Kamis, 22 April 2021

Understanding Second-Language Teaching Methods

 A.     Characterizing the Essentials of language teaching methods 

Five principal dimensional characteristics of language teaching method:

1.       Language Focus: Speech Communication vs, Literacy

Speech Communication focuses on speech and the use of speech in communication, whereas literacy focuses on reading, writing, and the translation of written words. In speech communication there are usually provided a speech environment in which students may learn the target language. Reading and writing may be used, but only to reinforce what is initially learned in speech. In speech-based focus, it is considered that Grammar-Translation method as their ultimate enemy, since they consider speech communication to be primary in the learning of language. Further, the problem with starting out with literacy when the goal is speech is that students may never get to the speech stage unless they go to university where they may come into contact with fluent instructors.

2.       Meaning Learning: Direct Experience vs. Translation

In providing the meaning of target language items, translation may be used, as is commonly the case with the Grammar-Translation Method. The native language is used to provide the meaning for the target language. Direct Experience means acquiring meaning by being exposed to actual objects, events, or situations in which the target language is used.

3.       Grammar Learning: Induction vs. Explication

Explication involves explanation, in the native language, of the grammatical rules and structures of the second language. In learning the same by induction, however, students would have to discover the order of constituents on their own. It would be necessary for them to hear sentences of the sort, ‘Mary caught the ball’, while experiencing a situation in which such an action (or a picture of the action) occurs. In this way they would discover for themselves, through self-analysis, i.e. induction, that English has a Subject + Verb + Object ordering.

4.       Psychological Orientation: Mentalist vs, Behaviorist

The psychological presumptions of a method can have a great effect on how that method is formulated and used. A Behaviorist would prefer, for example, to mechanically drill students on sentences while a Mentalist would prefer to have students think about sentences and their structure and learn about them in this way. For the Behaviorist, there is nothing for a learner to think about; thinking is irrelevant for language learning, only habit formation is important. On the other hand, in a Mentalist approach to language, students may be given more time to puzzle over speech and less time for drill. For the Mentalist, a sentence is more than a sequence of overt words, for underlying those words is an abstract mental structure that involves a lot of abstract operations in its formation.

5.       Linguistic Orientation: Mentalist vs. Structuralist

According to the Structuralist (Bloomfield, Fries, Pike), a sentence like 'The dog jumped' would be analyzed as a simple order of word classes (Article + Noun + Verb or at best a sequence of phrases (Noun Phrase (the dog) + Verb Phrase (jumped). On the other hand, a Mentalist grammarian would explain the sentences by discussing the syntactic or semantic relations that underlie those sentences. Thus, a Mentalist could say that in 'John is easy to please', 'john' is the underlying object of 'please’, while in 'John is eager to please' , 'John' is the underlying subject of 'please’. In practical terms, a teacher would have quite different conceptions to offer students with respect to such sentences.


B.     Traditional Methods: Grammar-Translation, Natural, Direct, Audiolingual

1.       The Grammar-Translation Method

Grammar–Translation (GT) essentially involves two components: (1) the explicit explanation of grammatical rules using the native language, and (2) the use of translation, in the native language, to explain the meaning of vocabulary and structures. Translation is the oldest of the components and is probably the oldest of all formal teaching methods, having been used in ancient Greece and Rome and elsewhere in the ancient world. The advantages of GT are (1) Non-fluent teachers can teach large classes, (2) Self-study is possible, (3) Adapts to changing linguistic and psychological theories.

2.       The Natural Method

The Natural Method (NM) developed as a reaction to Grammar–Translation and was the outgrowth of scientific thought on the nature of language and language learning. The model for the Natural Method of second-language learning was the child learning its native language. This meant adherence to the natural sequence of the child’s acquiring its first language, i.e. (1) speech comprehension, (2) speech production, and, much later, (3) reading and (4) writing. Grammar was not taught directly. Rather, grammatical rules and structures were to be learned through induction (self-analysis) by experiencing speech. in a situational context. Meaning was to be gained through experience and exposure to objects, situations, and events; translation was to be avoided. Typically, teachers would not use prepared situations or material. Learning was through ‘spontaneous’ conversation and demonstration, all of which was done in the target language and supported with gestures and actions. The teacher used language appropriate to the students’ level of understanding, much in the way parents would with a child. The method was totally oriented

towards the acquisition of oral skills. Student participation in situational activities was the essence of this kind of second-language learning.

