Chase Hall

My teaching approach

TEFL Fundamentals Module: 


For this essay I will be looking at 3 commonly used methods for teaching a second language. I will be looking at how they approach learning, how they approach teaching, the involvement of the students, how the syllabus is organised, the teacher’s role, and I will also be providing my personal opinion on what I think is the most effective method for learning a second language.

I will start by going back in time and looking at the Grammar Translation method, which was derived from a very classical method of teaching Greek and Latin. The method’s approach to learning basically required the students to literally translate whole texts word for word, memorize numerous grammatical rules and exceptions, and to add to that they needed to remember enormous lists of vocabulary.

For example, students would be given a passage or chapter of text from an important writer like Plato; to keep it simple we shall say that the text was written in English. The students would then tediously have to translate the text word for word into their mother tongue. They would be drilled on the grammatical structure without paying much attention to the content, pronunciation or any of the communicative aspects of the language. Simply, sentences were deconstructed and translated with emphasis being put on the grammatical structure and the context.

In this method, while teaching the text, the teacher translates every word and phrase from English into the learner’s mother tongue. The method emphasizes the study of grammar through deduction and drilling the rules of grammar to effectively achieve a translation in the correct context. The teacher would have a massive list of bilingual vocabulary; they would take the grammar straight out of the text and elaborately provided the rules for assembling the words into sentences. This was seen as a way to exercise and strengthen knowledge, based around reading as the main skill to exercise, but only in the context of translation, with the teachers roll being authoritarian.

The syllabus is purely organised around grammar rules, reading and vocabulary, with the goal of this method being that students are able to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics (How very boring!).

I personally would never use this method as I believe that it would kill the motivation of modern students and my own motivation for that fact. It may be useful as a punishment to show children that if they don’t behave, they will have to do exercises that will bore the socks off of them. As a trainee teacher I would much rather have interaction in my class than silence, open discussion about the language being acquired and constant use of the target language would prepare the students for communicating in day to day scenarios, whereas being able to translate Plato will only aid you in extremely specific circumstance (not a skill I would take to a party with me!).


Now on to something slightly more modern! The Direct Method, which was established in Germany and France around 1900, is really a direct contrast from the Grammar Translation method (the students have been saved!).

This method is based around teaching a foreign language in the actual target language itself. The method refrains from using the mother tongue and might be seen as a way to throw the students in at the deep end. In this case swimming is not essential, so no casualties will be tallied up on the teacher score board! In fact this method is probably one of the best ways to push learners and is friendlier than it first seems.

The teachers roll is more focused on demonstration rather than translation or explanation. Therefore teaching vocabulary is done through pantomiming, realia and other visual materials, which beats staring at a text book hands down!

From the very beginning teachers will work on the four skills, but oral communication is the key, with reading and writing exercises being based on what the students have practiced orally first. Vocabulary is emphasised over grammar and grammar structures are practised orally rather than being explained with explicit rules. The theory is that grammar should be taught inductively (having learners find out rules through the presentation of adequate linguistic forms in the target language).

Pronunciation is also a key factor in the Direct Method as students have to learn how to communicate in an effective manner. Students will practise the target language with lots of question and answer activities, with self correction also playing a role in the learning process, plus some drilling of the pronunciation just to make sure that the students have the skills they need communicate clearly in real life conversations.

The syllabus used in the direct method is Situational.  The target language is always used in a social context and cannot be fully understood without reference to the contextual settings, the Situational Syllabus is constructed on the analyses of situations and behaviours.

My personal opinion regarding the direct method is that it is a great system. Most students are not interested in the grammar of a language, they only want to learn how to communicate and use the language in real life scenarios, which is exactly what this method offers. The only downside is that it is difficult in incorporate specific language into the syllabus as it has to be more generalised by the teachers. This does depend obviously on the level of the students and the age but, I feel that individuals who just want to learn English to communicate in a certain environment (finance, archaeology, aviation, etc) will be left out. Other than that this is a great system for young learners as once they have overcome the basics they can advance into a specific field as they grow and progress, as long as the opportunities are there.


The final part of this essay will cover the Audio-lingual Method. This method was basically a direct result of the need for foreign language proficiency in listening and speaking skills during and after World War 2. With the Audio-lingual method; drilling, repetition, and habit-formation are the key areas of focus for the teacher. The teacher should provide a correct model of native language to be mimicked and they should always reinforce good habits and punish bad ones.

In the classroom, lessons were often organized by grammatical structure and presented through short dialogues. Students listen repeatedly to recordings of conversations and focus on accurately mimicking the pronunciation and grammatical structures in these dialogs.

The theory behind the Audio-lingual method is that language is composed of structural building blocks (sounds, morphemes, sentences, etc), that language forms do not occur by themselves, they occur in context so; particular parts of speech occupy particular places within a sentence. Native language and target language have different forms of structure so; they should be kept apart with the native language interfering as little as possible.

This is then put across to the students in a process of habit formation (the more we repeat the stronger the habit formation becomes), positive reinforcement (helping the students develop correct habits), structural patterns (this being the major objective of language teaching, with vocabulary being learnt afterwards), induction (students do not need to memorise rules in order to use the native language so, this should be applied to learning a second language) and contrastive analysis (finding areas where native language habits need to be replaced by target language habits).

 The syllabus is grammar driven, but in a structural fashion. Listening and speaking come before reading and writing.

This is another method that I like, but there is definitely one area that I do not agree with. Constant repetition, is ok to a certain extent, but I feel freedom to express yourself with the new language is just as important. Listening and repeating should obviously be done first so that the student can get an idea of how the target language sounds and is used. Then they should be given the opportunity to play around with the newly acquired language, everyone expresses themselves in a different way and this should be shown to the students so that they can add their individuality to the way they use the language.


To conclude this wonderful essay, I would like to say that there is a definite method that can be used to teach a new language with 100% proficiency, but this is simply not the case.


What I have found is that we really do need to mix and match the approaches and methods to really cover all of the areas that a student needs to acquire a second language. If we just stick to one method then we are potentially limiting many students from progressing and learning. We have to understand that individuals learn and understand information in a different ways; we have to give all individuals a way to learn without shutting them out. The only way to do this logically is to combine elements from all the methods and to use them in moderation, constantly changing the techniques to give the students the best possibility of learning a new language. If we fail to do this then we are potentially letting the student down; which as far as I am aware is not the role of the teacher. Teacher’s have to be able to adapt and be flexible as they never know what their students needs may be.










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