The Community Language Teaching (CLT) model has many features. A lot of these features are completely opposite to a traditional school model of learning. It is true that teachers like to stand in front of the class and take control. This is what anyone would think of as a normal approach and what most students expect. This allows the teacher to be the instigator of most topics while the students sit passively at their desks. CLT goes against the traditional grain and tries to make the learning experience more group structured. In this essay, I will show that the learning experience is based more on a type of counseling learning where the use of counseling techniques are used to develop language for all concerned. Everybody has a part to play and a community is born where students can empathize with each other.
This CLT method was developed in the early seventies by Charles Curran. It involved recognizing the affective and the emotional factors as paramount in a classroom. It is always hard for a student to feel relaxed in a new class let alone having confidence in speaking let alone a second language. There is a consensus that views community language as learning that can help reduce anxiety. This is, of course, one of the main factors in learning (a language) where the students feel anxious about expressing their feeling in a class full of people that in the main they do not know. There is a move towards the interpersonal contact between student and teacher as well as student and student. The teacher should have the skills that involve counseling and bring the students together through their techniques. If the class can have a good relationship language and confidence should flow better. One way to get the students to be more familiar with each other is to get the learning group into a circle. There is less turning of heads and the shy people can not be stuck in the corner. In all of this, the teacher is more of a facilitator and tends to sit outside the circle. This format is fine if the group is of a smaller size that helps everyone to be seen and heard. A desirable amount of students would be about 10. This gives the students more time to speak, less time to get distracted, the teacher also has more time to cater to all the students.
The process of the CLT pertains to a pervading tone in the classroom where the students can take control and build their skills and language with the help of others. The students become active learners in their own right. It has been said that the teacher should not control the conversation in CLT, but let students talk about whatever they want to talk (Rardin et al., 1988). Firstly the group can sit in a circle and think about what they want to say. If ideas are flying around they can be written on the whiteboard and brainstormed to see which is liked the best. Students are allowed to use their mother tongue and the teacher translates this language and the building process starts. Students are made to feel more comfortable talking in the conversation circle. This allows them to express their feelings. The student can mention something in their own language. This is then put into small phrases by the teacher and then the students can work with the teacher before they open up to the rest of the class. There is not so much error correction.
Even though the layout of the class and the relaxed atmosphere may bring on some anxiety at first, the students through the CLT feel less stress as goes on and begin to work with their peers which is the goal. This highlights the awareness of community which is in a non-competitive atmosphere with a sense of involvement. The students also take responsibility for their learning and make themselves become active learners that are inquisitive of language and each other.
Once the class has finished a reflection session is essential in the CLT approach. Trust between the teacher and learners or among learners is established by sharing their feelings, anxieties, frustrations or demands. By sharing anxiety, learners may build a sense of unity to do one task together (Rardin et al., 1988). The teacher also uses less error correction during the class as not to stop the flow. If any correction is used it should not be intrusive as the method is to let the students express their meaning. The teacher’s job is to try and extract as much information as can be without pressuring the student. There is a focus on meaning over accuracy. After class, the teacher’s job is to write up a report of the students’ language during the lesson as to be a reflection of all that went on and give the students some resources to look back on. This shows all the key structures and vocabulary they used.
To conclude, the CLT method certainly helps promote better communication in the class. The classes will succeed if the students get used to taking part in their learning. It also focuses on the teacher’s ability to promote this working relationship with all involved.