The other day I was asked this question:
Do you think that we are in the post-communicative era of language learning/language teaching.
It's an interesting one and I thought I would post it here for considerations. Any thoughts?
Well, it's the second time I heard the expression "the post-communicative era" and I didn't understand what it means.
I think that the function of teaching/studying a language is communication and I really don't see what more language can bring to us... Am I right or wrong?
So, if you don't mind, could you explain "the post-communicative era" for me?
'Communicative' in the phrase 'post-communicative era' is referring to the teaching methodology known as communicative language teaching. This became very popular in the 1970s, and was mainly a reaction against the grammar-translation method of learning a foreign language, in which one learnt a lot 'about' the foreign language (irregular verb forms etc) but could not necessarily do simple things like order a beer when on holiday. Grammar took a back seat in the communicative approach -- the key thing was to make yourself understood -- and classroom tasks and texts were supposed to be 'authentic'.
As I understand it, the post-communicative era is a recognition that there is not one specific, 'best' way to teach a language. The communicative approach put little emphasis on writing, especially correct grammatical forms in writing, but things have changed now -- these days people do a lot more writing than they used to do -- yes, mainly texting, emailing, writing on internet forums etc, but that is still writing, In fact, many people these days prefer to text or email than speak on the phone or in person. Technology has improved since the 1970s/80s, too, yet at the time those of us teaching via the communicative approach would have said that using technology wasn't natural or 'authentic'. It would be silly to ignore technology these days. The post-communicative approach covers more than just speaking, or performing functional tasks; it would include literature, for instance.
I really think we live in the post-communicative era in the sense that we are no longer ruled by any specific methodology or approach. However, this situation demands a lot more from teachers who have to be better prepared to decide what to do in class.
Susan wrote that, "the post-communicative era is a recognition that there is not one specific 'best' way to teach a language". This is quite an elegant way to put it.
Like new governments, new methodologies tend to throw out the remnants of those who were previously in power. So during the communicative era, techniques that were seen to be non-communicative were rejected. These include for example, translation, dictation and drilling.
This is the problem with accepting any new methodology and rejecting a previous one. The expression that is often used in relation to this situation is: Throwing the baby out with the bath water.
The big problem, as Susan points out, is that there is often no evidence that one methodology is better than another. Methodologies come into existence for various reasons (reactions, fashions, persuasive thinkers, etc).
In my experience, more and teachers are starting to make use of techniques that were, until recently, generally rejected (drilling, dictation and translation, for example) Importantly, those teachers tha I mention are not rejecting communicative activities.
So the post communicative era is a time of rediscovery.
I am wondering if there are any other techniques from yesteryear that are gradually finding their way back into the language classroom?