirers have a high affective filter, which prevents acquisition from taking place. It is believed that the affective filter (e.g., fear or embarrassment) rises in early ado­lescence, and this may account for children's apparent superiority to older acquirers of a second language.

These five hypotheses have obvious implications for language teaching. In sum, these are:

1. As much comprehensible input as possible must be presented.

2. Whatever helps comprehension is important. Visual aids are useful, as is exposure to a wide range of vocabulary rather than study of syntactic structure.

3. The focus in the classroom should be on listening and reading; speaking should be allowed to "emerge."

4. In order to lower the affective filter, student work should center on mean­ingful communication rather than on form; input should be interesting and so contribute to a relaxed classroom atmosphere.



The Natural Approach "is for beginners and is designed to help them become intermediates." It has the expectation that students will be able to function adequately in the target situation. They will understand the speaker of the target language (perhaps with requests for clarification), and will be able to convey (in a non-insulting manner) their requests and ideas. They need not know every word in a particular semantic domain, nor is it necessary that the syntax and vocabulary be flawless—but their pro­duction does need to be understood. They should be able to make the mean­ing clear but not necessarily be accurate in all details of grammar. (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 71)

However, since the Natural Approach is offered as a general set of principles applicable to a wide variety of situations, as in Communicative Language Teaching, specific objectives depend upon learner needs and the skill (reading, writing, listening, or speaking) and level being taught. Krashen and Terrell feel it is important to communicate to learners what they can expect of a course as well as what they should not expect. They offer as an example a possible goal and no goal statement for a beginning Natural Approach Spanish class.

After 100-150 hours of Natural Approach Spanish, you will be able to: "get around" in Spanish; you will be able to communicate with a monolingual native speaker of Spanish without difficulty; read most ordinary texts in Spanish with some use of a dictionary; know enough Spanish to continue to improve on your own.

After 100—150 hours of Natural Approach Spanish you will not be able to: pass for a native speaker, use Spanish as easily as you use English, under­stand native speakers when they talk to each other (you will probably not be able to eavesdrop successfully); use Spanish on the telephone with great com­fort; participate easily in a conversation with several other native speakers on unfamiliar topics. (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 74).

The syllabus

Krashen and Terrell (1983) approach course organization from two points of view. First, they list some typical goals for language courses and suggest which of these goals are the ones at which the Natural Approach aims. They list such goals under four areas:

1. Basic personal communication skills: oral (e.g., listening to announce­ments in public places)

2. Basic personal communication skills: written (e.g., reading and writing personal letters)

3. Academic learning skills: oral (e.g., listening to a lecture)

4. Academic learning skills: written (e.g., taking notes in class)

Of these, they note that the Natural Approach is primarily "designed to develop basic communication skills - both oral and written (1983: 67). They then observe that communication goals "may be expressed in terms of situations, functions and topics" and proceed to order four pages of topics and situations "which are likely to be most useful to beginning students" (1983: 67). The functions are not specified or sug­gested but are felt to derive naturally from the topics and situations. This approach to syllabus design would appear to derive to some extent from threshold level specifications.

The second point of view holds that "the purpose of a language course will vary according to the needs of the students and their particular interests" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 65).

The goals of a Natural Approach class are based on an assessment of student needs. We determine the situations in which they will use the target language and the sorts of topics they will have to communicate information about. In setting communication goals, we do not expect the students at the end of a particular course to have acquired a certain group of structures or forms. In­stead we expect them to deal with a particular set of topics in a given situa­tion. We do not organize the activities of the class about a grammatical syllabus. (Krashen and Terrell 1983:71)

From this point of view it is difficult to specify communicative goals that necessarily fit the needs of all students. Thus any list of topics and situations must be understood as syllabus suggestions rather than as specifications.

As well as fitting the needs and interests of students, content selection should aim to create a low affective filter by being interesting and fostering a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, should provide a wide exposure to vocabulary that may be useful to basic personal communication, and should resist any focus on grammatical structures, since if input is pro­vided "over a wider variety of topics while pursuing communicative goals, the necessary grammatical structures are automatically provided in the input" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 71).

Types of learning and teaching activities

From the beginning of a class taught according to the Natural Approach, emphasis is on presenting comprehensible input in the target language. Teacher talk focuses on objects in the classroom and on the content of pictures, as with the Direct Method. To minimize stress, learners are not required to say anything until they feel ready, but they are expected to respond to teacher commands and questions in other ways.

When learners are ready to begin talking in the new language, the teacher provides comprehensible language and simple response opportunities. The teacher talks slowly and distinctly, asking questions and eliciting one-word answers. There is a gradual progression from Yes/ No questions, through either-or questions, to questions that students can answer using words they have heard used by the teacher. Students are not expected to use a word actively until they have heard it many times. Charts, pictures, advertisements, and other realia serve as the focal point for questions, and when the students' competence permits, talk moves to class members. "Acquisition activities" - those that focus on meaningful communication rather than language form - are empha­sized. Pair or group work may be employed, followed by whole-class discussion led by the teacher.

Techniques recommended by Krashen and Terrell are often borrowed from other methods and adapted to meet the requirements of Natural Approach theory. These include command-based activities from Total Physical Response; Direct Method activities in which mime, gesture, and context are used to elicit questions and answers; and even situation-based practice of structures and patterns. Group-work activities are often identical to those used in Communicative Language Teaching, where sharing information in order to complete a task is emphasized. There is nothing novel about the procedures and techniques advocated for use with the Natural Approach. A casual observer might not be aware of the philosophy underlying the classroom techniques he or she observes. What characterizes the Natural Approach is the use of familiar tech­niques within the framework of a method that focuses on providing comprehensible input and a classroom environment that cues compre­hension of input, minimizes learner anxiety, and maximizes learner self-confidence.

Learner roles

There is a basic assumption in the Natural Approach that learners should not try to learn a language in the usual sense. The extent to which they can lose themselves in activities involving meaningful communication will determine the amount and kind of acquisition they will experience and the fluency they will ultimately demonstrate. The language acquirer is seen as a processor of comprehensible input. The acquirer is challenged by input that is slightly beyond his or her current level of competence and is able to assign meaning to this input through active use of context and extralinguistic information.

Learners' roles are seen to change according to their stage of linguistic development. Central to these changing roles are learner decisions on when to speak, what to speak about, and what linguistic expressions to use in speaking.

In the pre-production stage students "participate in the language ac­tivity without having to respond in the target language" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 76). For example, students can act out physical commands, identify student colleagues from teacher description, point to pictures, and so forth.

In the early-production stage, students respond to either-or questions, use single words and short phrases, fill in charts, and use fixed conver­sational patterns (e.g., How are you? What's your name?).

In the speech-emergent phase, students involve themselves in role play and games, contribute personal information and opinions, and partici­pate in group problem solving.

Learners have four kinds of responsibilities in the Natural Approach classroom:

1. Provide information about their specific goals so that acquisition activities can focus on the topics and situations most relevant to their needs.

2. Take an active role in ensuring comprehensible input. They should learn and use conversational management techniques to regulate input.

3. Decide when to start producing speech and when to upgrade it.

4. Where learning exercises (i.e., grammar study) are to be a part of the pro­gram, decide with the teacher the relative amount of time to be devoted to them and perhaps even complete and correct them independently.

Learners are expected to participate in communication activities with other learners. Although communication activities are seen to provide naturalistic practice and to create a sense of camaraderie, which lowers the affective filter, they may fail to provide learners with well-formed and comprehensible input at the I + 1 level. Krashen and Terrell warn of these shortcomings but do not suggest means for their amelioration.

Teacher roles

The Natural Approach teacher has three central roles. First, the teacher is the primary source of comprehensible input in the target language. "Class time is devoted primarily to providing input for acquisition," arid the teacher is the primary generator of that input. In this role the teacher is required to generate a constant flow of language input while providing a multiplicity of nonlinguistic clues to assist students in in­terpreting the input. The Natural Approach demands a much more center-stage role for the teacher than do many contemporary commu­nicative methods.

