Communicative Method

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Bom dia! Today we will talk about the Communicative Method, the method used in Caravela School. You will know what it is about and how it works. We also will talk about other methods and approaches.

Communicative Method - Teaching Portuguese in Portugal

Brief History (1450-1960)

The first method of teaching language was Grammar-translation Method (from 1450). This method consists in learn grammar and translate texts. Teacher uses the student’s mother tongue and there’s no focus on oral communication. Consequently, this method creates students unable to communicate orally.

In order to solve this problem, was created the Direct Method (from 1890). Contrary to the GTM, in the DM teacher only uses the target language (Portuguese in our case), with focus on oral comprehension and expression. Therefore, the teacher must be proficient in the language.

However, at that time, the DM was impractical in the classroom and few teachers weren’t able to use the foreign language well enough. Thus appeared the Reading Approach (from 1930), focused only on reading skills. Although, here only the grammar used to understand reading is taught and vocabulary is learned gradually.

The Audio-Lingual Method (USA – 1940) and Situational Method (England – 1940) are reactions de the RA. Here the focus is listening and speaking, then reading and writing.

In the ALM, the grammar is inductive and knowledge is a result of repetition. In opposition, in the Cognitive Approach (1960), learning languages mean to learn rules. Students learn by themselves, reading and writing are so important as listening and speaking, and teachers must have good proficiency. In its turn, the Comprehension Approach assumes that the process of learning a second language or a foreign language it’s similar to the process of learning the first language. Therefore, the focus is on listening.

The Communicative Method

The Communicative Method or Communicative Approach is the product of the work of researchers who perceived language as a communication system. This approach focus on development of student’s communication skills (about communicative competence, check our article “Learn Portuguese in Portugal”). Teacher must be fluent in the target language.

Thus, the communicative method is more often defined through a list of general principles:

– Emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language.

– The usage of authentic texts and audio for the learning situation.

– The focus not only on language but also on the learning process.

– The personal experiences of the student as elements that help the learning in the classroom.

– See the errors as a part of the learning process.

The classroom activities most commonly used in the communicative method are:

– Role plays

– Interviews

– Information gaps

– Exchange of opinions

– Work in pairs

– Games

Communicative Method in Practice

Some students before start learning with us, and even teachers, ask how it is possible to start to talk in Portuguese with someone who don’t know a single Portuguese word. Moreover, how to teach Portuguese in Portuguese? Let’s see a simple example.

Teacher says:

Eu sou o Pedro. (I am Pedro)

Then, points to himself and write on the board. Then, asks:

E tu? (And you?)

And points to the student. Student will understand that it’s his turn. Intuitively, he will read what teacher wrote and instead “Pedro” will say “John”: “Eu sou o John”. Then, teacher writes:

Tu és o Jonh. (You are Jonh)

Points to a woman and says:

Ela é a Maria. (She is Maria)     

Teacher writes this, points to a man and asks:

E ele? (And he?)

Students answer “Ele é o Mark”.

Of course this is a very short version of what happens in a classroom, because there the interaction is much higher, but the principles are here. In this small interaction we have:

– The personal pronouns “eu”, “tu”, “ele” and “ela”.

– The singular form of the verb “Ser” (to be): eu sou, tu és, ele/ela é.

– The masculine and feminine article: o Jonh, a Maria.

Although all this information is the textbook, students will be able to do a small exercise with no need of notes or teacher’s help.  After this, it’s just keep rolling, adding new things!

Other Methods (1980- )

There are still 3 more recent approaches of teaching languages.

Humanist Approach (1980). Reaction to the lack of affectivity of the Audio-Lingual Method and the Cognitive Approach. Emphasizes communication that is meaningful to the student and the classroom atmosphere is more important than materials or methods.

Lexical Approach (1997). Instruction focuses on fixed expressions that occur frequently in dialogues and vocabulary is prized over grammar.

Psycholinguistic Method (1998). Focus in build a personal relationship with the student and use his/her ideas and thoughts as teaching materials. It depends on student’s personality and emphasizes communication.

Now we would like to highlight the Psycholinguistic Method, because it can be a strong supplement. We prepare students for the different situations of life, so we can’t focus only in what is familiar for them. Nevertheless, it’s much easier for students to talk about them interests.

Let’s imagine that the theme of interest is “work”. For example, student can describe his/her job (adjectives), typical work day (routines), professional experience (past time) and plans (future), the workplace, relationship with colleagues, work trips, etc. Thereby teacher can introduce a theme within one of these topics.


We use the Communicative Method because it gives fast and stable results, it’s interesting and fits everyone. Furthermore, it allows developing of all aspects of the language equally, with focus to the most important: communication.

In order to choose one, it is necessary to know both. That’s why in this article we did a brief introduction to the other methods. In future, we will talk about “what the communicative method is not”.

If you think that it is the perfect time to start to learn a new language and if your willing is to learn in a efficient and interactive way, it’s time to join Caravela Courses! You’ll be able to speak Portuguese on the first class!

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