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The Application of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in

Turkish Primary and Secondary Schools


Arzu Nihan Kk, Turkey
Arzu Nihan Kk studied English Language and Literature at stanbul University. She
also holds an MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics from Kings College, London. She
has been teaching English as a foreign language since 2007 and at the moment she
is
working
as
an
English
Instructor
at
Baheehir
University.
E-mail: arzu_kucuk@yahoo.com
Menu
Introduction
The
teaching
context
Educational
culture
and
The
hegemony
of
Ways
of
Conclusion
References

and
the
way
CLT
is
considered
applicability
of
CLT
to
the
curriculum
native-speaking
countries
in
ELT
using
CLT
efficiently

Introduction
Thanks to the economical and political power of the UK and USA, English has spread
worldwide and it has been considered as an international language (in some countries
like India, Bangladesh it is used as a second language; however, in countries such as
Turkey and Russia it is a foreign language). This spread of English has brought with it
the inevitable promotion of the methodologies and approaches in ELT which stemmed
mainly from the centre the norm providing countries -, as Kachru (1985) names it.
One of these methods which have been criticised vehemently is the Communicative
Language Teaching (CLT) Method. Central to CLT is the discussion of whether this
Western discovery has universal applicability in various contexts (Ellis 1996).
In this paper I am going to discuss the appropriacy of CLT to my teaching context in
Turkey. First, I will provide some brief information about my context, underlying the
position of CLT and misconceptions about it. Then I will move on to relate CLT to the
educational culture of my context and its suitability to the curriculum. Following this,
the hegemony of the native-speaking countries in ELT will be discussed in relation to
CLT. After suggesting solutions to make efficient use of CLT in my context, I will
conclude by summarizing my views on the applicability of CLT in Turkey
The teaching context and the way CLT is considered
What is prominent in the practice of language teaching is not finding one ideal
methodology, but adjusting the methodology used to the culture one teaches in
(Pennycook, 1994) . To achieve this end, one must scrutunise the key features of the
context English is taught. In Turkey it is believed that people who can speak English
are more educated and elegant; they are deemed superior. Moreover, some schools
in Turkey use English as their academic language as part of CLIL (Content and
Language Integrated Learning). English is learned as a foreign language in Turkey

hence learners do not have much chance to communicate in English outside the
classroom which is a drawback. However, the learners have the chance to use English
communicatively through the Internet. Obviously learners motivation and urge to
speak in English is the focal point at this stage; that is they can find ways to
communicate in English with the help of technology, if they want to. As English is
taught mainly in TESEP (tertiary, secondary, primary) institutions, the importance of
accuracy and form excels the communicative use of the language. Moreover, learners
level of English is assessed through written exams which relegates the importance
of spoken English to a certain extent. As Ellis convincingly asserts the EFL teacher
could be doing the student a disservice by focusing on oral skills when, for example,
the examination is testing for translation skills (Ellis, 1996:215). As a TESEP teacher
I would be seen as neglecting the needs of the students, if I focus more on speaking
rather than form and vocabulary because the learners are tested on grammar and
vocabulary.
Another obstacle for implementing CLT is that English is taught as part of a wider
curriculum and is therefore influenced and constrained by wider educational,
institutional forces (Holliday,1994:4). As a result, in Turkey English is not
considered as the core subject like it is in BANA institutions but as a complimentary
gatekeeper for higher education, not as a tool to communicate. This causes English
to be considered secondary as opposed to other core subjects like mathematics and
science. Within this system teachers need to follow the national curriculum to an extent
for their learners success. Even though the teachers are expected to use CLT, the
pressure of their examination culture and the resultant need to transmit huge amounts
of knowledge determines their methodology (Tomlinson, 2005:139); therefore
teachers can deviate from CLT to be effective in their context. Though CLT is the
method that is required to be used, in Turkey communicative methods are mainly used
as additional back-ups depending on the initiative of the teacher. This situation does
not provide a very convenient environment to implement CLT; however, it is not
impossible to use it efficiently.
One of the aspects of CLT which is controversial in terms of applicability is authenticity.
As the learners in BANA institutions have access to English they can read authentic
texts, they can take place in authentic conversations. However, the learners in Turkey
always question the authenticity of the materials and activities because some of them
already know that they will not have the chance to go abroad and use the language
just for communication. As a result authenticity and its necessity are questionable in
various contexts; this will be discussed in the last section.
Apart from the difficulties caused by the context, another problem is that neither the
teachers nor the learners are really aware of the tenets of CLT. Learners and some
teachers believe that CLT disregards teaching grammar and it renders learners more
powerful than the teachers. To use CLT more effectively learners should be informed
about the tenets of CLT as well as the teachers. If the learners are young or more
motivated, it is easier for them to adjust to CLT, like the learners who are learning
English in a BANA institute are ready to adopt new methodologies easier (Holliday:
1994).The misconceptions mentioned by Thompson (1996) about CLT are still
prevalent in Turkey and undoubtedly these misconceptions hinder the effective use of
CLT.