Second, the Natural Approach teacher creates a classroom atmosphere that is interesting, friendly, and in which there is a low affective filter for learning. This is achieved in part through such Natural Approach techniques as not demanding speech from the students before they are ready for it, not correcting student errors, and providing subject matter of high interest to students.

Finally, the teacher must choose and orchestrate a rich mix of class­room activities, involving a variety of group sizes, content, and contexts. The teacher is seen as responsible for collecting materials and designing their use. These materials, according to Krashen and Terrell, are based not just on teacher perceptions but on elicited student needs and interests.

As with other non-orthodox teaching systems, the Natural Approach teacher has a particular responsibility to communicate clearly and compellingly to students the assumptions, organization, and expectations of the method, since in many cases these will violate student views of what language learning and teaching are supposed to be.

The role of instructional materials

The primary goal of materials in the Natural Approach is to make classroom activities as meaningful as possible by supplying "the extra-linguistic context that helps the acquirer to understand and thereby to acquire" (Krashen and Terrell 1983: 55), by relating classroom activities to the real world, and by fostering real communication among the learn­ers. Materials come from the world of realia rather than from textbooks. The primary aim of materials is to promote comprehension and com­munication. Pictures and other visual aids are essential, because they supply the content for communication. They facilitate the acquisition of a large vocabulary within the classroom. Other recommended materials include schedules, brochures, advertisements, maps, and books at levels appropriate to the students, if a reading component is included in the course. Games, in general, are seen as useful classroom materials, since "games by their very nature, focus the student on what it is they are doing and use the language as a tool for reaching the goal rather than as a goal in itself" (Terrell 1982: 121). The selection, reproduction, and collection of materials places a considerable burden on the Natural Approach teacher. Since Krashen and Terrell suggest a syllabus of topics and situations, it is likely that at some point collections of materials to supplement teacher presentations will be published, built around the "syllabus" of topics and situations recommended by the Natural Approach.


We have seen that the Natural Approach adopts techniques and activities freely from various method sources and can be regarded as innovative only with respect to the purposes for which they are recommended and the ways they are used. Krashen and Terrell (1983) provide suggestions for the use of a wide range of activities, all of which are familiar com­ponents of Situational Language Teaching, Communicative Language Teaching, and other methods discussed in this book. To illustrate pro­cedural aspects of the Natural Approach, we will cite examples of how such activities are to be used in the Natural Approach classroom to provide comprehensible input, without requiring production of re­sponses or minimal responses in the target language.

1. Start with TPR [Total Physical Response] commands. At first the com­mands are quite simple: "Stand up. Turn around. Raise your right hand."

2. Use TPR to teach names of body parts and to introduce numbers and se­quence. "Lay your right hand on your head, put both hands on your shoulder, first touch your nose, then stand up and turn to the right three times" and so forth.

3. Introduce classroom terms and props into commands. "Pick up a pencil and put it under the book, touch a wall, go to the door and knock three times." Any item which can be brought to the class can be incorporated. "Pick up the record and place it in the tray. Take the green blanket to Larry. Pick up the soap and take it to the woman wearing the green blouse."

4. Use names of physical characteristics and clothing to identify members of the class by name. The instructor uses context and the items themselves to make the meanings of the key words clear: hair, long, short, etc. Then a student is described. "What is your name?" (selecting a student). "Class. Look at Barbara. She has long brown hair. Her hair is long and brown. Her hair is not short. It is long." (Using mime, pointing and context to ensure comprehension). "What's the name of the student with long brown hair?" (Barbara). Questions such as "What is the name of the woman with the short blond hair?" or "What is the name of the student sitting next to the man with short brown hair and glasses?" are very simple to understand by attending to key words, gestures and context. And they re­quire the students only to remember and produce the name of a fellow student. The same can be done with articles of clothing and colors. "Who is wearing a yellow shirt? Who is wearing a brown dress?"

5. Use visuals, typically magazine pictures, to introduce new vocabulary and to continue with activities requiring only student names as response, The instructor introduces the pictures to the entire class one at a time focusing usually on one single item or activity in the picture. He may introduce one to five new words while talking about the picture. He then passes the pic­ture to a particular student in the class. The students' task is to remember the name of the student with a particular picture. For example, "Tom has the picture of the sailboat. Joan has the picture of the family watching television" and so forth. The instructor will ask questions like "Who has the picture with the sailboat? Does Susan or Tom have the picture of the people on the beach?" Again the students need only produce a name in response.

6. Combine use of pictures with TPR. "Jim, find the picture of the little girl with her dog and give it to the woman with the pink blouse."

7. Combine observations about the pictures with commands and condition­als. "If there is a woman in your picture, stand up. If there is something blue in your picture, touch your right shoulder."

8. Using several pictures, ask students to point to the picture being de­scribed. Picture 1. "There are several people in this picture. One appears to be a father, the other a daughter. What are they doing? Cooking. They are cooking a hamburger." Picture 2. "There are two men in this picture. They are young. They are boxing." Picture 3 ...

(Krashen and Terrell 1983: 75-7)

In all these activities, the instructor maintains a constant flow of "com­prehensible input," using key vocabulary items, appropriate gestures, context, repetition, and paraphrase to ensure the comprehensibility of the input.


The Natural Approach belongs to a tradition of language teaching meth­ods based on observation and interpretation of how learners acquire both first and second languages in non-formal settings. Such methods reject the formal (grammatical) organization of language as a prereq­uisite to teaching. They hold with Newmark and Reibel that "an adult can effectively be taught by grammatically unordered materials" and that such an approach is, indeed, "the only learning process which we know for certain will produce mastery of the language at a native level" (1968: 153). In the Natural Approach, a focus on comprehension and meaningful communication as well as the provision of the right kinds of comprehensible input provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for successful classroom second and foreign language acquisition. This has led to a new rationale for the integration and adaptation of techniques drawn from a wide variety of existing sources. Like Communi­cative Language Teaching, the Natural Approach is hence evolutionary rather than revolutionary in its procedures. Its greatest claim to originality lies not in the techniques it employs but in their use in a method that emphasizes and meaningful practice activities, rather than production of grammatically perfect utterances and sentences.


Total Physical Response


Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action; it attempts to teach language through physical (motor) activity. Developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University, California, it draws on several traditions, including developmental psychology, learning the­ory, and humanistic pedagogy, as well as on language teaching proce­dures proposed by Harold and Dorothy Palmer in 1925. Let us briefly consider these precedents to Total Physical Response.

Total Physical Response is linked to the "trace theory " of memory in psychology, which holds that the more often or the more intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory association will be and the more likely it will be recalled. Retracing can be done verbally (e.g., by rote repetition) and/or in association with motor activity. Combined tracing activities, such as verbal rehearsal accompanied by motor activity, hence increase the probability of suc­cessful recall.

In a developmental sense, Asher sees successful adult second language learning as a parallel process to child first language acquisition. He claims that speech directed to young children consists primarily of commands, which children respond to physically before they begin to produce verbal responses. Asher feels adults should recapitulate the processes by which children acquire their mother tongue.

Asher shares with the school of humanistic psychology a concern for the role of affective (emotional) factors in language learning. A method that is undemanding in terms of linguistic production and that involves gamelike movements reduces learner stress, he believes, and creates a positive mood in the learner, which facilitates learning.

Asher's emphasis on developing comprehension skills before the learner is taught to speak links him to a movement in foreign language teaching sometimes referred to as the Comprehension Approach (Winitz 1981). This refers to several different comprehension-based language teaching proposals, which share the belief that (a) comprehension abilities precede productive skills in learning a language; (b) the teaching of speaking should be delayed until comprehension skills are established; (c) skills acquired through listening transfer to other skills; (d) teaching should emphasize meaning rather than form; and (e) teaching should minimize learner stress.

The emphasis on comprehension and the use of physical actions to teach a foreign language at an introductory level has a long tradition in language teaching.


