In methodological literature of the last two decades the word "communicative" is the most frequently used one. Communicative method (sometimes referred to as approach) grew out of the works of anthropological linguists who view language first and foremost as the system of communication .This method stresses the need to teach communicative competence as opposed to the linguistic competence: thus functions are emphasized over form. The long and complex history of communicative competence and the importance of the relation between ideas about the nature of language and their social, intellectual and cultural contexts have become a major concern not only for methodologists, linguists, but also for psychologists and social theorists.
Communicative theory enables learners to realize that every speech act takes place in a specific social situation. Psychological factors (the learners' age, sex, complement of the group, pupil's personality, their roles, etc.) as well as linguistic factors (a topic of discussion, type of discourse; a colloquial, informal or formal variety of English (also known as register) play a crucial role here. In other words appropriateness and accessibility of speech in the particular social situation are as equally important as accuracy of pronunciation and grammar.
Communicative competence is the ability of learners to use the language appropriately for the given socio-cultural context. To do this the learners should be able to manage the process of negotiating meaning with the teacher and among themselves.
Communicative competence is not a compilation of items, but a set of strategies or creative procedures for realizing the value of linguistic elements in contextual use, an ability to make sense as a participant of spoken or written discourse by shared knowledge of code resources and rules of language use .
The content of communicative instruction is based on the concept that the process of instruction and the model of communication.
All this does not necessarily mean that the process of instruction is the exact replica of the process of communication. When we communicate, we use the language to accomplish some function, such as persuading, arguing, agreeing, disagreeing or promising. Moreover, we carry out these functions within an appropriate social context. A speaker will choose a peculiar way to express his argument according to his intent, his level of emotion, and what his relationships with the collocutor are. For example, he may be more direct in arguing with his friend than with his senior.
Furthermore, since communication is a process, it is insufficient for learners to simply have knowledge of target language forms, meanings, and functions. Students must be able to apply this knowledge in negotiating meaning. It is through the interaction between speaker and listener (or reader and writer) that meaning becomes clear, the listener gives the speaker feedback as to whether or not he understood what the speaker has said. In this way the speaker can revise what he has said and try to communicate Ins intended meaning again, if necessary.
In communication, the speaker has a choice of what he will say and how he will say. If the exercise is tightly controlled so that the pupils can only say something in one way, the speaker has no choice and the exchange, therefore, is not communicative. In a chain drill, for example, a student must answer his collocutor's question. In the same way he replied lo someone else's question. Therefore, the student has no choiceof form and content and quasi-communication occurs.
True communication is purposeful. The speaker can thus evaluate whether his intent, based upon the information he receives from the listener, has been achieved. If the listener does not have an opportunity to provide the speaker with such feedback, then the exchange is not really communicative.
Communication has parameters which are difficult to prognose, there are no certain guidelines to govern this interactive process. To model communication means to establish basic constraints, its underlying principles which include:
1. individual approach;
2. functional approach (stresses the context rather than the very structure of language);
3. communication-oriented activity;
4. personal involvement;
5. situational approach;
The teacher's role is to have his students to become communicatively competent. To do this students need knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings, and functions. They need to be reminded that the said categories are in dialectical unity and many different forms can be used to perform a function, as well as a single form can often serve a variety of functions. They must be able to choose from these forms the most appropriate one, given the socio-cultural context and the roles of the interlocutors.
The teacher's role is to facilitate the teaching/learning process, to establish situations which will promote communication. During the activities he acts as an advisor, answering his students questions and monitoring their performance. At other times he might be a "co-communicator" - engaging in the communicative activity along with the Students .
Since the teacher's role is less dominant than in a teacher-centered method, (DM, A-LM, CC-LT, etc.) students are seen as more responsible managers of their own learning.
The most obvious characteristics of the communicative method is that almost everything that is done is done with a communicative purpose. Students use the language a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role-plays, and problem-solving tasks.
Activities are truly communicative according to Johnson K. and Marrow K., they cover three features; information gap, choice, and feedback. Another characteristic feature of CM is the use of authentic materials. It is considered desirable to give students an opportunity to develop
strategies for understanding language as it is actually used by native speakers.
Finally, such activities are carried out by students in small groups.