Community Language Learning via British Council

twitter: @eugenio_fouz

2015-03-30 10.24.58

Here it is an extract of the methodology known as CLL or Community language learning. This approach to teaching languages was in the rage many years ago. Anyway, have a look at the link here:


Community language learning

28 June, 2004

Community language learning (CLL) was primarily designed for monolingual conversation classes where the teacher-counsellor would be able to speak the learners’ L1.

Community language learning – methodology article

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

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 recording.

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 recorded.

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 help.

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 themselves.

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

For and against CLL


Learners appreciate the autonomy CLL offers them and thrive on analysing their own conversations.

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

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.


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.



Although CLL is primarily meant as a ‘whole’ approach to teaching I 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.

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