Theory of language

Asher does not directly discuss the nature of language or how languages are organized. However, the labeling and ordering of TPR classroom drills seem to be built on assumptions that owe much to structuralist or grammar-based views of language. Asher states that "most of the gram­matical structure of the target language and hundreds of vocabulary items can be learned from the skillful use of the imperative by the instructor" (1977: 4). He views the verb, and particularly the verb in the imperative, as the central linguistic motif around which language use and learning are organized.

Asher sees language as being composed of abstractions and non-abstractions, with non-abstractions being most specifically represented by concrete nouns and imperative verbs. He believes that learners can ac­quire a "detailed cognitive map" as well as "the grammatical structure of a language" without recourse to abstractions.

Abstractions should be delayed until students have internalized a detailed cognitive map of the target language. Abstractions are not necessary for people to decode the grammatical structure of a language. Once students have internalized the code, abstractions can be introduced and explained in the target language.

This is an interesting claim about language but one that is insufficiently detailed to test. For example, are tense, aspect, articles, and so forth, abstractions, and if so, what sort of "detailed cognitive map" could be constructed without them?

Despite Asher's belief in the central role of comprehension in language learning, he does not elaborate on the relation between comprehension, production, and communication (he has no theory of speech acts or their equivalents, for example), although in advanced TPR lessons imperatives are used to initiate different speech acts, such as requests ("John, ask Mary to walk to the door"), and apologies ("Ned, tell Jack you're sorry").

Asher also refers in passing to the fact that language can be internalized as wholes or chunks, rather than as single lexical items, and, as such, links are possible to more theoretical proposals of this kind, as well as to work on the role of prefab­ricated patterns in language learning and language use Asher does not elaborate on his view of chunking, however, nor on other aspects of the theory of language underlying Total Physical Response. We have only clues to what a more fully developed language theory might resemble when spelled out by Asher and his supporters.

Theory of learning

Asher's language learning theories are reminiscent of the views of other behavioral psychologists. For example, the psychologist Arthur Jensen proposed a seven-stage model to describe the development of verbal learning in children. The first stage he calls Sv-R type learning , which the educational psychologist John DeCecco interprets as follows:

In Jensen's notation, Sv refers to a verbal stimulus—a syllable, a word, a phrase, and so on. R refers to the physical movements the child makes in response to the verbal stimulus (or Sv). The movement may involve touching, grasping, or otherwise manipulating some object. For example, mother may tell Percival (age 1) to get the ball, and Percival, distinguishing the sound "ball" from the clatter of other household noises, responds by fetching the ball and bringing it to his mother. Ball is the Sv (verbal stimulus), and Percival's action is the response. At Percival's age, children respond to words about four times faster than they respond to other sounds in their environ­ment. It is not clear why this is so, but it is possible that the reinforcing ef­fects of making proper responses to verbal stimuli are sufficiently strong to cause a rapid development of this behavior. Sv-R learning represents, then, the simplest form of verbal behavior.

This is a very similar position to Asher's view of child language acqui­sition. Although learning psychologists such as Jensen have since aban­doned such simple stimulus-response models of language acquisition and development, and although linguists have rejected them as incapable of accounting for the fundamental features of language learning and use, Asher still sees a stimulus-response view as providing the learning theory underlying language teaching pedagogy. In addition, Asher has elaborated an account of what he feels facilitates or inhibits foreign language learning. For this dimension of his learning theory he draws on three rather influential learning hypotheses :

1. There exists a specific innate bio-program for language learning, which defines an optimal path for first and second language development.

2. Brain lateralization defines different learning functions in the left- and right-brain hemispheres.

3. Stress (an affective filter) intervenes between the act of learning and what is to be learned; the lower the stress, the greater the learning.

Let us consider how Asher views each of these in turn.


Asher's Total Physical Response is a "Natural Method" inasmuch as Asher sees first and second language learning as parallel processes. Second language teaching and learning should reflect the na­turalistic processes of first language learning. Asher sees three processes as central,

(a) Children develop listening competence before they develop the ability to speak. At the early stages of first language acquisition they can understand complex utterances that they cannot spontaneously pro­duce or imitate. Asher speculates that during this period of listening, the learner may be making a mental "blueprint" of the language that will make it possible to produce spoken language later,

(b) Children's ability in listening comprehension is acquired because children are re­quired to respond physically to spoken language in the form of parental commands,

(c) Once a foundation in listening comprehension has been established, speech evolves naturally and effortlessly out of it. As we noted earlier, these principles are held by proponents of a number of other method proposals and are referred to collectively as a Comprehension Approach.

Parallel to the processes of first language learning, the foreign language learner should first internalize a "cognitive map" of the target language through listening exercises. Listening should be accompanied by physical movement. Speech and other productive skills should come later. The speech-production mechanisms will begin to function spontaneously when the basic foundations of language are established through listening train­ing. Asher bases these assumptions on his belief in the existence in the human brain of a bio-program for language, which defines an optimal order for first and second language learning.

A reasonable hypothesis is that the brain and nervous system are biologically programmed to acquire language ... in a particular sequence and in a particu­lar mode. The sequence is listening before speaking and the mode is to syn­chronize language with the individual's body.


Asher sees Total Physical Response as directed to right-brain learning, whereas most second language teaching methods are directed to left-brain learning. Asher refers to neurological studies of the brains of cats and studies of an epileptic boy whose corpus callosum was surgically divided. Asher interprets these as demonstrating that the brain is divided into hemispheres according to function, with language activities cen­tralized in the right hemisphere. Drawing on work by Jean Piaget, Asher holds that the child language learner acquires language through motor movement - a right-hemisphere activity. Right-hemisphere activities must occur before the left hemisphere can process language for production. Similarly, the adult should proceed to language mastery through right-hemisphere motor activities, while the left hemisphere watches and learns. When a sufficient amount of right-hemisphere learning has taken place, the left hemisphere will be triggered to produce language and to initiate other, more abstract language processes.


An important condition for successful language learning is the absence of stress. First language acquisition takes place in a stress-free environ­ment, according to Asher, whereas the adult language learning environ­ment often causes considerable stress and anxiety. The key to stress-free learning is to tap into the natural bio-program for language development and thus to recapture the relaxed and pleasurable experiences that ac­company first language learning. By focusing on meaning interpreted through movement, rather than on language forms studied in the ab­stract, the learner is said to be liberated from self-conscious and stressful situations and is able to devote full energy to learning.



The general objectives of Total Physical Response are to teach oral proficiency at a beginning level. Comprehension is a means to an end, and the ultimate aim is to teach basic speaking skills. A TPR course aims to produce learners who are capable of an uninhibited commu­nication that is intelligible to a native speaker. Specific instructional objectives are not elaborated, for these will depend on the particular needs of the learners. Whatever goals are set, however, must be attainable through the use of action-based drills in the imperative form.

The syllabus

The type of syllabus Asher uses can be inferred from an analysis of the exercise types employed in TPR classes. This analysis reveals the use of a sentence-based syllabus, with grammatical and lexical criteria being primary in selecting teaching items. Unlike methods that operate from a grammar-based or structural view of the core elements of language, Total Physical Response requires initial attention to meaning rather than to the form of items. Grammar is thus taught inductively. Gram­matical features and vocabulary items are selected not according to their frequency of need or use in target language situations, but according to the situations in which they can be used in the classroom and the ease with which they can be learned.

The criterion for including a vocabulary item or grammatical feature at a particular point in training is ease of assimilation by students. If an item is not learned rapidly, this means that the students are not ready for that item. Withdraw it and try again at a future time in the training program.

Asher also suggests that a fixed number of items be introduced at a time, to facilitate ease of differentiation and assimilation. "In an hour, it is possible for students to assimilate 12 to 36 new lexical items depending upon the size of the group and the stage of training". Asher sees a need for attention to both the global meaning of language as well as to the finer details of its organization.

The movement of the body seems to be a powerful mediator for the under­standing, organization and storage of macro-details of linguistic input. Lan­guage can be internalized in chunks, but alternative strategies must be developed for fine-tuning to macro-details.

A course designed around Total Physical Response principles, however, would not be expected to follow a TPR syllabus exclusively.

