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The Nature of CLL

Community language learning (CLL) is Language-teaching method in which students

work together to develop what aspects of a language they would like to learn. It is based on
the Counseling-approach in which the teacher acts as a counselor and a paraphraser, while the
learner is seen as a client and collaborator.
The CLL emphasizes the sense of community in the learning group, it
encourages interaction as a vehicle of learning, and it considers as a priority the students'
feelings and the recognition of struggles in language acquisition. There is no syllabus or
textbook to follow and it is the students themselves who determine the content of the lesson by
means of meaningful conversations in which they discuss real messages. Notably, it
incorporates translation, transcription, and recording techniques.
Community Language Learning (also called Counseling Language Learning) was created
by Charles A Curran, a Jesuit priest professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago,
and counseling specialist. This method refers to two roles: that of the know-er (teacher) and
student (learner). Also the method draws on the counseling metaphor and refers to these
respective roles as a counselor and a client. According to Curran, a counselor helps a client
understand his or her own problems better by 'capturing the essence of the clients concern ...
[and] relating [the client's] affect to cognition...;' in effect, understanding the client and
responding in a detached yet considerate manner.
To restate, the counselor blends what the client feels and what he is learning in order to make the
experience a meaningful one. Often, this supportive role requires greater energy expenditure than
an 'average' teacher.
The CLL view of learning is a holistic one, since true human learning is both cognitive
and affective. This technique is used over a considerable period of time, until learners are able to
apply words in the new language without translation, gradually moving from a situation of

dependence on the teacher-counselor to a state of independence. The value of CLL has been its
emphasis on whole-person learning; the role of a supportive, nonjudgmental teacher; the passing
of responsibility for learning to the learners. The humanistic approach of CLL, which views
learners and teachers as a community, and thus the teacher as more facilitator than teacher, fits in
nicely with current trends in education.


The Role of CLL

CLL approach to language teaching aims to remove the anxiety from learning by
changing the relationship between the teacher and student.
Activities of CLL
In this approach attempts are made to build strong personal links between the
teacher and student so that there are no blocks to learning
CLL combines innovative learning tasks and activities. They include:

Learners form a small circle. A learner whispers a message or

meaning he or she wants to express, the teacher translates or interprets it in the
target language, and the learner repeats the teachers translation.

Work: Learners engage in various group tasks, such as small-group

discussion of a topic, preparing a conversation, preparing a summary of a topic
for presentation to another group, preparing a story that will be presented to the
teacher and the rest of the class.

Learners record conversations in the target language.


Learners transcribe utterances and conversations they have

recorded for practice and analysis of linguistic forms.

Learners analyze and study transcriptions of target language sentences

in order to focus on particular lexical usage or on the application of particular
grammar rules.

and observation: Learners reflect and report on their experience of the

class, as a class or in groups. This usually consists of expressions of feelings sense of one another, reactions to silence, concern for something to say, etc.

Learners listen to a monologue by the teacher involving elements they

might have elicited in class interactions.


conversation: Learners engage in free conversation with the teacher or with

other learners. This might include discussion of what they learned as well as
feelings they had about how they learned.
Importance of Community Language Learning
Curran's approach is beyond simply a methodical pedagogy, but is rather a veritable
philosophy of learning which provides profound, even quasi-theological reflections on
Application of Community Language Learning for Effective Teaching P.Nagaraj
humankind! It encourages holistic learning, personal growth, and self-development.
Learning a language is not viewed necessarily as an individual accomplishment, but
rather as a collective experience, something to be disseminated out into the community at
large at a later stage in the second-language acquisition process
The basic principle of the methodology is to establish interpersonal relationships
between the teacher and learners to facilitate learning. Community Language Learning
was designed to ease the anxiety of Foreign Language Learners in educational contexts
and promote group dynamics. In CLL, the aim is to involve the learner's whole
personality. The teacher understands the fears of the learner and vulnerabilities as they
struggle to master another language. By being sensitive to the learners fear, the teacher
can turn the negative energy of those fears into positive energy and enthusiasm for
learning. This methodology is not based on the usual methods by which languages are
taught rather the approach is patterned upon counseling techniques and adapted to the
peculiar anxiety and threat as well as the personal and language problems a person
encounters in the learning of foreign languages. Consequently, the learner is not thought
of as a student but as a client. The language-counseling relationship begins with the
client's linguistic confusion and conflict. Then slowly the teacher-counselor strives to
enable him to arrive at his own increasingly independent language adequacy.