3.       The Direct Method

The Direct Method (DM), appearing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, developed from the Natural Method. Like the Natural Method, it emphasized the learning of speech, acquiring meaning in environmental context, and learning grammar through induction. The advocates of DM, while approving of the Natural Method, sought to improve upon it by providing systematic procedures based on scientific knowledge of linguistics and psychology. DM theorists believed that by applying scientific knowledge from psychology and linguistics, language learning could be made more efficient, with the result that students would learn faster than they would under the spontaneous and unplanned lessons of the Natural Method.

4.       The Audiolingual Method

The phenomenal rise of the Audiolingual Method (ALM) was due to the popularity of the new American linguistic and psychological theories which it incorporated into its foundations. The great popularity and influence of America itself in the world, following the end of the Second World War, is a factor here. The language analyses provided by American Structural linguists, particularly Charles Fries and the stimulus and response learning psychology provided by American Behaviorists endowed ALM with great credibility. The Direct Method, which implied a Mentalist psychology, went out of fashion, except in Continental Europe. The Audiolingual Method incorporated into its methodology many of the same features that the Direct Method had developed, namely, planned situations, graded materials, and such techniques as pattern drills and dialogue memorization. In contrast with DM, the Audiolingual Method almost entirely dropped the use of natural situations and spontaneous speech. There was even a tendency for some ALM advocates, such as Moulton, to reduce the meaningfulness of the speech that was taught – a practice that was frowned on by Fries, one of the founders of ALM.

C.    Offbeat methods: Cognitive Code, Community Language Learning, Silent Way, Suggestopedia

1.       Cognitive Code

Cognitive Code (CC) arose in the 1960s as one of the first reactions to the Audiolingual Method and one of the first to apply Chomsky's ideas to the teaching of a second language. With changes in psychology and linguistics, a new approach to second-Language learning was needed. Cognitive-code learning refers to a theory of second language teaching and learning rooted in cognitivist psychology and structural applied linguistics developed in the 1960s. The theory emphasizes the central role of cognition in the conscious and explicit learning of the rules of a language as a code. Examples of cognitive learning strategies include:

·         Asking students to reflect on their experience.

·         Helping students find new solutions to problems.

·         Encouraging discussions about what is being taught.

·         Helping students explore and understand how ideas are connected.

·         Asking students to justify and explain their thinking.

2.       Community Language Learning

Community Language Learning (CLL), or Counseling Learning as it is sometimes called, was originated in the 1960s by Charles A. Cur ran, a counsellor-therapist and priest who regarded the second-language learning situation from the point of view of small-group dynamics and counselling. Community language learning (CLL) is a language-teaching approach in which students work together to develop what aspects of a language they would like to learn. It is based on the Counselling-approach in which the teacher acts as a counselor and a paraphraser, while the learner is seen as a client and collaborator.

3.       Silent Way

The Silent Way is the name of a method of language teaching devised by Caleb Gattegno. It is based on the premise that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom but the learner should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible. The general goal of the Silent Way is to help beginning-level students gain basic fluency in the target language, with the ultimate aim being near-native language proficiency and good pronunciation. There are three advantages of silent way method such as: 1) The interaction of students not only with teachers but also with each other 2) The errors are corrected by students themselves, and this error is become the feedback for teacher to help the students 3) Silent way teachers are less spoken; therefore, they are available to their students and free to observe them. 

4.       Suggestopedia

Suggestopedia is a language teaching method originated in the 1970s by Bulgarian psychologist Georgi Lozanov. The name combines the terms "suggestion" and "pedagogy", the main idea being that accelerated learning can take place when accompanied by de-suggestion of psychological barriers and positive suggestion. Suggestopedia purports to produce in students an altered state of consciousness which is conducive to learning. This state, termed 'hypermnesia' (super memory),

is brought about by certain relaxation techniques which serve to build the confidence of the learner and thus to break down the 'antisuggestive barriers'.

