Wim Gombert

CHAPTER 7. Speaking skills 107 INTRODUCTION is article presents and compares the results of two instructional programs of L2 French in the Netherlands a er 6 years of secondary school and focusses on speaking skills. According to the distinctions made by Howatt (1984), the programs instantiate weak and strong versions of CLT. In our view, the “weak” version is based on a structurebased (SB) view of language with a great deal of attention to grammatical accuracy, o en explained through the medium of the rst language (L1). e “strong” program is in line with so-called dynamic usage-based (DUB) principles, in which exposure to and active use of the target language is key, and no explicit attention is paid to grammar. Teachers in the Netherlands believe grammar instruction is necessary to prepare for nal central exams consisting of reading and writing tests, but two of our previous studies (reported in chapter 4 and 5) have shown that there were few di erences in reading and writing skills a er six years of instruction, not even in accuracy. In fact, the DUB learners wrote longer texts, more complex sentences and used more formulaic sequences. On the whole, SB teachers spend a great deal of time on grammar, usually explained in the L1, and very little time on developing speaking skills, mainly because they want to prepare their students for the central exam, which is a reading comprehension test (Author dissertation). In the DUB approach, the focus is on using the language in speaking. So far, though we do not know how SB and DUB learners compare in speaking skills a er six years of instruction, and the current paper will try to provide empirical evidence that a “strong” CLT program is indeed warranted to promote the development of speaking skills. Before discussing the actual study, we discuss the underlying linguistic theories of the SB and DUB approaches and the dearth of long-term classroom studies that test speaking skills with free response data. LITERATURE WEAK VERSUS STRONG COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING From the mid-1970s onwards, a more cognitive-oriented approach to foreign language teaching has become the new standard in language teaching in many parts of the world (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). is Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach addressed the functional and communicative potential of language. It was not only an answer to the growing need of focusing on communicative pro ciency rather than on mere mastery of structures, as advocated by British scholars like Candlin (1976) and Widdowson (1972), but was also seen as an answer to the need for a necessary tool for communication and intercultural awareness in an emerging European Union, where the Council of Europe (2001) placed language teaching high on its agenda by mentioning