The foreign language learner's tasks, according to CLL are (1) to apprehend the sound system of
the language (2) assign fundamental meanings to individual lexical units and (3) construct a
basic grammar.
In these three steps, the CLL resembles the Natural Approach to language teaching in which a
learner is not expected to speak until he has achieved some basic level of comprehension.
There are 5 stages of development in this method.
Five Stages of CLL
"In order for any learning to take place ... what is first needed is for the members to
interact in an interpersonal relationship in which students and teacher join together to
facilitate learning in a context of valuing and prizing each individual in the group"
The learner passes through five psychological stages as learning progresses, which
Curran compares to the progressing from childhood to adulthood.
Birth: The learners know nothing of the target language, and are completely
dependent on the teacher for everything they want to say.
Self: The learners start to get an idea of how the language works and to use it for
themselves, but still seek the teachers help.
Separate Existence: They start to use the language without referring to the teacher.
Adolescence: The learners continue to express themselves independently, but being
aware of gaps in their knowledge, and start to turn back to the teacher.
Independence: The learners continue their learning independently. They no longer
need the teacher, and may start to act as counselors for less advanced students.


The Techniques how to teach CLL

Community Language Teaching is not a method; it is an approach, which

transcends the boundaries of concrete methods and, concomitantly, techniques. It is a
theoretical position about the nature of language and language learning and teaching
Applying CLL today to teach language broadens its appeal. There are some different
techniques that have surfaced, such as: learners in conversation circle, transcription of
student-generated text using technology, small group tasks, reflecting on experience,

listening sessions, recordings of student-generated conversations, and transcriptions.

Games and songs complement these activities. The humanistic approach of CLL, which
views learners and teachers as a community, and the teacher as a facilitator more than
teacher, fits in nicely with current trends in education.
Community language learning (CLL) was primarily designed for monolingual conversation
classes where the teacher-counselor would b e able to speak the learners' L1.
The intention was that it would integrate translation so that the students would disassociate
language learning with risk taking. It's a method that is based on English for communication and
is extremely learner-focused. Although each course is unique and student-dictated, there are
certain criteria that should be applied to all CLL classrooms, namely a focus on fluency in the
early stages, an undercurrent of accuracy throughout the course and learner empowerment as the
main focus.

How it works in the classroom

Stage 1- Reflection

Stage 2 - Recorded conversation

Stage 3 - Discussion

Stage 4 - Transcription

Stage 5 - Language analysis

Length of stages
In a typical CLL lesson I have five stages:
Stage 1- Reflection
I start with students sitting in a circle around a tape recorder to create a community atmosphere.

The students think in silence about what they'd like to talk about, while I remain outside
the circle.

To avoid a lack of ideas students can brainstorm their ideas on the board before


Stage 2 - Recorded conversation

Once they have chosen a subject the students tell me in their L1 what they'd like to say and I
discreetly come up behind them and translate the language chunks into English.
With higher levels if the students feel comfortable enough they can say some of it directly

in English and I give the full English sentence. When they feel ready to speak the students take
the microphone and record their sentence.
It's best if you can use a microphone as the sound quality is better and it's easier to pick

up and put down.

Here they're working on pace and fluency. They immediately stop recording and then

wait until another student wants to respond. This continues until a whole conversation has been

Stage 3 - Discussion
Next the students discuss how they think the conversation went. They can discuss how they felt
about talking to a microphone and whether they felt more comfortable speaking aloud than they
might do normally.
This part is not recorded.