Educational culture and applicability of CLT to the curriculum


It is a widely accepted fact that there is no best method in ELT. One of the factors that
determine the suitability of a method is the culture of the context English is taught. To
be appropriate, a methodology must be sensitive to the prevailing cultures surrounding
any given classroom (Holliday, 1994:161). Central to the problems related to culture
in terms of CLT are the traditional views of teaching in Turkey, the roles of teachers
and learners, and lastly the applicability of CLT into the existing curriculum.
The difficulty of implementing CLT in Turkey stems from the clash between the
principles of CLT and the way English language teaching is regarded. Mostly, learners
in Turkey expect the teacher to write down the rules of grammar as formulae and work
on them through exercises, which is PPP (presentation, practice, production). The
main aim for learners is to acquire linguistic competence. They want to see the
concrete evidence of their language learning; otherwise they would assume that they
are not learning anything or the teacher does not do her/his job properly. However, in
CLT the focus is on meaning and the message rather than form. People who support
CLT believe that the formal realization of the target language system is unnecessary
and that these features should be left to students to acquire through exposure (K.
Johnson & Porter D., 1983:14). This assumption is questionable for Turkey on grounds
of the pressure of accuracy as a result of the examination system. Besides English is
used only as a foreign language in Turkey so the learners are not much exposed to
English to learn it through exposure and discovery in an authentic environment, the
EFL teacher is cast in the somewhat onerous role of sole provider of experience in the
target language (Ellis, 1996:215).
Another problem related to CLT is the roles of learners and teachers. Traditionally,
teachers have the power to decide for learners needs in Turkey, so the notion of
teacher as facilitator does not really fit in. Littlewood (1981: 92) describes the roles of
a teacher in communicative activities as (he) will let learning take place through
independent activities. In many institutions in Turkey a teacher who uses such
activities would be labelled lazy. Apart from this prejudice learners want teachers to
be the decision-makers; they expect the teacher to assist them throughout the tasks.
To be able to use communicative activities learners should be taught to take
responsibility of their learning. One of the basic characteristics of CLT that Nunan
(1991) declares is that learning in the classroom should be related to and continued
outside the classroom as well. Trying to apply this to the context in Turkey is difficult
in that, mostly the only way the learners can use English outside the classroom is the
Internet and most learners are not autonomous to further their English themselves.
Another difficulty is that teachers are believed to dictate their knowledge; learners are
the passive recipients to be filled up with knowledge. Learners tend to prefer repeating
what the teacher conveyed as opposed to thinking and discovering (Holliday, 1994)
and some learners mistake learning through discovery for learning without teaching
(ibid:84).Though this situation seems to pose a problem, preparing problem-solving or
information gap activities on topics that will evoke learners interests will help teachers
to use communicative activities. Adolescent learners enthusiastically involve in
communicative activities, especially role playing that are based on their favourite
music bands, films (e.g. Twilight, Harry Potter). However, if the activities on the book
followed are about pollution, global warming or the history of Britain they are not

