ESL Term:

Communicative Approach

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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communicative approach: A set of principles about teaching including recommendations about method and syllabus  where the focus is on meaningingful communication not structure, use not usage. In this approach, students are given tasks to accomplish using language, instead of studying the language. The syllabus is based primarily on functional development (asking permission, asking directions, etc.), not structural development (past tense, conditionals, etc.). In essence, a functional syllabus replaces a structural syllabus. There is also less emphasis on error correction as fluency and communication become more important than accuracy As well, authentic and meaningful language input becomes more important. The class becomes more student-centered as students accomplish their tasks with other students, while the teacher plays more of an observer role.

In recent years, some authors have combined an emphasis on lexis with the communicative approach to suggest a lexical approach to language learning and teaching.


A word of caution: every ESL textbook claims to be based on the communicative approach. Whether they are infact or not is another question.