This paper looks briefly at the beginnings of what has come to be
known as communicative language teaching (CLT), then discusses
current issues and promising avenues of inquiry. The perspective
is international. CLT is seen to be not a British, European, or U.S.
phenomenon, but rather an international effort to respond to the
needs of present-day language learners in many different contexts
Not long ago, when American structuralist linguistics and
behaviorist psychology were the prevailing influences in language
teaching methods and materials, second/foreign language teachers
talked about communication in terms of language skills, seen to be
four: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. These skill categories
were widely accepted and provided a ready-made framework for
methods manuals, learner course materials, and teacher education
programs. They were collectively described as active skills,
speaking and writing, and passive skills, reading and listening.
Today, listeners and readers are no longer regarded as passive.
They are seen as active participants in the negotiation of meaning.
Schemata, expectancies, and top-down/bottom-up processing are
among the terms now used to capture the necessarily complex,
interactive nature of this negotiation. Yet full and widespread
understanding of communication as negotiation has been hindered
by the terms that came to replace the earlier active/passive
dichotomy. The skills needed to engage in speaking and writing
activities were described subsequently as productive, whereas
listening and reading skills were said to be receptive.
While certainly an improvement over the earlier active/passive
representation, the terms productive and receptive fall short of
capturing the interactive nature of communication. Lost in this
productive/receptive, message sending/message receiving representation
is the collaborative nature of meaning making. Meaning
appears fixed, rather,...