interested. A case study done in a BANA institution where the teachers were to teach
communicatively by activating the schemata revealed that when learners' interests
are engaged, and when they are able to bring their own background schemata to
classroom interactions, these (activities) can begin to be truly communicative (Nunan,
1986:142).
Applicability of CLT to the existing curriculum is the last point to be discussed in this
section. As English is being taught mainly in TESEP institutions, the curriculum is
based on national examinations. Due to written assessment, the curriculum focuses
on grammar and vocabulary. Learners should avoid making mistakes, if they want to
be successful. This aspect of the education system is in conflict with one of the tenets
of CLT: regardless of their errors, learners can continue to communicate as long as
they can convey the meaning (Harmer, 2003). Several cases have been reported
where tolerating mistakes resulted in being fossilised like a twenty-five year old
Guatemalan woman who lived in the US for four years made the same grammar
mistakes, even though her vocabulary was improving (K. Johnson & D. Porter, 1983).
Though it is critical to state that this one instance is not enough to generalise the
assumption, what most teachers experience, including myself, is that when mistakes
are not corrected, they become fossilised. The best way to prevent this situation in
contexts where examinations dominate the curriculum is to correct the mistakes at the
end of the lesson. Fotos views on the obstacles of implementing CLT sums up the
problems in Turkey:
Access to the target language remains a problem, and the need for students to
develop sufficient accuracy to pass proficiency examinations in English remains a
paramount teaching objective (Fotos, 2003: 667).
It can be understood that the lack of exposure to English and the need to focus on
grammar, vocabulary and translation makes it arduous for teachers to use CLT in its
strong form.
The hegemony of native-speaking countries in ELT
As a result of the popularity of English, many methodologies have been invented by
the centre and they have been imposed upon the non-native teachers who are
teaching in the outer and expanding circle (Kachru: 1985). The Western culture has
taken the responsibility of improving the standards of ELT around the world by
bearing White Mans Burden again. No one should undermine the benefits of the
West to ELT; however, one should always bear in mind that the pivotal point is not to
use the newest and the most popular method but to find the best way to teach
according to the needs of the learners and the context.
What is detrimental is that mostly, non-native teachers accept and try to implement
methodologies which are developed by the centre without questioning their suitability
to their context (Holliday, 1994). They believe that what the centre developed as the
best method will fit into their context. This situation results in the clash of the needs of
the learners and the expectations of the teachers because (the experts in ELT) are
not expected to become integrated into the local community... Centre ELT experts are
not encouraged to develop a regional specialization (Bowers, 1983: 261). Due to their
lack of knowledge about the context and culture, they impose inappropriate methods.

Taking these Western methods for granted is not really sensible since second
language acquisition theories ... falsify social theory and serve to maintain and
perpetuate the hegemony, linguistic and social, of the dominant group (Phillipson R.,
1991:40). It is obvious that second language acquisition research, by disregarding
social context, tries to impose the ideology of the centre; so teachers should do their
own research and understand the needs of their learners. Only after analysing their
context, can the teachers find the best method for teaching and learning.
In my context CLT is regarded as superior to Grammar-Translation and Audio-lingual
Method, merely because it is the newest method promoted by a Western Englishspeaking country which excels in technology and experience in ELT. However, the
centre does not take into account the differences between cultures, the reasons for
learning English and the education systems and this serves to facilitate the
reproduction in the Periphery of the institutions and practices of the Centre and
militates against finding (more appropriate) solutions (Phillipson, 1992:62). For
instance; in CLT the students are regarded as internally motivated, there is no
pressure of exams, the number of the students in a class is limited so the teacher can
monitor all of them easily. What happens when CLT practices are reproduced in
Turkey is that the students are not intrinsically motivated for learning English, so the
teacher should try motivate them and evoke their interests constantly. Because of the
importance of exams as gatekeepers, communicating in the target language is
secondary to linguistic competence. Lastly, a large group of learners in a class makes
it difficult for the teacher to control the learners especially, if they are young. It is
reasonable to say that choosing the right methodology both serving the teaching
objectives and the context is through analysing the needs of the learners and the
learning styles in that context (Savignon, 2003) rather than choosing a methodology
that disregards the different needs of other contexts. As the Centre is not familiar with
the needs of the other contexts, it should not preach the periphery how to teach best.
As Cook (2008: 165) convincingly states ... the responsibility for international
languages has passed out of the hands of the original owners ... the right to say how
something should be taught is even less a right of the native speaker .... It is clear
that the centre has no right to claim which method is best for a certain context as
English is considered as a Lingua Franca. Its (an approachs) merits have to be
accepted or rejected by the experts on the situation- the teachers and students who
live and work there (Cook, 2008:165), that is teachers and learners should be the
ones to decide which method is appropriate for them, not the norm providing countries.
Ways of using CLT efficiently
Many scholars realize that ... what teachers practise in language classrooms rarely
resembles any specific method as it is prescribed in manuals (Canagarajah, 1999:
103). Even though most teachers assert that they are using CLT, the method they
generally use is PPP or the combination of different methods because there is no best
way to teach English. Despite the tenets of different methodologies what teachers do
is to adopt eclectic methods to cater for the diverse needs of the learners. As Fotos
(2003) justifiably claims instead of favouring one method over the other, grammar
teaching and communicative activities should be mingled to achieve teaching goals.
Even though I am to use CLT, I combine Grammar-Translation, PPP and CLT. On
grounds of my learners needs I have to teach grammar directly through sample exam
questions with examination strategies otherwise my learners do not feel confident.