We are not advocating only one strategy of learning. Even if the imperative is the major or minor format of training, variety is critical for maintaining con­tinued student interest. The imperative is a powerful facilitator of learning, but it should be used in combination with many other techniques. The opti­mal combination will vary from instructor to instructor and class to class.

Types of learning and teaching activities

Imperative drills are the major classroom activity in Total Physical Re­sponse. They are typically used to elicit physical actions and activity on the part of the learners. Conversational dialogues are delayed until after about 120 hours of instruction. Asher's rationale for this is that "every­day conversations are highly abstract and disconnected; therefore to understand them requires a rather advanced internalization of the target language". Other class activities include role plays and slide presentations. Role plays center on everyday situations, such as at the restaurant, supermarket, or gas station. The slide presentations are used to provide a visual center for teacher narration, which is followed by commands, and for questions to students, such as "Which person in the picture is the salesperson?". Reading and writing activities may also be employed to further consolidate structures and vocabulary, and as follow-ups to oral imperative drills.

Learner roles

Learners in Total Physical Response have the primary roles of listener and performer. They listen attentively and respond physically to com­mands given by the teacher. Learners are required to respond both individually and collectively. Learners have little influence over the con­tent of learning, since content is determined by the teacher, who must follow the imperative-based format for lessons. Learners are also ex­pected to recognize and respond to novel combinations of previously taught items:

Novel utterances are recombinations of constituents you have used directly in training. For instance, you directed students with 'Walk to the table!' and 'Sit on the chair!'. These are familiar to students since they have practiced re­sponding to them. Now, will a student understand if you surprise the individ­ual with an unfamiliar utterance that you created by recombining familiar elements (e.g. 'Sit on the table!').

Learners are also required to produce novel combinations of their own. Learners monitor and evaluate their own progress. They are encour­aged to speak when they feel ready to speak - that is, when a sufficient basis in the language has been internalized.

Teacher roles

The teacher plays an active and direct role in Total Physical Response. "The instructor is the director of a stage play in which the students are the actors". It is the teacher who decides what to teach, who models and presents the new materials, and who selects supporting materials for classroom use. The teacher is encouraged to be well pre­pared and well organized so that the lesson flows smoothly and predictably. Asher recommends detailed lesson plans: “It is wise to write out the exact utterances you will be using and especially the novel com­mands because the action is so fast-moving there is usually not time for you to create spontaneously". Classroom interaction and turn taking is teacher rather than learner directed. Even when learners interact with other learners it is usually the teacher who initiates the interaction:

Teacher: Maria, pick up the box of rice and hand it to Miguel and ask Miguel to read the price.

Asher stresses, however, that the teacher's role is not so much to teach as to provide opportunities for learning. The teacher has the responsi­bility of providing the best kind of exposure to language so that the learner can internalize the basic rules of the target language. Thus the teacher controls the language input the learners receive, providing the raw material for the "cognitive map" that the learners will construct in their own minds. The teacher should also allow speaking abilities to develop in learners at the learners' own natural pace.

In giving feedback to learners, the teacher should follow the example of parents giving feedback to their children. At first, parents correct very little, but as the child grows older, parents are said to tolerate fewer mistakes in speech. Similarly teachers should refrain from too much correction in the early stages and should not interrupt to correct errors, since this will inhibit learners. As time goes on, however, more teacher intervention is expected, as the learners' speech becomes "fine tuned."

Asher cautions teachers about preconceptions that he feels could hinder the successful implementation of TPR principles. First, he cautions against the "illusion of simplicity," where the teacher underestimates the diffi­culties involved in learning a foreign language. This results in progressing at too fast a pace and failing to provide a gradual transition from one teaching stage to another. The teacher should also avoid having too narrow a tolerance for errors in speaking.

You begin with a wide tolerance for student speech errors, but as training progresses, the tolerance narrows.... Remember that as students progress in their training, more and more attention units are freed to process feedback from the instructor. In the beginning, almost no attention units are available to hear the instructor's attempts to correct distortions in speech. All attention is directed to producing utterances. Therefore the student cannot attend effi­ciently to the instructor's corrections.

The role of instructional materials

There is generally no basic text in a Total Physical Response course. Materials and realia play an increasing role, however, in later learning stages. For absolute beginners, lessons may not require the use of materials, since the teacher's voice, actions, and gestures may be a sufficient basis for classroom activities. Later the teacher may use common class­room objects, such as books, pens, cups, furniture. As the course de­velops, the teacher will need to make or collect supporting materials to support teaching points. These may include pictures, realia, slides, and word charts. Asher has developed TPR student kits that focus on specific situations, such as the home, the supermarket, the beach. Students may use the kits to construct scenes (e.g., "Put the stove in the kitchen").


Asher provides a lesson-by-lesson account of a course taught according to TPR principles, which serves as a source of information on the procedures used in the TPR classroom. The course was for adult immigrants and consisted of 159 hours of classroom instruction. The sixth class in the course proceeded in the following way:

Review. This was a fast-moving warm-up in which individual students were moved with commands such as: Pablo, drive your car around Miako and honk your horn.

Jeffe, throw the red flower to Maria.

Maria, scream.

Rita, pick up the knife and spoon and put them in the cup.

Eduardo, take a drink of water and give the cup to Elaine.

New commands. These verbs were introduced.


your hands,

your face,

your hair,

the cup.

look for

a towel,

the soap,


a comb.

the book,

the cup,

the soap.


your hair.

Maria's hair.

Shirou's hair.


your teeth,

your pants,

the table.

Other items introduced were:


Draw a rectangle on the chalkboard.

Pick up a rectangle from the table and give it to me.

Put the rectangle next to the square.


Catch the triangle and put it next to the rectangle.

Pick up the triangle from the table and give it to me.


Walk quickly to the door and hit it.

Quickly, run to the table and touch the square.

Sit down quickly and laugh.


Walk slowly to the window and jump.

Slowly, stand up.

Slowly walk to me and hit me on the arm.


Look for the toothpaste.

Throw the toothpaste to Wing.

Wing, unscrew the top of the toothpaste.

Next, the instructor asked simple questions which the student could answer with a gesture such as pointing. Examples would be:

Where is the towel? [Eduardo, point to the towel!]

Where is the toothbrush? [Miako, point to the toothbrush!]

Where is Dolores?

Role reversal. Students readily volunteered to utter commands that manipu­lated the behavior of the instructor and other students....

Reading and writing. The instructor wrote on the chalkboard each new vo­cabulary item and a sentence to illustrate the item. Then she spoke each item and acted out the sentence. The students listened as she read the material. Some copied the information in their notebooks.


Total Physical Response is in a sense a revival and extension of Palmer and Palmer's English Through Actions, updated with references to more recent psychological theories. It has enjoyed some popularity because of its support by those who emphasize the role of comprehension in second language acquisition. Krashen (1981), for example, regards provision of comprehensible input and reduction of stress as keys to successful lan­guage acquisition, and he sees performing physical actions in the target language as a means of making input comprehensible and minimizing stress (see Chapter 9). The experimental support for the effectiveness of Total Physical Response is sketchy (as it is for most methods) and typ­ically deals with only the very beginning stages of learning. Proponents of Communicative Language Teaching would question the relevance to real-world learner needs of the TPR syllabus and the utterances and sentences used within it. Asher himself, however, has stressed that Total Physical Response should be used in association with other methods and techniques. Indeed, practitioners of TPR typically follow this recom­mendation, suggesting that for many teachers TPR represents a useful set of techniques and is compatible with other approaches to teaching. TPR practices therefore may be effective for reasons other than those proposed by Asher and do not necessarily demand commitment to the learning theories used to justify them.


What is De-suggestopedia?

It is an approach to education whose primary objective is to tap the extraordinary reserve capacities we all possess but rarely if ever use. This method utilises techniques from many sources of research into how best we can learn. The Bulgarian scientist, Dr. Georgi Lozanov, for example, has demonstrated that through a carefully “orchestrated” learning environment including most importantly a specially-trained teacher, the learning process can be accelerated by a factor of three to ten times enjoyably. Such results are possible through the proper use of suggestion. The suggestive-desuggestive process allows students to go beyond previously held beliefs and self-limiting concepts concerning the learning process and learn great quantities of material with ease and enjoyment.