Stage 4 - Transcription
Next they listen to the tape and transcribe their conversation. I only intervene when they ask for

The first few times you try this with a class they might try and rely on you a lot but aim
to distance yourself from the whole process in terms of leading and push them to do it

Stage 5 - Language analysis

I sometimes get students to analyse the language the same lesson or sometimes in the next
lesson. This involves looking at the form of tenses and vocabulary used and why certain ones
were chosen, but it will depend on the language produced by the students.

In this way they are totally involved in the analysis process. The language is completely
personalised and with higher levels they can themselves decide what parts of their conversation
they would like to analyse, whether it be tenses, lexis or discourse.

With lower levels you can guide the analysis by choosing the most common problems
you noted in the recording stages or by using the final transcription.

Length of stages
The timing will depend entirely on the class, how quickly they respond to CLL, how long you or
they decide to spend on the language analysis stage and how long their recorded conversation is.
Be careful however that the conversation isn't too long as this will in turn make the transcription
very long

IV. The Strength and Weaknesses

A. The Strength

Learners appreciate the autonomy CLL offers them and thrive on analyzing their own

CLL works especially well with lower levels who are struggling to produce spoken

The class often becomes a real community, not just when using CLL but all of the time.

Students become much more aware of their peers, their strengths and weaknesses and want to
work as a team.

Working with monolingual or multilingual classes

I have used CLL with both monolingual and multilingual classes and found that it works
well with both. With the multilingual low-level classes I, as the teacher-counsellor,
reformulated their English in the same way you might do with higher levels. However,
the first few attempts at CLL work better with a monolingual class as the instructions can
be given in L1. It's important that the learners understand their and your new roles in the
language learning process.
Working with large classes
For the first lesson it's important to record the conversation as a whole class even though
this can limit student-speaking time. It's more practical in terms of giving instructions
before you start and for moving from one student to another when they need you to
translate or reformulate what they want to say. The next time you use CLL however, you
could split the class into two groups. This gives them more speaking time.

The strengths of the method include creating a supportive community to lower student
anxiety and help them overcome threatening affective factors, such as making errors
or competing with peers
In the beginning of the course, the learners are totally dependent on the teachers
translation, but over time they are able to engage in more direct communication as they
move towards independence. In addition, learners are not limited in their topics of
conversation, regardless of their language proficiency. Learners are free to talk about the
affairs of daily life. This approach to language learning encourages the meaningful use of
Application of Community Language Learning for Effective Teaching P.Nagaraj
language which the learner can store, synthesize and use in new situations. CLL allows

learners to practice the structure or characteristic patterning of sentences and

conversations. Moreover, it is believed that from the teachers translation, learners will be
able to induce a grammar far more complex than they are able to use on their own. One
key reason this method seemed to work, was that it allowed the learners to continue using
their L1, while promoting the L2. It is important to be aware of its existence, so that
when the need arises, the strengths of CLL can be utilized.

B. The Weaknesses
In the beginning some learners find it difficult to speak on tape while others might find

that the conversation lacks spontaneity.

We as teachers can find it strange to give our students so much freedom and tend to

intervene too much.

In your efforts to let your students become independent learners you can neglect their

need for guidance.


The Conclusion

Although CLL is primarily meant as a 'whole' approach to teaching that have found it equally
useful for an occasional lesson, especially with teenagers. It enables me to refocus on the
learner while my students immediately react positively to working in a community. They take
exceptionally well to peer-correction and by working together they overcome their fear of
speaking. I have also found quieter students able to offer corrections to their peers and gladly
contribute to the recording stage of the lesson. It's a teaching method which encompasses all
four skills while simultaneously revealing learners' styles which are more or less analytical in
their approach to language learning. All of which raises our awareness as a teacher and that of
our students.
Community Language Learning is the most responsive of the methods which is

reviewed in terms of its sensitivity to learned communicative intent. It is applied in

various settings; it is used as an aid for language learning, under the radar, academically.
The value of CLL has been its emphasis on whole-person learning; the role of a
supportive, non-judgmental teacher; the passing of responsibility for learning to the
learners. The teacher must also be relatively non-directive and must be prepared to accept
and even encourage the adolescent aggression of the learner as he or she strives for