Most of the time teachers cannot devote a long time for learners to find the rules
inductively because of shortage of time; consequently they are using PPP to cover
an aspect of language in an hour; however it is disputable whether this method is really
effective.
Apart from the controversies on the applicability of CLT, there are disputes on the use
of weak and strong versions of CLT as well. On account of the conditions of my context
and learners; teachers cannot apply the strong version of CLT. Holliday (1994) argues
that the weak version focuses on structures and enhances communication with the
teacher rather than the language itself that is the learners are dependent on the
teacher to understand the language instead of analysing it themselves. However,
teachers cannot spare much time for discovery learning because of the tight
curriculum. Combining PPP and the weak version of CLT seems to be the best option
for Turkish learners because the learners want the teacher to guide them throughout
their learning process. However, it is not impossible to use the strong version of CLT,
if one has enthusiastic learners.
In terms of authenticity CLT can be used with some restrictions. With intermediate and
upper-intermediate learners I used English versions of National Geographic and Times
which are easily available. After choosing appropriate reading passages from these
authentic materials, I prepared comprehension questions and discussion topics. The
learners felt confident because they realised they could understand an original text
and talk about it genuinely. Since these topics were contemporary, they could activate
their schemata and they could contribute to discussions by communicating their
opinions and beliefs. In addition to these foreign publications, the leading newspapers
of Turkey have English translations at the weekends and they can be read in English
online as well. As the textbooks produced are mainly Anglo-centric (Prodromou, 1988)
it might be beneficial to use these authentic materials. Owing to the curriculum one
cannot concentrate on these materials all the time so I guide my learners to read these
materials outside class and once a week I expect from one of them to talk about an
article or news that they are interested in from these publications and discuss it with
the class. From that point on it is the learner who should take the responsibility of
his/her learning.
Though one can easily find ways of teaching reading, writing and listening
communicatively in an EFL country; it is difficult to teach speaking in a genuine
environment with a real context. As it is well known speaking activities that take place
in most classes are not really communicative, the functions that learners should use
are already given beforehand. The conversation is constructed by the dictation of the
textbook or the teacher. Due to the lack of exposure to the target language, the only
time learners are in need of communicating in English is the classroom. To consolidate
their speaking teachers can encourage their learners to use the Internet and
interactive programmes on the multimedia, though they are not always authentic.
Teachers can arrange pen friends; there are websites where learners can
communicate with each other. It is not only crucial that the learners are directed in the
right way but also they should be motivated and willing to continue their learning on
their own.
Conclusion

Within the limited scope of this paper I discussed the suitability of CLT to my context
in Turkey. After providing information about my context and prevalent views about
CLT, I scrutinised the applicability of CLT in the light of the educational culture and the
existing curriculum. Finally possible ways of adopting CLT to my context have been
suggested as opposed to the doctrines of the centre. In addition to being an EFL
country, due to the pressure of exams and the importance of accuracy CLT is used in
its weak form in Turkey. Besides these the lack of knowledge about CLT results in
misunderstandings of the core aspects of CLT both for teachers and learners.
Moreover, the recognition of the teacher as facilitator (Ellis, 1996:216) in Turkey will
probably take some time because of the established traditions. As the centre countries
dominate ELT sector, most of the time they undermine the characteristics of the
countries where English is taught as a foreign language. It can be concluded that in
terms of the methodologies in ELT teachers should analyse their context and their
learners needs before acknowledging these methodologies as the best way to teach.
By combining the right strategies with the needs and expectations of the learners one
can use CLT successfully.
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