Sources, History, Initial Results

The artful use of suggestion as a means of facilitating the learning and communication process is, of course, and has always been, a part of nearly all effective teaching and persuasive communication. Not until the past twenty years, however, has the phenomenon of suggestion begun to be methodically researched and tested as to how it can and does affect learning. At the centre of these developments is the work of Lozanov. For more than 20 years he has been experimenting with accellerative approaches to learning, has founded the Institute of Suggestology in Sofia, Bulgaria and has authored the book: Suggestology and the Outlines or Suggestopedia (Gordon and Breach, New York, 1997).

In his early research Lozanov investigated individual cases of extraordinary learning capacities etc., and theorised that such capacities were learnable and teachable. He experimented with a wide range of techniques drawn from both traditional and esoteric sources, including hypnosis and yoga, and was able to accelerate the learning process quite dramatically.

Well aware that methods directly involving yoga and hypnosis were not generally applicable or acceptable, he continued seeking universally acceptable means to tap the vast mental reserve capacities of the human mind we all have but which are rarely used. Suggestion proved to be the key.

Applications in the public schools have been impressive: eighteen schools in Bulgaria offered all subjects under Lozano’s supervision, and the results have been that children have learned the same amount of material as in control groups in less than half the time and with more enjoyment and less stress.

Dr.Georgi Lozanov of the Institute of Suggestology in Sofia, Bulgaria is, together with his colleagues, the originator of these techniques. SUGGESTOLOGY is the study of the power of suggestion which can be verbal, non-verbal, conscious or unconscious.

SUGGESTOPEDIA is the study of these suggestive factors in a learning situation.

We are constantly, surrounded by suggestive influences. If we study them and become aware of them, then we are in a better position to “choose” which ones we want to influence us. Lozanov maintains that a suggestopedic teacher spends most of the time de-suggesting the students, i.e., freeing them from any nonfacilitating influences from their past. From birth on we are influenced by parents, friends, teachers, society, the media, the weather, the food we eat and the political environment in which we live.

Major Concepts and Features

1. Mental Reserve Capacities (MRC)

The central premise is that we all possess considerable mental reserves which we rarely if ever tap under normal circumstances. Among the examples of such capacities are the ability to learn rapidly and recall with ease large quantities or material, solve problems with great rapidity and spontaneous ease, respond to complex stimuli with facility and creativity. There is general agreement among researchers that the human being uses 5-10% of his/her brain capacity at the most. The primary objective is to tap into the MRC.

2. Psychological “Set-Up”

Our response to every stimuli is very complex, involving many unconscious processes which have become automatic responses. These are largely patterned responses - in many ways peculiar to us as individuals. The responses tend to be automatic and typical for them - the result of an inner, unconscious disposition or set-up, which is the product of automatized, conditioned responses. Our inner set-up operates when we encounter any situation - entering a school, being confronted with an opportunity - consulting a physician- as examples. Our inner, unconscious set-up is extremely basic and important to our behaviour and to our survival - and it can be extremely limiting, for it can imprison us in unconscious, consistently patterned responses which prevent us from experiencing and exploring other alternatives - which might be far more desirable and beneficial to us. Prevailing social norms, instilled in us by all our social institutions, including family and schools, are the main carriers and enforcers of the beliefs and responses which contribute to the formation of our inner set-up. Genetic and other factors contribute as well. The power of the influence of our unconscious set-up is very great, and any significant lasting change or overcoming of previous limits will necessarily involve a change in our unconscious patterns of response. This is why logical argumentation at the conscious level is often so useless - even when there is conscious agreement. This is why so much of the classroom experience remains an intellectual exercise: words, rhetorical mastery, even brilliance are of little lasting effect if they only engage the conscious levels of the student’s mind. Only when a teacher or a doctor is able to penetrate the set-up, engage it in a way which allows it to be accepting and open to extensions and transformation does the real potential of a student/patient begin to open up.

3. Suggestion

Suggestion is the key which Lozanov found to penetrate through the “set-up” and stimulate the mental reserve capacities. Even more, through suggestion we can facilitate the creation of new, richer patterns of conscious/unconscious responses or new (set-ups): “Suggestion is the direct road to the set-up. It creates and utilises such types of set-ups which would free and activate the reserve capacities of the human being.” (Lozanov: The Key Principles of Suggestopedia”, Journal of SALT, 1976, p.15)

There are two basic kinds of suggestion: direct and indirect. Direct suggestions are directed to conscious processes, i.e., what one says that can and will occur in the learning experience, suggestions which can be made in printed announcements, orally by the teacher, and/or by text materials. Direct suggestion is used sparingly, for it is most vulnerable to resistance from the set-up.

Indirect suggestion is largely unconsciously perceived and is much greater in scope than direct suggestion. It is always present in any communication and involves many levels and degrees of subtlety. Lozanov speaks of it as the second plane of communication and considers it to encompass all those communication factors outside our conscious awareness, such as voice tone, facial expression, body posture and movement, speech tempo, rhythms, accent, etc. Other important indirect suggestive effects result from room arrangement, decor, lighting, noise level, institutional setting - for all these factors are communicative stimuli which result in what Lozanov terms non-specific mental reactivity on the paraconscious level (at the level of the set-up). And they, like the teacher and materials can reinforce the set-up, preserve the status quo, or can serve in the desuggestive-suggestive process. In other words, everything in the communication/learning environment is a stimulus at some level, being processed at some level of mental activity. The more we can do to orchestrate purposefully the unconscious as well as the conscious factors in this environment, the greater the chance to break through or “de-suggest” the conditioned, automatic patterns of our inner set-up and open the access to the great potential of our mental reserves.

4. Anti-Suggestive Barriers

The artful use of suggestion to stimulate the mental reserve capacities and accelerate the learning process necessitates the skilful handling of the antisuggestive barriers we all necessarily have.

“The first task of suggestology and suggestopedia is to remove people’s prior conditioning to de-suggest, to find the way to escape the social norm and open the way to development of the personality. This is perhaps the greatest problem suggestology is confronted with, since the person must be ‘convinced’ that his potential capacity is far above what he thinks it is. The individual protects himself with psychological barriers, according to Dr. Lozanov, just as the organism protects itself from physiological barriers:

* an anti-suggestive emotional barrier which rejects anything likely to produce a feeling of lack of confidence or insecurity: “This anti-suggestive barrier proceeds from the set-up in every man.”

* an anti-suggestive barrier of man’s rational faculty which through reasoning rejects suggestions it judges unacceptable: ‘This barrier is the conscious critical thinking’. But, very often this barrier is the camouflage of the emotional barrier.

* an ethical barrier, which rejects everything not in harmony with the ethical sense of the personality.

“These anti-suggestive barriers are a filter between the environmental stimuli and the unconscious mental activity. They are inter-related and mutually reinforcing, and a positive suggestive effect can only be accomplished if these barriers are kept in mind. The overcoming of barriers means compliance with them. Otherwise suggestion would be doomed to failure. ”It is clear that the suggestive process is always a combination of suggestion and de-suggestion and is always at an unconscious or slightly conscious level.”

Three barriers to Suggestion

1) Logical-critical

"That´s not possible"

"Others may be able to do that, but not me."

2) Affective-emotional

"I won´t do it. It just makes me feel uneasy. I can´t explain it really.

I´d rather not, thank you."

3) Ethical

"I really think that´s slightly dishonest."

"I don´t think it´s fair."

5. Means of Suggestion

Suggestive authority

A positively suggestive authority is one of the most effective means which we as teachers / doctors can use, if we use it sensitively, wisely and purposefully.

The authority we are speaking of here has nothing to do with authoritarianism, traditional “strictness” or “toughness”. Lozanov defines it as “the non-directive prestige which by indirect ways creates an atmosphere of confidence and intuitive desire to follow the set example”. Authority, in its positive, suggestive sense, is communicated through our “global” presence, through all our non-verbal as well as verbal signals. Students can sense when we embody the values and attitudes we “talk about”. And when there is congruency in the many levels of our communication, we become believable, compelling, worthy of respect.

