Dr. D. B. Gavani
Methods of Teaching English Language
1. The Grammar Translation Method
At the height of the Communicative Approach to language learning in the 1980s and early 1990s it became fashionable in some quarters to deride so-called "old-fashioned" methods and, in particular, something broadly labelled "Grammar Translation". There were numerous reasons for this but principally it was felt that translation itself was an academic exercise rather than one which would actually help learners to use language, and an overt focus on grammar was to learn about the target language rather than to learn it.
As with many other methods and approaches, Grammar Translation tended to be referred to in the past tense as if it no longer existed and had died out to be replaced world-wide by the fun and motivation of the communicative classroom. If we examine the principal features of Grammar Translation, however, we will see that not only has it not disappeared but that many of its characteristics have been central to language teaching throughout the ages and are still valid today.
The Grammar Translation method embraces a wide range of approaches but, broadly speaking, foreign language study is seen as a mental discipline, the goal of which may be to read literature in its original form or simply to be a form of intellectual development. The basic approach is to analyze and study the grammatical rules of the language, usually in an order roughly matching the traditional order of the grammar of Kannada, and then to practise manipulating grammatical structures through the means of translation both into and from the mother tongue.
The method is very much based on the written word and texts are widely in evidence. A typical approach would be to present the rules of a particular item of grammar, illustrate its use by including the item several times in a text, and practise using the item through writing sentences and translating it into the mother tongue. The text is often accompanied by a vocabulary list consisting of new lexical items used in the text together with the mother tongue translation. Accurate use of language items is central to this approach.
Generally speaking, the medium of instruction is the mother tongue, which is used to explain conceptual problems and to discuss the use of a particular grammatical structure. It all sounds rather dull but it can be argued that the Grammar Translation method has over the years had a remarkable success. Millions of people have successfully learnt foreign languages to a high degree of proficiency and, in numerous cases, without any contact whatsoever with native speakers of the language as was the case in India.
There are certain types of learner who respond very positively to a grammatical syllabus as it can give them both a set of clear objectives and a clear sense of achievement. Other learners need the security of the mother tongue and the opportunity to relate grammatical structures to mother tongue equivalents. Above all, this type of approach can give learners a basic foundation upon which they can then build their communicative skills.
Applied wholesale of course, it can also be boring for many learners and a quick look at foreign language course books from the 1950s and 1960s, for example, will soon reveal the non-communicative nature of the language used. Using the more enlightened principles of the Communicative Approach, however, and combining these with the systematic approach of Grammar Translation, may well be the perfect combination for many learners. On the one hand they have motivating communicative activities that help to promote their fluency and, on the other, they gradually acquire a sound and accurate basis in the grammar of the language. This combined approach is reflected in many of the EFL course books currently being published and, amongst other things, suggests that the Grammar Translation method, far from being dead, is very much alive and kicking as we enter the 21st century.
Without a sound knowledge of the grammatical basis of the language it can be argued that the learner is in possession of nothing more than a selection of communicative phrases which are perfectly adequate for basic communication but which will be found wanting when the learner is required to perform any kind of sophisticated linguistic task.
2. The Structural – oral – situational Method
Palmer, Hornby, and other British applied linguist from the 1920s onward developed an approach to methodology that involved systematic principles of selection (the procedures by which lexical and grammatical content was chosen), gradation (principles by which the organization and sequencing of content were determined), andpresentation (techniques used for presentation and practice of items in a course).
The main characteristics of the approach were as follow:
Language teaching begins with the spoken language. Material is taught orally before it is presented in written form. The target language is the language of the classroom. New language points are introduced and practiced situationally. Vocabulary selection procedures are followed to ensure that an essential general service vocabulary is covered. Items of grammar are graded following the principle that simple forms should be taught before complex ones. Reading and writing are introduced once a sufficient lexical and grammatical basis is established.
Theory of Language and Learning
The theory of language underlying Situational Language Teaching can be characterized as a type of British “structuralism.” Speech was regarded as the basis of language, and structure was viewed as being at the heart of speaking ability. The theory of learning underlying Situational Language Teaching is a type of behaviorist habit-learning theory. It addresses primarily the processes rather than the conditions of learning. Frisby, for example, cites Palmer’s views as authoritative:
As Palmer has pointed out there are three processes in learning a language-receiving the knowledge or materials, fixing it in the memory by repetition, and using it in actual practice until it becomes a personal skill.
Like the Direct Method, Situational Language Teaching adopts an inductive approach to the teaching of grammar. The meaning of words and structures is not to be given through explanation in either the native language or the target language.
Design and Objectives:
The objectives of Situational Language Teaching method are to teach a practical command of the four basic skills of language. Errors are to be avoided at all costs.
In Situational Language Teaching, structures are always taught within sentences, and vocabulary is chosen according to how well it enables sentence patterns to be taught. Rather, situation refers to manner of presenting and practicing sentence patterns.
Types of learning and teaching activities:
By situation Pittman means the use of concrete objects, pictures, and regalia, which together with actions ad gestures ca be used to demonstrate the meaning of language items.
