When learning Arabic, or any language for that matter, the same question repeats itself: how do I do this the right way?
Well, today we are introducing you to a new approach called the communicative one. If you already know all about the communicative approach, keep reading. This is because you will definitely understand more as to why it is exceptionally a smart approach in learning Arabic in particular.
First Things First: Why Do We Learn?
Obviously, if you are learning a foreign language, it is very important that you focus on basically all the skills namely: Reading, writing, speaking, and listening. There is one more aspect that is usually missing. Most people struggle with this as well.
But before I tell you what it is, here’s a story that will pretty much highlight the missing link.
Once upon a time there was a gentleman named Faris. He came from a mixed background and wanted to learn Arabic so he can speak with his relatives. After taking intensive courses that teach all skills, he tried to speak but didn’t know what to say when he was at the wedding. Then he went to a family gathering and felt even more awkward because he didn’t know what terminology was commonly used. The end.
Now, we are sure that you related to Faris’s story somehow. In other words, context is the problem for most people. After learning all the grammar and vocabulary, learners of Arabic are still facing issues in using it the right way in the right places. Every language has its culture and Arabic is no different.
A Brief History: The Natural Approach
We are familiar with the Natural Approach but we simply don’t recognize the terminology. It is the way we study our school subjects and go on to specialize in undergraduate and graduate studies. In other words, it is the very basic way of learning and absorbing information.
There is a textbook, and a teacher with exams and all forms of assessments to ensure that we learn properly. The choosing of books happens according to the level. This also applies to the materials in order to ensure proper recognition, understanding, application of certain grammatical features. Not to mention, the use of very specific vocabulary to ensure that it aligns with the other skills and topic. The controlling nature of this academia is quite clear.
In fact, in order to ensure that the target language skills and/or information are going through, a controlling of it needs to happen. That’s really the whole point.
Although many people frown upon this and usually refer to it as the “traditional” or “typical” way of teaching, it’s important for the basics. For example, if you need to gain some listening skills, learn the Arabic alphabet, read Arabic or speak Arabic, this would be a great start for you.
However, we cannot say the same about communication skills. It is anything but traditional. Hence, we have the Communicative Approach.
Communicative Approach: What Is It? How Does It Work?
The main purpose of the Communicative Approach is literally communication. It is quite the opposite of the Natural Approach.
How does it work? Simple.
Instead of relying on a very controlled environment with fixed textbooks and carefully-chosen target language, it places context above everything. It starts with the environment, or the situation and takes you on a journey of how we deal in that situation.
Imagine this: The first time you learned to swim. You can take the step-by-step classes for a couple of months to test your own waters. Or you could have your dad throw you in the pool and tell you to figure it out. The Natural Approach is the slow, but careful process of taking classes. The Communicative Approach thrusts you into the real world and you make your way through.
Many people actually learn using the Communicative Approach but without them recognizing. For example, those going working in foreign countries who have to learn the language. This a process that happens with them being in similar situations every day. They would know how to handle themselves better than those learning the language in a fixed classroom environment and not had any form of communication with a real-life context.
More About the Communicative Approach
So we now know what it is. But how does it work exactly? And do we use any books? The answer to that question is yes. Except, these books are not academic ones. Linguists call them “authentic” books.
The term “authentic” refers to something used in the real-world that will have non-academic features. It is the non-fixed academia. For example, using a magazine article. However, it does not only apply to books, it can be anything that includes real-life scenarios.
In fact, a simple “teacher talk” is a primary technique of authentic listening exercise. That is because it is “comprehensible input”, which really means “understood information by the learner”, but in fancy terms.
Practices such as recording and listening to your own recording are common for enhancing speaking. These kinds of practices allow room for having a proper Arab talk and conversation. You can support the Communicative Approach by taking Arabic online studying material that explains individual concepts in a more academic perspective.
There is generally one downside to this approach: You can make a lot of grammatical mistakes. However, the major plus side is that you will speak the language as the case in the real-life situations.
So What Do You Do Next?
Well, quite simply it depends on your reason of studying Arabic in the first place. The word Arabic is easy, but studying it is surely more difficult. This is why you need to go back to your reasons. If you need it for your work, then taking a course specified in that is probably more appropriate. On the other hand, if the reason falls back to speaking the Arabic language in general occasions because you are travelling somewhere, then the Communicative Approach is the way to go.
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