The Communicative Approach & Language Learning Basics

The Communicative Approach, adapted from I Speak English 4th Edition by Ruth M. Colvin

The Communicative Approach is an effective and practical way to help adults learn or improve English.  It focuses on real life communication and survival skills.  It is learner centered and stresses the language needed by students. Four skills are taught in this approach – listening, speaking, reading and writing. The main goal of the communicative approach is communication: students will understand what they hear, speak so they can be understood, read with comprehension and express themselves on paper.

Language Learning – a few basics to get you thinking Adapted from Teaching Adults, an ESL Resource Book, New Readers Press

There are four basic language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each skill builds on the one before and they all support each other. Some implications to consider as you begin working with a learner.

  • People learn language initially by listening, so give learners plenty of opportunities to listen to and understand spoken English.
  • Set up activities where learners practice speaking things they have already heard and understood. Students often feel nervous speaking aloud.  Repetition and speaking drills can help them feel more confident.  Review is your friend and theirs.
  • Introduce new words and sentences orally first, then have students learn to read and write them. Use pictures or actual items when possible to support comprehension.
  • Use pictures, gestures, or act out new words or sentences to help students understand what they are hearing and saying.  You can also use a bilingual dictionary or staff to help when needed.
  • Keep the tutoring session fun and make sure learners know that it is okay to make mistakes!
  • Remember: successful communication is the goal, not perfect communication.

Listening and Speaking