Adapting Communicative Language Teaching Approach to China’s Context

Topics: Teaching English as a foreign language, Communicative language teaching, Language education Pages: 8 (2838 words) Published: March 25, 2012
1. Introduction
With the development of market economy, China is accelerating its steps to join the world family in commerce and cultural partnership. With the recent accession to the WTO, the long-awaited Olympic Games in Beijing, China has made learning English a national priority. English, with its unique status, has been taught in China for more than 100 years. Today, English is becoming more and more popular. It is a compulsory course for all Chinese students from primary school to university. Clearly it is relatively easy to demonstrate the importance of English in current China. This essay intends to argue that to achieve success in English learning for Chinese students the methods of teaching must be reconsidered. Therefore this article is structured as follows: First, analyzing different types of English teaching methods in China and then focusing on the CLT Method. By analyzing and contrasting these English teaching methods, the need to change current English teaching methods in China will be discovered. Finally, explaining the problems of adopting the more modern CLT Approach and giving suggestions on how it may best be adapted to the Chinese context. 2. A Brief Introduction to English Teaching Methods in China 2.1 Grammar-Translation Method

English has been taught in China for more than 100 years. In the beginning stage, people did not have any experience on modern language teaching and learning, so they followed a European language teaching method YE Jin (1978- ), Master of education, lecturer of School of Foreign Language, Shenzhen University; research fields: English language teaching methods, cross-cultural communication, educational assessment,which is used in teaching Greek and Latin in Middle Ages in Europe—Grammar-Translation Method. Some Chinese students become accustomed to this method in learning English and generally showed great interest in language structures and linguistic details. Most of them believe “we would like to know what happens, because if we understand the system, we can use English more effectively” (Harvey, 1985). Therefore, most Chinese English teachers always stick to this method, and think it is essential to analyze grammar to learners, without considering the age of the students or their English proficiency. This method is effective and suitable for some Chinese students, but not all of them. The outcome of this method is that students develop poor oral English ability with pronunciation and intonation not standard. Although they have learned lots of grammar rules, when using English to communicate, they will make grammatical mistakes frequently. Especially when they are in foreign countries, they cannot ask the way; they cannot order taxi. They are “observers” rather than active participants in classes. Students became almost “structurally competent but communicatively incompetent” (Johnson & Morrow, 1981). It has been pointed out that this grammar-oriented approach reflects an artificial and formalistic view of language skills and learning. It doesn’t allow the learners to use a language in a natural way (Widdowson, 1990). This is the most serious problem in Grammar-Translation Method and also in current China’s English teaching. 2.2 Direct Method

This English teaching method is totally different from Grammar-Translation Method. It uses English directly in teaching, such as using English to make conversations or have discussions. Students’ English competence is developed in this way instead of using mother tongue to translate. The basic principle of this method is that the foreign language learning process should be like the natural process of a child learning his or her mother tongue. It believes that language is a skill or habit, and this habit can be achieved by repetition and imitation. Although this method can inspire students’ interests in learning English and is in favour of their English pronunciation and intonation, it has certain limitations: (1) It only focuses on...
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