As second and foreign language teachers, we have to look for opportunities to improve the teaching process and enhance its effectiveness. Deepening our knowledge of the current approaches, strategies and methodologies, the educators are enabled to create personal opinion concerning the most effective principles of the language acquisitions.
Reading of Nassaji (2000) and Nunan (1998) researches shedding light upon the issues of the form-focused and communicative approaches to language teaching was helpful for enhancing my awareness of the problem and strengthening my persuasion that the integrative approach incorporating principle of both of the theories is the most effective one.
The primary goal of every foreign language teacher is to prepare the learners for real life communication. The form-focused approach deprives students of opportunities to develop the necessary skills for meeting this demand. Nunan (1998) noted that “We need to supplement form-focused exercises with an approach that dramatizes for learners the fact that different forms enable them to express different meanings; that grammar allows them to make meanings of increasingly sophisticated kinds” (p. 103).
In other words, there is nothing wrong with the form-focused assignments though they should be coupled with communicative exercises for the purpose of filling the gap between theory (cramming the forms) and practice (expressing one’s opinion during the interpersonal communication).
From my own experience of a language learner, it should be noted that the transition between the form-focused and organic exercises might be rather stressful. Being certain what form should be use in every particular case in form-focused exercises, a student might be confused trying to express one’s own ideas. This separation of grammar forms from the context of communication creates the feeling of discrepancy between the grammar norms and the communicative goals in the learner’s consciousness.
The process of language acquisition depends upon the peculiarities of the learners’ perception of the course materials. It has been proven that learners remember not only things but also the context within which they were acquired. Thus, having learnt the table of forms by heart I must recollect the chart in which they have been represented for choosing the appropriate one, while choosing the words for expressing my thoughts at the same time might overcomplicate the process of communication exchange.
For this reason, a teacher should allot time to diverse activities planning language lessons. Nassaji (2000) noted that “the most effective way … is to consider activities that result in attention to form while maintaining meaningful communication and using form for communication” (p. 244). Going from one extreme to another would be unwise; both sides of the language acquisition process are equally significant.
Those who consider the information exchange to be the end goal of second language learning are in the wrong underestimating the importance of accuracy of the student’s speech. The fact is that neglecting the form-focused approach may result in neglecting the grammar forms and distorting the interlocutor’s perception of one’s message.
An ideal language lesson should contain the elements of both approaches. It would enhance the learner’s understanding of the materials and create a colorful picture instead of focusing on separated fragments of the language components.
The primary goal of a contemporary teacher is to incorporate the elements of both form-focused and communicative approaches into the process of language acquisition giving preference to meaningful interaction within the teaching-learning process paying attention to the language accuracy at the same time.
Nassaji, H. (2000) Towards integrating form-focused instruction and communicative interaction in the second language classroom: Some pedagogical possibilities, The Modern Language Journal, 84 (2), pp.241-250.
Nunan, D. (1998) Teaching grammar in context. ELT Journal, 52 (2), pp.101-109.