D.     Contemporary Methods: Total Physical Response, Communicative Language Teaching, Natural Approach

1.       Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response, frequently refer red to as TPR, is very much a 'natural '- type method: speech understanding precedes speech production, which, in turn, precedes reading and writing. Only the target language is used in the classroom and meaning is derived from actual objects and situations, Students are encouraged 10 induce rules on their own and speak when they are ready. Again, as with other natural -type methods, things go best with a small number of students. TPR is best viewed as a teaching technique which can be applied in beginning to intermediate c1asses. It works especially well with children, and with adults it may be best utilized in combi nation with other methods. TPR should not be viewed as a self-contained method applicable to all language-teaching contexts. With such flexibility, it may well be considered the best of the speech-based teaching methods.

2.       Communicative Language Teaching

In the early 1970s, Wilkins (1972) proposed a system of dividing communicative speech into two aspects: functions and notions. Functions are things like requests, denials, complaints, excuses, etc., (They are called Speech Acts in linguistics.) They are expressed through who le sentences. Essentially the learner is provided with a means for performing a given function. For example, learners may be told that there are various ways to make a request: they may be told 'Shut the window', 'Please shut the window', 'Would you shut the window?', 'Would you mind shutting the window?', 'Will you be so kind as to shut the window? ', etc. (Wilkins, 1976, p. 5I).

3.       The Natural Approach

The Natural Approach (NA) is the name given by Terrell (1977,1982) and Krashen (Krashen & Terrell, 1983) to their 'new philosophy of language teaching' developed in the early 19805. It is to be distinguished from the nineteenth-century Natural Method, although NA has a number of similarities with that and with other natural speech-based methods such as the Direct Method and TPR. (Really, not so 'new' after all.) Yet, perhaps the Natural Approach is more of an attempt to provide a theoretical description of the processes involved in second-language acquisition than it is a body of innovative techniques for teaching.

E.     Some Research Studies Comparing Effectiveness of Methods

1.       Grammar-Translation and Audiolingual Compared

In a comparison of the Grammar-Translation method with the Audiolingual method, Scherer and Wertheimer (1964) found that GT produced higher scores in reading and writing while test scores in speaking and listening were highest for AL. That is, unsurprisingly, higher scores were found on the factors which the method emphasized.

2.       Total Physical Response and Audiolingual Compared

Other method comparisons have been made by Asher (Asher et al., 1974), comparing Total Physical Response and the Audiolingual Method. The findings in this short-term study demonstrated a superiority for T PR for beginning students. Whether T PR could maintain this edge over AL and other methods with intermediate and advanced students, and over a longer period of time, has yet to be demonstrated. 

3.       Natural Approach and Grammar-Translation Compared

In a study comparing the Natura l Approach with Grammar-Translation using Spanish learners, Hammond (1988) found that students studying under the Natura l Approach scored only slightly higher than those under Grammar-Translation. In terms of grammar learning, NA did as well as GT: thus, even without explicit grammar teaching, NA students learned by induction as well as did the GT students. Thus, students can learn grammar thro ugh induction just as well as they can thro ugh explication. However, as to the use of grammatical structures in actual communication, there would likely be an additional benefit of learning for NA learners since teaching through induct ion usually provides the learner with a communicative ability that is often superior to that of students taught through GT. Further study might well confirm this supposition.


F.      Goals Must Be Considered in the Selection of a Method

It is safe to say that students will learn something from any method. No method is a total failure because, in all methods, students are exposed to the data of a second language and are given the opportunity to learn the language. However, to the disappointment of all, there is no magic method. No method has yet been devised that will permit people over the age of 12 or so to learn a second language as effortlessly as they did their native language. Still, teachers can do much to make the experience for a learner rewarding and enjoyable, whatever method is employed.

In judging the relative merits of teaching methods, one must consider goals. Just what is the purpose of having people learn a second language? If the ability to speak and understand a second language is the primary goal, then a speech-based method would be best for them. If, on the other hand, the ability to read and write is the primary goa l, then Grammar-Translation should be the meth od of choice.


Steinberg, Danny D. 2001.     Psycholinguistics : language, mind and world. Pearson Education Limited
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