Lozanov notes the parallel between the decisive suggestive power of the first session between physician or therapist and patient, and the first class session. Both patient and student come to their respective experiences with conditioned attitudes and beliefs - and with hopes and expectations. In that first encounter expectation and suggestibility are at their greatest. In the first session the climate is most favourable for suggesting that something new, something secretly or openly hoped for, something extraordinary is possible and probable. When we communicate in a simultaneous, congruent manner that we are confident with the material we are teaching, that we love what we are doing, that we respect the students who have come to learn, that we know they can learn it, and that we take delight in teaching - when we can communicate these things with our voices, facial expressions, posture, movement and words, we will achieve an invaluable rapport with our students, will arouse expectancy and motivation, and will establish a suggestive atmosphere within which the student’s mental reserve capacities can be tapped. (Self-fulfilling prophecy)


In suggestopedia we do not talk about infantilization in the clinical sense of the word, nor of infantility. Infantilization in the process of education is a normal phenomenon connected with authority (prestige). Infantilization in suggestopedia must be understood roughly as memories of the pure and naive state of a child to whom someone is reading, or who is reading on his own. He is absorbing the wonderful world of the fairytales. This world brings him a vast amount of information and the child absorbs it easily and permanently.


Intonation is strongly connected with the rest of the suggestive elements. The intonation in music and speech is one of the basic expressive means, with formidable form-creating influence and potential in many psycho-physiological directions. “Learning is state of mind dependent”. When varying your voice you “reach” different “states of mind”.

Concert pseudo-passivity (concentrative psychorelaxation)

An important moment in suggestopedia. The artistic organisation of the suggestopedic educational process creates conditions for concert pseudopassivity in the student. In this state the reserve capabilities of the personality are shown most fully. The concert pseudopassivity (concentrative psychorelaxation) overcomes the antisuggestive barriers, creating a condition of trust and infantilization in the student, who in a naturally calm state accompanied by a state of meditation without special autogenic training can absorb and work over a huge quantity of information. In this state both brain hemispheres are activated”. (Creating Wholeness through Art; by Evelina Gateva p.28)

Successful classroom atmosphere

For a successful classroom atmosphere, Lozanov maintains these three elements should be present:


A nurturing, supportive atmosphere in which the student feels free to try out the new information, be inventive with it, make mistakes without being put down, and, in general, enjoy the learning experience.


The material should be presented in a structured fashion, combining the Big Picture, Analysis and Synthesis. Every moment should be a didactic experience even when the learning process is not that apparent.


The classroom should not be cluttered with too many posters and unnecessary objects, otherwise we don’t see them. We go into overwhelm. Good quality pictures should be displayed and changed every few days. Music can be played as the students enter the room, and during the breaks. Plants and flowers add to a pleasant atmosphere. If the chairs are arranged in a U-shape, there is a better communication possible between the teacher and students and among the students themselves.


Music as a suggestive, relaxing medium. Lozanov researched a wide variety of means for presenting material to be learned which would facilitate the mentally relaxed, receptive state of mind he had found to be optimal for learning.

Yoga exercises, breathing techniques, special speech intonations were all tried with varying degrees of success. None of them, however, was found acceptable by nearly all cultural norms and belief systems.

Music proved to be the ideal medium, both for the purpose or creating a mentally relaxed state and for providing a vehicle for carrying the material to be learned into the open, receptive mind.

Music can become a powerful facilitator of holistic full-brain learning. After conducting numerous controlled experiments using a wide variety of music, Lozanov concluded that music of the Classical and Early Romantic periods was most effective for the first presentation of material to be learned. The music of Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven is dramatic, emotionally engaging, and ordered, harmoniously structured. It stimulates, invites alertness, and its harmony and order evoke ease and relaxation. For the second concert presentation of material Lozanov found that Baroque music was especially suited. The music of Bach, Händel, Vivaldi, Telemann, Corelli (among others) has a less personal, more rigorously structured quality, providing a background of order and regularity which supports very well the more straight-forward presentation of material during the second concert.

Means of Suggestion

1. A carefully orchestrated physical environment: an uncrowded room, aesthetically pleasing, well lighted, plants, fresh air, ...

2. The teacher / doctor thoroughly trained in the art of suggestive communication -

a) with a well-developed sense of authority. (more details below)

b) the ability to evoke a receptive, playful-, child-like state in the students / patients

c) a mastery or double-plane behaviour, especially the ability to use appropriately and purposefully suggestive language, voice intonation, facial and body expression

3. Music:

4. Carefully integrated suggestive written materials.

5. Visual stimuli: posters, pictures, charts, illustrations.

The arts offer us the greatest examples of unified suggestive expression, and we should make every effort to integrate them into the learning environment.

Communicative Language Teaching


The origins of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are to be found in the changes in the British language teaching tradition dating from the late 1960s. Until then, Situational Language represented the major British approach to teaching English as a foreign language. In Situational Language Teaching, language was taught by practicing basic structures in meaningful situation-based activities.

British applied linguists emphasized another fundamental dimension of language that was inadequately addressed in current approaches to language teaching at that time - the functional and communicative potential of language. They saw the need to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastery of structures.

Another impetus for different approaches to foreign language teaching came from changing educational realities in Europe. With the increasing interdependence of European countries came the need for greater efforts to teach adults the major languages of the European Common Market and the Council of Europe, a regional organization for cultural and educational cooperation. Education was one of the Council of Europe's major areas of activity. It sponsored international conferences on lan­guage teaching, published monographs and books about language teaching. The need to articulate and develop alternative methods of language teaching was considered a high priority.

In 1971 a group of experts began to investigate the possibility of developing language courses on a unit-credit system, a system in which learning tasks are broken down into "portions or units, each of which corresponds to a component of a learner's needs and is systematically related to all the other portions" (van Ek and Alexander 1980: 6). The group used studies of the needs of European language learners, and in particular a preliminary document prepared by a British linguist, D. A. Wilkins (1972), which proposed a functional or communicative defi­nition of language that could serve as a basis for developing commu­nicative syllabuses for language teaching. Wilkins's contribution was an analysis of the communicative meanings that a language learner needs to understand and express. Rather than describe the core of language through traditional concepts of grammar and vocabulary, Wilkins attempted to demonstrate the systems of meanings that lay behind the communicative uses of language.

The work of the Council of Europe; the writings of Wilkins, Wid­dowson, Candlin, Christopher Brumfit, Keith Johnson, and other British applied linguists on the theoretical basis for a communicative or func­tional approach to language teaching; the rapid application of these ideas by textbook writers; and the equally rapid acceptance of these new principles by British language teaching specialists, curriculum develop­ment centers, and even governments gave prominence nationally and internationally to what came to be referred to as the Communicative Approach, or simply Communicative Language Teaching. (The terms notional-functional approach and functional approach are also sometimes used.) Although the movement began as a largely British inno­vation, focusing on alternative conceptions of a syllabus, since the mid-1970s the scope of Communicative Language Teaching has expanded. Both American and British proponents now see it as an approach (and not a method) that aims to (a) make communicative competence the goal of language teaching and (b) develop procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge the interdependence of language and communication.

Howatt distinguishes between a "strong" and a "weak" version of Communicative Language Teaching:

There is, in a sense, a 'strong' version of the communicative approach and a 'weak' version. The weak version which has become more or less standard practice in the last ten years, stresses the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use their English for communicative purposes and, characteristically, attempts to integrate such activities into a wider program of language teaching.... The 'strong' version of communicative teaching, on the other hand, advances the claim that language is acquired through com­munication, so that it is not merely a question of activating an existing but inert knowledge of the language, but of stimulating the development of the language system itself. If the former could be described as 'learning to use' English, the latter entails 'using English to learn it.' (1984: 279)

Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1983) contrast the major distinctive features of the Audiolingual Method and the Communicative Approach , according to their interpretation.


