My teaching approach
methods for English as a foreign language
Traditionally there have been two dominant
methods in respect to teaching language acquisition: grammar translation and
the direct approach method. In more recent times, specifically since World War
II, there has been a third, that of the Audio-Lingual
Method. It could be argued that as each student is different there is no
‘right’ or ‘wrong’ method though each has advantages and disadvantages, though
some more crippling than others. Much will depend on the objectives of the
student in question.
Dealing with Grammar Translation firstly,
sometimes referred to as the classical model, it can be said it flows from the
tradition on the way Latin and Greek were taught when Latin was the lengua franca of Europe. This method
involves a heavy reliance on grammatical rules and direct translation. Grammar
points would be found from a text and explained contextually. Translation and
grammar rules would be learned and enforced in repetitive tasks with minimum
regard to content. Sentences directly translated with minimal regard to pronunciation
or the communicative points in real world settings. The flaw can be pointed out easily, namely,
the lack of creative output encouraged a lack of spontaneity within students,
leading to difficulty with speaking and a lack of flexibility in any creative
This lack of flexibility led a number of theorists
in the late 19th and early 20th century to produce a
number of new methods. Arising from this was the development of the Direct
Method. The method would teach in the target language and aimed for interaction
with the student as a means of acquisition, involving tactics such as having
real life objects, pantomiming and visual materials. The important concept here
was that spoken language is central. This must involve the teaching of correct
pronunciation and talking as much like a native as possible. Only everyday
vocabulary would be taught to the student at the beginning, with grammar,
reading and writing, as the student progresses. The emphasis ought to be on
real life situations with grammatical proficiency secondary to the focus on
spontaneity and usefulness.
Audio learning was first used by the American
army during World War II and can be used as a self teach method. The learning
involves listening to a series of words and dialogues about everyday situations
and repeating them. Reading and writing are used as reinforcements to what is
learned aurally. The problem with this method is it involves comprehension only
if the student is familiar with the specific material.
Unless the aim of the student is to achieve a
high level of writing and reading ability without the physical communicative
aspect, it can be said that the grammar translation method suffers from too
many failings, especially for beginners.
The student is confronted with a plethora of rules before construction.
Although the audio approach is rapid, it can be seen that the shortcomings are
glaring as the creative element is again secondary. An understanding of how to
use the language is very limited.
Although each of the methodologies has
something to recommend them, it could be argued that notwithstanding the aims
of the students, the direct approach gives the most in terms of the ability to
understand what another person is saying to you in another language. It would
be the method of choice for the majority of students who have rapid acquisition
as a target.