VI. References
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (April 2011)
Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching by J Richards and T Rodgers CUP 2002
CLL: A Way Forward? by Rod Bolitho taken from ELT documents 113 - Humanistic
Approaches: An Empirical View The British Council (1982)
Communicating Naturally in a Second Language by Wilga M. Rivers CUP 1986
Introducing Innovations into your Teaching by Denise Ozdeniz taken from Challenge and
Change in Language Teaching Ed. Jane Willis and Dave Willis Macmillan Heineman 1998
Language Teaching Methodology by David Nunan Prentice Hall 1998
Reformulation and Reconstruction: Tasks that Promote 'Noticing' by Scott Thornbury taken from
ELT documents 51/4 October 1997
Working with Teaching Methods by Earl W. Stevick ITP Co. 1998
Jo Bertrand, Teacher, Materials writer, British Council Paris
Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, Second Edition, Jack C.
Richards and Theodore Rodgers, Cambridge University Press, Rs.195/-, Page
Nos. 90 to 98.








The modern journal of applied linguistics

Volume 1:3 May 2009 Dr. Mohammad Ali Salmani-Nodoushan, Ph.D.Iran
Bharathiar University
Coimbatore - 640146.

The Community Language Learning Method takes its principles from the more general
approach COUNSELING LEARNING APPROACH developed by Charles A. Curran. He found
that adults often feel threatened by a new learning situation. Especially the fear that they will
appear foolish is the most important factor. To deal with the fears of the learners, teachers should
become language counselors. A teacher (who believes the approach) should -understand the
students fear and anxiety -be sensitive to them -help learners to overcome such negative feelings
-turn these negative feelings into positive energy to further their learning. All humanistic
approaches consider the learner WHOLE PERSON. In general students intellectual sides are
emphasized. We usually address to learners, cognition. But they have feelings and physical
reactions. Building relationship with and among students is very important. Language is for
communication and students should have conversation. Any new learning experience can be
threatening. If students have an idea of what will happen in each activity, they often feel more
secure. The teacher then should tell the students what they are going to do and also should
explain the whole procedure. The teacher should be sensitive to students' level of confidence and
give them just what they need to be successful. The teacher translates what the students want to
say in chunks The superior knowledge and power of the teacher can be threatening. If the
teacher does not stay in the front of the classroom, the threat is reduced and the students'
learning is facilitated. For that reason, teacher stands behind the students. This case fosters
interaction among students rather than from student to teacher. Considering that each learner is
unique, teacher creates an accepting atmosphere. The teacher accepts what each student says.
Learners feel free and lower their defenses and the learning experience becomes less threatening
for them. The teacher counsels the students. The teacher should work in a nonthreatening way.
S/he does not offer advice, but rather shows them that s/he is really listening to them and
understands what they are saying. The students native language is used to make the meaning
clear and to build a bridge from the known to the unknown. Students feel more secure when they
understand everything. Students need to learn to discriminate, for example, in perceiving the
similarities and differences among the target language forms. Students work together in groups
of three. In groups, students can begin to feel a sense of community and can learn from each
other as well as the teacher. Cooperation, not competition, is encouraged. In the beginning

stages, the 'syllabus' is generated primarily by the students. Students are more willing to learn
when they have created the material themselves. QUESTIONS What are the goals of teachers
who use the Community Language Learning Method? Teachers want their students to learn how
to use the target language communicatively. In addition, they want their students to learn about
their own learning, to take increasing responsibility for it, and to learn how to learn from one
another. 2