Theory of language

The communicative approach in language teaching starts from a theory of language as communication. The goal of language teaching is to develop what Hymes (1972) referred to as "communicative competence." Hymes coined this term in order to contrast a communica­tive view of language and Chomsky's theory of competence. Chomsky held that linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener in a completely homogeneous speech community, who knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as mem­ory limitation, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of the language in actual performance. (Chomsky 1965: 3)

For Chomsky, the focus of linguistic theory was to characterize the abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to produce gram­matically correct sentences in a language. Hymes held that such a view of linguistic theory was sterile, that linguistic theory needed to be seen as part of a more general theory incorporating communication and culture. Hymes's theory of communicative competence was a definition of what a speaker needs to know in order to be communicatively com­petent in a speech community. In Hymes's view, a person who acquires communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for language use with respect to

1. whether (and to what degree) something is formally possible;

2. whether (and to what degree) something is feasible in virtue of the means of implementation available;

3. whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy, successful) in relation to a context in which it is used and evaluated;

4. whether (and to what degree) something is in fact done, actually per­formed, and what its doing entails.

This theory of what knowing a language entails offers a much more comprehensive view than Chomsky's view of competence, which deals primarily with abstract grammatical knowledge.

Another linguistic theory of communication favored in CLT is Halliday's functional account of language use. "Linguistics ... is concerned... with the description of speech acts or texts, since only through the study of language in use are all the functions of language, and therefore all components of meaning, brought into focus" (Halliday 1970: 145). In a number of influential books and papers, Halliday has elaborated a powerful theory of the functions of language, which complements Hymes's view of commu­nicative competence for many writers on CLT (e.g., Brumfit and Johnson 1979; Savignon 1983). He described (1975: 11-17) seven basic functions that language performs for children learning their first language:

1. the instrumental function: using language to get things;

2. the regulatory function: using language to control the behaviour of others;

3. the interactional function: using language to create interaction with others;

4. the personal function: using language to express personal feelings and meanings;

5. the heuristic function: using language to learn and to discover;

6. the imaginative function: using language to create a world of the imagination;

7. the representational function: using language to communicate information.

Learning a second language was similarly viewed by proponents of Communicative Language Teaching as acquiring the linguistic means to perform different kinds of functions.

At the level of language theory, Communicative Language Teaching has a rich, if somewhat eclectic, theoretical base. Some of the characteristics of this communicative view of language follow.

1. Language is a system for the expression of meaning.

2. The primary function of language is for interaction and communication.

3. The structure of language reflects its functional and communicative uses.

4. The primary units of language are not merely its grammatical and struc­tural features, but categories of functional and communicative meaning as exemplified in discourse.

Theory of learning

In contrast to the amount that has been written in Communicative Language Teaching literature about communicative dimensions of language, little has been written about learning theory. Neither Brumfit and Johnson (1979) nor Littlewood (1981), for example, offers any discus­sion of learning theory. Elements of an underlying learning theory can be discerned in some CLT practices, however. One such element might be described as the communication principle: Activities that involve real communication promote learning. A second element is the task principle: Activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning (Johnson 1982). A third element is the meaningfulness principle: Language that is meaningful to the learner supports the learn­ing process. Learning activities are consequently selected according to how well they engage the learner in meaningful and authentic language use (rather than merely mechanical practice of language patterns). These principles, we suggest, can be inferred from CLT practices (e.g., Little-wood 1981; Johnson 1982). They address the conditions needed to promote second language learning, rather than the processes of language acquisition.

More recent accounts of Communicative Language Teaching, however, have attempted to describe theories of language learning processes that are compatible with the communicative approach. Savignon (1983) surveys second language acquisition research as a source for learning theories and considers the role of linguistic, social, cognitive, and in­dividual variables in language acquisition. Other theorists (e.g., Stephen Krashen, who is not directly associated with Communicative Language Teaching) have developed theories cited as compatible with the principles of CLT. Krashen sees acquisition as the basic process involved in developing language proficiency and distinguishes this proc­ess from learning. Acquisition refers to the unconscious development of the target language system as a result of using the language for real communication. Learning is the conscious representation of grammatical knowledge that has resulted from instruction, and it cannot lead to acquisition. It is the acquired system that we call upon to create utter­ances during spontaneous language use. The learned system can serve only as a monitor of the output of the acquired system. Krashen and other second language acquisition theorists typically stress that language learning comes about through using language communicatively, rather than through practicing language skills.

Johnson (1984) and Littlewood (1984) consider an alternative learning theory that they also see as compatible with CLT-a skill-learning model of learning. According to this theory, the acquisition of communicative competence in a language is an example of skill development. This involves both a cognitive and a behavioral aspect:

The cognitive aspect involves the internalisation of plans for creating appro­priate behaviour. For language use, these plans derive mainly from the language system — they include grammatical rules, procedures for selecting vocabulary, and social conventions governing speech. The behavioural aspect involves the automation of these plans so that they can be converted into fluent performance in real time. This occurs mainly through practice in con­verting plans into performance. (Littlewood 1984: 74)

This theory thus encourages an emphasis on practice as a way of de­veloping communicative skills.



Piepho (1981) discusses the following levels of objectives in a communicative approach:

1. an integrative and content level (language as a means of expression)

2. a linguistic and instrumental level (language as a semiotic system and an object of learning);

3. an affective level of interpersonal relationships and conduct (language as a means of expressing values and judgments about oneself and others);

4. a level of individual learning needs (remedial learning based on error analysis);

5. a general educational level of extra-linguistic goals (language learning within the school curriculum).

(Piepho 1981: 8)

These are proposed as general objectives, applicable to any teaching situation. Particular objectives for CLT cannot be defined beyond this level of specification, since such an approach assumes that language teaching will reflect the particular needs of the target learners. These needs may be in the domains of reading, writing, listening, or speaking, each of which can be approached from a communicative perspective. Curriculum or instructional objectives for a particular course would reflect specific aspects of communicative competence according to the learner's proficiency level and communicative needs.

The syllabus

Discussions of the nature of the syllabus have been central in Communicative Language Teaching. We have seen that one of the first syllabus models to be proposed was described as a notional syllabus (Wilkins 1976), which specified the semantic-grammatical categories (e.g., frequency, motion, location) and the categories of communicative function that learners need to express. The Council of Europe expanded and developed this into a syllabus that included descriptions of the objectives of foreign language courses for European adults, the situations in which they might typically need to use a foreign language (e.g., travel, business), the topics they might need to talk about (e.g., personal identification, education, shopping), the functions they needed language for (e.g., describing something, requesting information, expressing agreement and disagreement), the notions made use of in communication (e.g., time, frequency, duration), as well as the vocabulary and grammar needed. The result was published as Threshold Level English (van Ek and Alex­ander 1980) and was an attempt to specify what was needed in order to be able to achieve a reasonable degree of communicative proficiency in a foreign language, including the language items needed to realize this "threshold level."

Types of learning and teaching activities

The range of exercise types and activities compatible with a commu­nicative approach is unlimited, provided that such exercises enable learn­ers to attain the communicative objectives of the curriculum, engage learners in communication, and require the use of such communicative processes as information sharing, negotiation of meaning, and interaction. Classroom activities are often designed to focus on completing tasks that are mediated through language or involve negotiation of in­formation and information sharing.

Learner roles

The emphasis in Communicative Language Teaching on the processes of communication, rather than mastery of language.

Teacher roles

Several roles are assumed for teachers in Communicative Language Teaching, the importance of particular roles being determined by the view of CLT adopted. Breen and Candlin describe teacher roles in the following terms:

The teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communica­tion process between all participants in the classroom, and between these participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. The latter role is closely related to the objectives of the first role and arises from it. These roles imply a set of secondary roles for the teacher; first, as an organizer of resources and as a resource himself, second as a guide within the classroom procedures and activities.... A third role for the teacher is that of researcher and learner, with much to contribute in terms of appropriate knowledge and abilities, actual and observed experience of the nature of learning and organi­zational capacities. (1980: 99)

Other roles assumed for teachers are needs analyst, counselor, and group process manager.


