I- What is Speaking, in the context of the communicative Language Teaching of English Language Teaching?
The denotative meaning of the word:
§ “Speaking” is: - the act or art of a person who speaks
- that which is spoken; utterance; discourse.
-the exchange of spoken words;
§ “To speak” is: - to utter words with the ordinary voice; to talk.
- to express or communicate opinions, feelings, ideas by or as
- to make a speech; to deliver; to talk with another or others; to
To understand “Speaking” in the context of English Language Teaching, ELT, and mainly in the context of the CLT, the Communicative Language Teaching, we need to have an idea about what CLT is, in order to identify the significance, the importance and the uses of Speaking or of the Speaking skill.
The Communicative Language Teaching, or CLT, that became known in the 1970’s can be considered as a reaction to several traditional approaches to English Language Teaching, ELT. CLT has its roots in the idea that the goal of English Language Learning is to use one’s language to serve one’s functional purposes. Because it is more learner-centered than teacher-centered instruction, the aim of the CLT is mainly to develop the Learner’s communicative competence that is to develop his skills namely Speaking and Listening. Accordingly, the Communicative Competence can be summarized in four essential sub-competencies that interrelate. Therefore it should be noted that learning English does not only refer to the ability to apply and to use grammatical rules, but also to use these utterances in meaningful contexts for functional needs. As a result, a student’s Communicative Competence includes a Grammatical Competence allowing him to produce a structured comprehensible utterance, including grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. In addition to a Socio-cultural Competence that refers to the use of socially-determined cultural codes in meaningful ways. Besides, shaping language and communicating purposefully in different situations using cohesion and coherence which is referred to as the Discourse Competence. The fourth is the Strategic Competence that includes enhancing the effectiveness of communication and compensating for breakdowns that may occur in it. For example, through comprehension checks, paraphrase and conversation fillers. A more comprehensible definition of the CLT is that of Carter and Nunan. They define it as:
"An approach to the teaching of language which emphasizes the use of language in a range of contexts and for a range of purposes. CLT, emphasizes Speaking and Listening in real settings and does not prioritize the development of reading and writing skills, methodologists for CLT tend to encourage active learner involvement in a wide range of activities and tasks and strategies for communication”.
What is noticeable considering this, in the main context of CLT, is the obvious reconsideration of Speaking and its importance in learning the English language, not only as a vehicle used to teach grammar and vocabulary, as dealt with in traditional pedagogy, but as a main skill to be learned and taught for its sake.
Being one of the four skills that English Language Teaching consists of, Speaking is a productive skill in addition to Writing. A skill that is produced in the oral mode. Simply, Speaking means the use of the target language, that is English, by learners themselves. A use that should be relevant to their needs. The emphasis, hence, is on a functional approach to language learning and culture awareness of the target language. There are many features that characterize Speaking that is, like other skills, more complicated than it seems at first. It is, possibly, to be seen the first to be taught and mastered by students in order to learn English. To use the target language, that is to speak English is, for instance, different in nature and in features from Writing. Speaking English is context bound where the interlocutors share the immediate context within which the conversation takes place. Hence much information is implicit and can be retrieved from the immediate environment. Speaking English is, also created “on the fly” as the conversation unfolds. That’s why improvisation is a very important skill that learners need to resort to in order to solve their communicative needs, hence to develop their communicative competence. As English language learners are encouraged to use language in different types of social situations; to express their needs as well as to perform several kinds of tasks, it is crucial to highlight the term "interaction". Interaction is somehow, the best way to learn English simply because “the best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it”. Interaction can be carried out through different communicative classroom activities. Conversations, information-gap, role-play, debates, discussions and problem-solving tasks are just examples.