Integration of Communicative Language Teaching and Speech Acts


速读·上旬 2021年4期

Chen shan

◆Abstract:Under the circumstance of examination-oriented education, priorities are given to the word memorization, grammar analysis, and exercise drills in the English class. However, China is playing a pivotal role in the international arena now, resulting in the fact that more and more communication-skilled talents are needed. In the current pedagogical methodology, this need is doomed to dissatisfy. This essay is to analyze the speech act theory to integrate into the Communicative Language Teaching, in order to foster students comprehensive English communicative competence.

◆Key Words: CLT ;speech acts ; English education

1Origin of Communication Language Teaching

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which can also be referred as Communicative Approach, Notional-functional Approach, and Functional Approach, has come into being in Britain since the late 1960s. At that time, with the increasing interdependence of European countries came the need for greater efforts to teach adults the major languages of the European Common Market. Then the following ten years have witnessed its overnight widespread in the world. As a result, this teaching method aiming to develop the faculty of learners communicative competence took priorities over other methods.

2Current Situations of Communicative Language Teaching

Until now, CLT still have many followers in the foreign language teaching. However, with the advent of globalization, on the one side, cooperation voices loudly internationally; on the other hand, competitions among different countries are marching in a more implicit and involving-all way, especially the cultural competitions. Now, mere fluent communication cannot meet the needs for the current affairs, its required that we should penetrate other countries culture. Under this circumstance, cross-cultural communication plays a more and more importance role in the foreign language teaching. The newly emerging performed culture is the production of this trend, which aims at training learners to socialize their foreign language, to become part of the target community and leaner from others, to recognize the expectation and accept the expectations of foreign language learning, and to work toward, contribute to common goals and make themselves assets into the target community.

Suppose that one accidentally bumps into an older person in a department store, causing her to drop some packages. Which of the following apologies would be the most appropriate? (A)  Forgive me, please. (B) Im really sorry. Are you okay? (C) Lady, such things happen. (D) Hey, watch where youre going. Have you ever been trapped by this multiple choices in your exam as a senior high school students or junior high school student? All of these answers are grammatically correct, but maybe one answer is more appropriate than the other three. Hence, it has become obvious that teaching foreign language words, phrases and sentence structures without accounting for sociocultural context may be trapped into a linguistic dilemma where communicative purpose can by no means be achieved.

3Key Elements of Speech Acts

A speech act is a functional unit in communication. Austin (1962) claimed there are three kinds of utterance meaning. They are propositional or locutionary meaning, namely, the literal meaning of the utterances; illocutionary, that is, the social function that utterance or written text has; and perlocutionary force, which is the result or effect that is produced by the utterance in that given context. Moreover, according to Austin (1962) and Searle (1969) speech acts have been classified into five categories: representatives (assertions, claims, and reports), directives (suggestions, requests and command), expressives (apology, complaints and thanks), commissives (promise and threat), and declaratives (decree and declaration).

4Integration of Communicative Language Teaching and Speech Acts

Under the guidance of CLT, efforts are made by both teachers and learners to create an artificial atmosphere in order to achieve different communicational purposes. So the routinized question-and-answer, such as “How are you?”, “Fine, thanks. And you?”, is pervasive in the classroom activities, ignoring the social contexts and the cultural elements. To some degree, CLT is still at the level of sociolinguistic ability, which refers to the respondents skill at selecting appropriate linguistic forms in order to express the particular strategy used to realize the speech acts such as expression of regret in the apology, registration of a grievance in a complaint, specification of the objective of a request, or refusal of an invitation. As a response to new requirements rendered by the changing climates of current affairs, acquisition of sociolinguistic abilities can no longer feed us up, that is to say, socio-cultural abilities should take up its due position. Socio-cultural abilities refer to the respondents skill at selecting speech act strategies which are appropriate given the culture involved, the age and sex of speakers, their social class and occupations, and their roles and status in the interaction.

In foreign language teaching, teachers always put all their energy to shape learners into some ideal native speakers, while the moment when those learners communicate with the real native speakers is embarrassing. As an English major, sometimes when I collect some courage to compare my written texts with the native writers, I feel I am just a dwarf in terms of words selecting and sentence structures, not to mention some elaborate conceptions used by the native. For instance, as English learners, we all know very and really have the same meaning, just like in the expression of Im very sorry and Im really sorry. But it is suggested that the nonnative speakers didnt use really in the same way that the native speakers did. Native speakers tended to make a distinction whereby really expressed a greater depth of apology, regret, and concern and very was used more for matters of social etiquette. For instance, in a situation of scalding a friend with coffee in a cafeteria, the native speakers tended to use really sorry, while nonnative speakers used very sorry, which sounded less intensified. Very often, we tend to say our way of thinking is different from that of English-speaking people, so we are highly likely to produce different utterances even within the same language. How are our ways of thinking different with each other? Culture plays a pivotal role. Different utterances output should attribute more to cultural components, which is often neglected by CLT.

In the English classes, teachers should create communicatively meaningful situations for students to utter effective and efficient language, which should comply with the speech act theories. Except for the expected standard answers, teachers should make the language situations beyond the context. For instance, when asked “how are you?”, instead of “I am fine.”, students focus should be shifted on the following communication of “I dont feel good.” In the class setting, everything goes as the teachers plan, while the real situation always goes the other way.


CLT is a great leap forward in pedagogy, but without dubbing the cultural elements into its power, criticisms put on it will be ceaseless. Teachers should involve speech acts into classroom activities to give learners a holistic view of a foreign language. Foreign language learners do not necessarily and seldom can behave like native speakers, but they can become better listeners and react more appropriately to what native speakers say to them. Learners are required to notice similarities and differences in the speech acts between themselves and the native speakers.



[2]AustinJ.How to Do Things with Words [M].London:Clarendon Press,1962.


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