What is the role of the teacher? The teacher's initial role is primarily that of a counselor. The
teacher should recognize that how threatening a new learning situation can be for adult learners.
Then s/he should skillfully understand and support the students in their efforts to learn the target
language. What is the role of the students? Initially the learners are very dependent upon the
teacher. As the learners continue to study, they become increasingly independent. What are
some characteristics of the teaching/learning process? At the beginning students typically use
their native language. Teacher translates what they want to say into the target language in
chunks. These chunks are recorded, and when they are replayed, it sounds like a fairly fluid
conversation. Later, the transcript is changed into a written conversation, and native language
equivalents are written beneath (under) the target language words. The transcription of the
conversation becomes a 'text' with which students work. Various activities are conducted (for
example, examination of a grammar point, working on pronunciation of a particular phrase, or
creating new sentences with words from the transcript) that allow students to further explore the
language they have generated. According to Curran, there are six elements necessary for nondefensive learning. 1-Security, 2-Aggression, (opportunity to express themselves, be actively
involved, and invest themselves in the learning experience). 3-Attention. 4-Reflection, (careful
consideration and fixing of the thoughts on what someone is doing) 5-Retention (the act or
power of remembering things) 6-Discrimination (The power of making fine distinctions,
discriminating judgments) What is the nature of student teacher interaction? Community
Language Learning Method is neither student- centered, nor teacher-centered, but rather teacherstudent-centered, with both being decision-makers in the class. Teacher physically removes
himself/herself from the circle to encourage students to interact with one another. What is the
nature of student-student interaction? Building a relationship with and among students is very
important. Students can learn from their interaction with each other as well as their interaction
with the teacher. How are the feelings of the students dealt with? Responding to the students'
feelings is very important. One regular activity is inviting students to comment on how they feel.
The teacher listens to and responds to each comment carefully. By showing students s/he
understands how they feel, the teacher can help them overcome negative feelings that might
block their learning. How is language viewed? Language is for communication. 3

How is culture viewed? Culture is an integral part of language learning. What areas of
language are emphasized? In the early stages, they want to be able to say in the target language.
Later on, after students feel more secure, the teacher might prepare specific materials or work
with published textbooks. What language skills are emphasized? Particular grammar points,
pronunciation patterns, and vocabulary. The most important skills are understanding and
speaking the language at the beginning, with reinforcement through reading and writing. What is
the role of the students native language? The purpose of using the native language is to
provide a bridge from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Native language translations are given and
this makes their meaning clear. Directions in class and sessions during which students express
their feelings are conducted in the native language. How is evaluation accomplished? There is
no particular mode of evaluation prescribed in the Community Language Learning Method.
Whatever evaluation is conducted considering the principles of the method. It is advisable that
teachers would encourage students to self-evaluate-to look at their own learning and to become
aware of their own progress. How does the teacher respond to student errors? Teachers
should work with what the learner has produced in a non- threatening way. Teacher can repeat
correctly what the student has said incorrectly, without calling further attention to the error. THE
TECHNIQUES Tape recording student conversation This technique is used to record studentgenerated language. Students are asked to have a conversation using their native language. After
each native language utterance, the teacher translates what the student says into the target
language in appropriate-sized chunks. Each chunk is recorded. After a conversation has been
recorded, it can be replayed. The recording can be used to simply listen to their voices in the
target language. Transcription The teacher transcribes the students' tape-recorded target
Language conversation. Each student is given the opportunity to translate his or her utterances
and the teacher writes the native Language equivalent beneath the target Language words.
Students can copy the transcript after it has been completely written on the blackboard. The
transcript provides a basis for future activates. Reflection on experience The teacher spends
time during or after the activities to give the students the opportunity to reflect on how they feel
about the language learning experience, themselves as learners, and their relationship with one
another. Reflective listening The students relax and listen to their own voices speaking the target
language on the tape. Another possible technique is for the teacher to read the transcript while
the students simply listen, with their eyes open or shut.

A third possibility is for the students to mouth the words as the teacher reads the transcript 4

Human Computer A student chooses some part of the transcript to practice

pronouncing. Student is under the control of the teacher when s/he tries to say the word
or phrase. The teacher repeats the phrase as often as the student wants to practice it. The
teacher does not correct the student's mispronunciation. The student self-corrects as he or
she tries to imitate the teacher's model. Small group tasks In these tasks students are
asked to make new sentences with the words on the transcript. Afterward, the groups
share the sentences they made with the rest of the class. Later in the week, students
working in pairs can make sentences with the different verb conjugations. There are a lot
of different activities suitable for small groups. Teachers who use small group activities
believe students can learn from each other and can get more practice with the target
language by working in small groups.