Review of an article in English Teaching Forum Volume 3 Number 2005 entitled

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Article Review
Mary Strabala
This is a review of an article in English Teaching Forum Volume 43 Number 4 2005 entitled, Imported Communicative Language Teaching: Implications for Local Teachers. I chose this article because I have been training teachers in the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method and have often wondered if it was appropriate in Uzbekistan classrooms. I don’t want to waste their time or mine on something that could not be implemented for cultural or other reasons.
The article discusses English language classrooms in Asia, specifically Vietnam and China. In traditional classrooms, students focused on learning grammar and vocabulary, but rarely became the competent speakers that were considered necessary in today’s globalized world. Therefore, they wanted to have teachers trained in using the latest approach - CLT. What research found though is that teachers often returned to their traditional way of teaching after CLT training because they did not have a thorough enough understanding of it to use it appropriately in their teaching contexts.
The author spends a considerable amount of time discussing the history of CLT; what it means in theory and how it is put into practice. The heart of the difficulty for teachers is how to create genuine communication in the classroom. The ‘authentic tasks’ presented to students as needed outside of the classroom don’t apply when they are living in a non-English-speaking country. What is authentic in Texas isn’t authentic in Vietnam. An additional difficulty in implementing CLT is the lack of teaching facilities, large size classes and rigid examination structures in many countries around the world. Even given the difficulties, most teachers around the world view CLT as the gold standard of English teaching methodology.
A part of being communicatively competent means taking on some on the norms and values of the target culture that may be in opposition to the native culture. Some have questioned if interactions are between two non-native speakers of English, why the goal should be native-like fluency. They mention that some of the terms used in CLT—such as involve learners, allow learners choices, change in the roles assigned, and monitoring learning —carry ideological values about choice, freedom, and equality that are not universal. The author suggests that what CLT looks like in practice may vary between countries even though they may be all using the same terminology to describe their pedagogy.
The end of the article looks at the possibility that as the world gets smaller, some of the norms of countries may become less rigid and some aspects of CLT will become more acceptable. The values of societies are not fixed and may veer from the traditional as English becomes more widely used. Finally, the author suggests that many questions remain about how teachers around the world can best adapt CLT to their contexts.
The article was interesting, but the end circles back to the same questions that were presented in the beginning. I was hoping to find some ideas I could put into action or at least think about here in my Uzbek context, but I didn’t find any. It makes me wonder about how valid my push for using CLT is here in Fergana. Is it culturally appropriate for learners to be given choices? In my experience, many seem unsure about what to do if given choices. Is everyone comfortable working in pairs – in particular when a man is paired with a woman? Surely, the traditional Uzbek classroom is all about teacher control. Do I appear less capable to my students when I give them more control of the classroom?
I think this article would be good to read for anyone who is interested in learning about what Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) really means, but the author spends a lot of time discussing research and the language can be quite difficult.
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