The CLT teacher assumes a responsibility for determining and respond­ing to learner language needs. This may be done informally and personally through one-to-one sessions with students, in which the teacher talks through such issues as the student's perception of his or her learning style, learning assets, and learning goals. It may be done formally through administering a needs assessment instrument, such as those exemplified in Savignon (1983). Typically, such formal assessments contain items that attempt to determine an individual's motivation for studying the language. For example, students might respond on a 5-point scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree) to statements like the following.

I want to study English because...

1. I think it will someday be useful in getting a good job.

2. it will help me better understand English-speaking people and their way of life.

3. one needs a good knowledge of English to gain other people's respect.

4. it will allow me to meet and converse with interesting people.

5. I need it for my job.

6. it will enable me to think and behave like English-speaking people.

On the basis of such needs assessments, teachers are expected to plan group and individual instruction that responds to the learners' needs.


Another role assumed by several CLT approaches is that of counselor, similar to the way this role is defined in Community Language Learning. In this role, the teacher-counselor is expected to exemplify an effective communicator seeking to maximize the meshing of speaker intention and hearer interpretation, through the use of paraphrase, confirmation, and feedback.


CLT procedures often require teachers to acquire less teacher-centered classroom management skills. It is the teacher's responsibility to organize the classroom as a setting for communication and communicative ac­tivities. Guidelines for classroom practice (e.g., Littlewood 1981; Finocchiaro and Brumfit 1983) suggest that during an activity the teacher monitors, encourages, and suppresses the inclination to supply gaps in lexis, grammar, and strategy but notes such gaps for later commentary and communicative practice. At the conclusion of group activities, the teacher leads in the debriefing of the activity, pointing out alternatives

and extensions and assisting groups in self-correction discussion. Critics have pointed out, however, that non-native teachers may feel less than comfortable about such procedures without special training.

The focus on fluency and comprehensibility in Communicative Language Teaching may cause anxiety among teachers accustomed to seeing error suppression and correction as the major instructional responsibil­ity, and who see their primary function as preparing learners to take standardized or other kinds of tests. A continuing teacher concern has been the possible deleterious effect in pair or group work of imperfect modeling and student error. Although this issue is far from resolved, it is interesting to note that recent research findings suggest that "data contradicts the notion that other learners are not good conversational partners because they can't provide accurate input when it is solicited" (Porter 1983).

The role of instructional materials

A wide variety of materials have been used to support communicative approaches to language teaching. Unlike some contemporary methodologies, such as Community Language Learning, practitioners of Com­municative Language Teaching view materials as a way of influencing the quality of classroom interaction and language use. Materials thus have the primary role of promoting communicative language use. We will consider three kinds of materials currently used in CLT and label these text-based, task-based, and realia.


There are numerous textbooks designed to direct and support Communicative Language Teaching. Their tables of contents sometimes sug­gest a kind of grading and sequencing of language practice not unlike those found in structurally organized texts. Some of these are in fact written around a largely structural syllabus, with slight reformatting to justify their claims to be based on a communicative approach. Others, however, look very different from previous language teaching texts. Morrow and Johnson's Communicate (1979), for example, has none of the usual dialogues, drills, or sentence patterns and uses visual cues, taped cues, pictures, and sentence fragments to initiate conversation. Watcyn-Jones's Pair Work (1981) consists of two different texts for pair work, each containing different information needed to enact role plays and carry out other pair activities. Texts written to support the Malay-sian English Language Syllabus (1975) likewise represent a departure from traditional textbook modes. A typical lesson consists of a theme (e.g., relaying information), a task analysis for thematic development (e.g., understanding the message, asking questions to obtain clarification, asking for more information, taking notes, ordering and presenting in­formation), a practice situation description (e.g., "A caller asks to see your manager. He does not have an appointment. Gather the necessary information from him and relay the message to your manager."), a stimulus presentation (in the preceding case, the beginning of an office conversation scripted and on tape), comprehension questions (e.g., "Why is the caller in the office?"), and paraphrase exercises.


A variety of games, role plays, simulations, and task-based communication activities have been prepared to support Communicative Lan­guage Teaching classes. These typically are in the form of one-of-a-kind items: exercise handbooks, cue cards, activity cards, pair-communication practice materials, and student-interaction practice booklets. In pair-communication materials, there are typically two sets of material for a pair of students, each set containing different kinds of information. Sometimes the information is complementary, and partners must fit their respective parts of the "jigsaw" into a composite whole. Others assume different role relationships for the partners (e.g., an interviewer and an interviewee). Still others provide drills and practice material in inter­actional formats.


Many proponents of Communicative Language Teaching have advo­cated the use of "authentic," "from-life" materials in the classroom. These might include language-based realia, such as signs, magazines, advertisements, and newspapers, or graphic and visual sources around which communicative activities can he built, such as maps, pictures, symbols, graphs, and charts. Different kinds of objects can be used to support communicative exercises, such as a plastic model to assemble from directions.


Communicative Language Teaching is best considered an approach rather than a method. Thus although a reasonable degree of theoretical con­sistency can be discerned at the levels of language and learning theory, at the levels of design and procedure there is much greater room for individual interpretation and variation than most methods permit. It could be that one version among the various proposals for syllabus models, exercise types, and classroom activities may gain wider approval in the future, giving Communicative Language Teaching a status similar to other teaching methods. On the other hand, divergent interpretations might lead to homogeneous subgroups.

Communicative Language Teaching appeared at a time when British language teaching was ready for a paradigm shift. Situational Language Teaching was no longer felt to reflect a methodology appropriate for the seventies and beyond. CLT appealed to those who sought a more humanistic approach to teaching, one in which the interactive processes of communication received priority. The rapid adoption and implemen­tation of the communicative approach also resulted from the fact that it quickly assumed the status of orthodoxy in British language teaching circles, receiving the sanction and support of leading British applied linguists, language specialists, publishers, as well as institutions, such as the British Council (Richards 1985).

Now that the initial wave of enthusiasm has passed, however, some of the claims of CLT are being looked at more critically (Swan 1985). The adoption of a communicative approach raises important issues for teacher training, materials development, and testing 'and evaluation. Questions that have been raised include whether a communicative approach can be applied at all levels in a language program, whether it is equally suited to ESL and EFL situations, whether it requires existing grammar-based syllabuses to be abandoned or merely revised, how such an approach can be evaluated, how suitable it is for non-native teachers, and how it can be adopted in situations where students must continue to take grammar-based tests. These kinds of questions will doubtless require attention if the communicative movement in language teaching continues to gain momentum in the future.


Communicative Language Teaching

Attends to structure and form more than meaning.

Meaning is paramount.

Demands memorization of structure-based dialogues.

Dialogues, if used, center around communicative functions and are not normally memorized.

Language items are not necessarily contextualized.

Contextualization is a basic premise.

Language learning is learning structures, sounds, or words.

Language learning is learning to communicate.

Mastery, or "over-learning" is sought.

Effective communication is sought.

Drilling is a central technique.

Drilling may occur, but peripherally.

Native-speaker-like pronunciation is sought.

Comprehensible pronunciation is sought.

Grammatical explanation is avoided.

Any device which helps the learners is accepted — varying according to their age, interest, etc.

Communicative activities only come after a long process of rigid drills and exercises

Attempts to communicate may be encouraged from the very beginning.

The use of the student's native language is forbidden.

Judicious use of native language is accepted where feasible.

Translation is forbidden at early levels

Translation may be used where students need or benefit from it.

Reading and writing are deferred till speech is mastered.

Reading and writing can start from the first day, if desired.

The target linguistic system will be learned through the overt teaching of the patterns of the system.

The target linguistic system will be learned best through the process of struggling to communicate.

Linguistic competence is the desired goal.

Communicative competence is the desired goal (i.e. the ability to use the linguistic system effectively and appropriately).

Varieties of language are recognized but not emphasized.

Linguistic variation is a central concept in materials and methodology.

The sequence of units is determined solely by principles of linguistic complexity.

Sequencing is determined by any consideration of content, function, or meaning which maintains interest.

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