The practice techniques employed generally consist of guided repetition and substitution activities, including chorus repetition, dictation, drills, and controlled oral-based reading and writing tasks. Other oral-practice techniques are sometimes used including pair practice and group work.
Learner roles: Listen and repeat / more active participation
Teacher roles: Serves as a model, Conductor of an orchestra, The role of instructional materials
Situational Language Teaching is dependent on both a textbook and visual aids. Visual aids consist of wall charts, flashcards, pictures, stick figures, and so on.
The essential features of SLT are seen in the “P-P-P” lesson model that thousands of teachers who studied for the RSA/ Cambridge Certificate in TEFL were required to master in the 1980s and early 1990s, with a lesson having three phrases: Presentation (introduction of a new teaching item in context), Practice (controlled practice of the item), Production (a freer practice phrase)
3. The Modern Methods:
a. The Direct Method
Gouin had been one of the first of the nineteenth-century reformers to attempt to build a methodology around observation of child language learning. L. Sauveur, who used intensive oral interaction in the target language, was employing questions as a way of presenting and eliciting language.
Natural language learning principles provided the foundation for what came to be known as the Direct Method. Enthusiastic supporters of the Direct Method introduced it in France and Germany, and it became widely known in the United States through its use by Sauveur and Maximilian Berlitz in successful commercial language schools. In practice it stood for the following principles and procedures:
Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.
Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.
Grammar was taught inductively.
New teaching points were introduced orally.
Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.
Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.
Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.
These principles are seen in the following guidelines for teaching oral language, which are still followed in contemporary Berlitz schools:
Never translate: demonstrate
Never explain: act
Never make a speech: ask question
Never imitate mistakes: correct
Never speak with single words: use sentences
Never speak too much: make students speak much
Never use the book: use your lesson plan
Never jump around: follow your plan
Never go too fast: keep the pace of students
Never speak too slowly: speak naturally
Never speak too loudly: speak naturally
Never be impatient: take it easy
The teacher reads the passage three times. The first time the teacher reads it at a normal speed, while the students just listen. The second time he reads the passage phrase by phrase, pausing long enough to allow students to write down what they have heard. The last time the teacher again reads at a normal speed, and students check their work.
Getting students to self-correct
The teacher of the class has the students self-correct by asking them to make choice between what they said and an alternative answer he supplied. There are, however, other ways of getting students to self-correct. For example, a teacher might simply repeat what a student has just said; using a questioning voice to signal to the student that something was wrong with it. Another possibility is for the teacher to repeat what the student said, stopping just before the error. The student knows that the next word was wrong.
b. THE AUDIO-LINGUAL METHOD
The Audio-Lingual Method, like the Direct Method, is also an oral-based approach. However, it is very different in that rather than emphasizing vocabulary acquisition through exposure to its use in situations, the Audio-Lingual Method drills students in the use of grammatical sentence patterns. It also, unlike the Direct Method, has a strong theoretical base in linguistics and psychology. Its principles:
Language forms do not occur by themselves; they occur most naturally within a context. The native language and the target language have separate linguistic system. Teacher should provide students with a good model. Language learning is a process of habit formation. The more often something is repeated, the stronger the habit and the greater the learning. It is important to prevent learners from making errors. Errors lead to the formation of bad habits. When errors do occur, they should be immediately corrected by the teacher. The purpose of language learning is to learn how to use the language to communicate. Positive reinforcement helps the students to develop corrects habits. Students should learn to respond to both verbal and nonverbal stimuli. Each language has a finite number of patterns. Pattern practice helps students to form habits which enable the students to use the patterns.
Students should overlearn (learn to answer automatically without stopping to think). The teacher should be like an orchestra leader. The major objective of language teaching should be for students to acquire the structural patterns.
The major challenge of foreign language teaching is getting students to overcome the habits of their native language. Speech is more basic to language than the written form.
Goals of teachers: Teachers want their students to be able to use the target language communicatively.
Role of teacher and students: The teacher is like an orchestra leader, directing and controlling the language behavior of her students. She is also responsible for providing her students with a good model for imitation. Students are imitators of the teacher’s model or the tapes she supplies of model speakers. They follow the teacher’s directions and respond as accurately and as rapidly as possible.
Some characteristics of the teaching/learning process: New vocabulary and structural patterns are presented through dialogues. The dialogues are learned through imitation and repetition. Drills are conducted based upon the patterns present in the dialogue.
Nature of student-teacher interaction and student-student interaction:
There is student to student interaction in chain drills or when students take different roles in dialogs, but this interaction is teacher-directed. What areas of language are emphasized? Vocabulary is kept to a minimum while the students are mastering the sound system and grammatical patterns. A grammatical pattern is not the same as sentence. The natural order of skills presentation is adhered to: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The oral skills receive most of the attention. What is the role of students’ native language? The target language is used in classroom, not the students’ native language. How does the teacher respond to student errors? Student errors are to be avoided.
Techniques: Dialogue memorization, Backward build-up drill, Repetition drill, Chain drill, Single-slot substitution drill, Multiple-slot substitution drill, Transformation drill, Question-and-answer drill, Minimal pairs, Grammar game
. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a language in order to read