EAP as CLT!

I’ve heard people say that they do not want to teach ESP/EAP because that they are communicative language teachers, and that ESP/EAP goes against these principles.

I think this is a misunderstanding of CLT and EAP.

If we look at the term “Communicative Language Teaching”, we can see two possible meanings. Firstly there is (Communicative Language) Teaching and secondly, there is Communicative (Language Teaching).

(Communicative Language) Teaching focuses on the teaching of communicative language. It emphasises course design, syllabus design and materials design. And in all cases it depends on the purposes that the learners have for learning the language. It requires clear needs analysis, concentrating on target situation analysis. This is necessary in order to ascertain the real world communicative needs of the learners. In order to do this, a knowledge is required of the language of the situations in which the learners may find themselves. This involves genre and register analysis, and the realisations of these contexts in terms of notions, functions, grammar and vocabulary. This is central to all ESP/EAP teaching.

Communicative (Language Teaching) draws attention to the kind of teaching. Hence it focuses on methods and methodology, classroom practices, the roles of the teacher and learner and techniques. The strong form of this is that real communication is all that is necessary in order for the language to be learned. A weaker form would still understand the importance of real communication in the classroom. The basic methodology of ESP/EAP is task based, the tasks deriving from the needs of the students. Task based learning in ESP/EAP is old.

Good Communicative Language teaching, therefore, requires analysis of the communicative needs of the learners and a knowledge of the methods that ensure learning takes place. The real communication that takes place in the EAP classroom may not be oral-aural. EAP recognises that listening, reading and writing are all methods of communication.

This is made clear by Tony Howatt in the latest edition of his history of English language teaching. ESP is included in the chapter entitled: the notion of communication.

ESP/EAP is therefore CLT par excellence.

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