My teaching approach
and contrast several teaching methods and approaches by considering their
effectiveness in creating a communicative lesson.
Methods and approaches of teaching a
foreign language to students all have the same goal: making the other person
understand, write, speak and read a second language the most correct way in the
less possible time.
The different methods and approaches that
have been used –some of them with little or no success at all - since the
nineteenth century until our days; give us a perspective that there is no
“right or wrong” method or approach.
There are just methods that imply greater effort and a longer way to go
from part of the student and there are other methods that are simply shorter or
that would simply adapt better to someone’s personal way of studying or
understanding new concepts and ideas.
Talking about different methods of
teaching one of the most interesting ones is the Direct Method. By using the Direct Method students are
exposed to receive instructions only in the target language, they are giving
everyday vocabulary and easy sentences when they are starting with the method and on further sessions they are
introduced to reading and writing. Grammar is taught inductively and the
emphasis is made on correct pronunciation.
Student should be speaking at least 80 %
of the time during the lesson.
The teacher uses a lot of visual aids,
realia and demonstrations to explain new vocabulary to the students.
The good thing about this method is that
teacher emphasizes always on correct pronunciation. Students learn how to
pronounce “on the spot”. Also students
learn by using examples real life objects, pictures and other visual materials.
Other good things of this method are that it pays a lot of attention to speaking, and there is a lot of interaction
between teacher and students.
The Direct Method is also called the
Natural Method because is the “most natural” way of learning a language
The main disadvantage of this method is
that it does not focus a lot on writing, reading and comprehension which makes
the students unconfident with these abilities.
Other method that has been extensively
used and is still been used is the Grammar Translation. This one is probably
the most traditional method being used, when it comes to teaching a foreign
language. It was used to teach Latin and
Greek and it was thought that it could as well be used to teach other languages
that were not “dead”. This method
focuses on a 100% on written work, and excludes nearly all speaking activities.
Students are given texts that they have to translate and by doing so, they
learn the rules of grammar and their application by translating different
passages or paragraphs from the target language to their native language and
No need to go any further to clarify the
main strong and weak points of this method, as they clearly speak for
themselves. If you give a student only written work he will develop only
written abilities, but there will be no one to control how the student
pronounces the words, no one to correct his or her mistakes when he speaks,
because there is no speaking at all.
The students learn language that is used
mainly in a written and literary, and not in real conversations.
On the other hand the advantage or strong
points of the system are that it focuses on writing and reading, so students
learn a lot of grammar by translating. They learn how to apply the rules;
therefore they end up learning the grammar.
Focusing our attention in another method,
we have the Audio-lingual Method. This method had its biggest success in the
60’s and 70’s when it became very popular. It had its roots in the Direct
Method, as it is similar to that one, in the sense that, both methods advise
students to be taught a foreign language, without using the students’ native
language when it comes to explain new words or grammar. The main difference with the Direct Method is
that in this particular method, students are drilled by teacher in the use of
Repetition in the Audio-lingual Method
plays a key role, as is probably one of the basic instruments the students
have, if they want to learn.
Drills and pattern practices are given to
students and they have to repeat them, until they get them right.
The purpose of drills and repetition is
that there will be a moment when the answers to the questions will come
It is not important that
students make mistakes when it comes to pronunciation, on the contrary. It is
expected that errors will be produced during the lesson, but there will be
decreasing as the number of repetitions increases.
The Audio-lingual Method gives importance
to listening and speaking competences over writing and reading and defendants’
believe that the development of language skills is a matter of habit
The disadvantages of this method are that
repetition and drill practices can create a habit; the method does not pay
attention to comprehension, reading nor writing. There is no grammar explanation at all, as
everything is memorized, so it is not really a very “creative” method. It does
not allow students to think by them. All they have to do is listen and repeat.
Once they have memorized, they will repeat the sentence or word in a similar
The Communicative Approach refers to the
way teachers focus the teaching of a foreign language, in such a way that their
students can communicate in a conscious way, and taking into consideration
their real life experiences. Some instructors, teachers and educators that were
not happy with the Audio-lingual method and the Grammar Translation method,
started to develop a new approach to language learning. They introduced some
changes to make sure students who chosen this type of system will learn
“realistic” English. Not the one that you can find in books or in Cassettes or
Cd’s. They felt students did not know how to use appropriate social language,
expressions, gestures, etc. In other words the above mentioned methods were not
covering “real life”.
So basically, they engaged students by
giving them the opportunity of using authentic language in real situations of
every day life. Students could interact
with one another and live a much more “realistic” experience.
By using real life situations , students
are encouraged to face this “in the lab” rather than on the streets, and use a
foreign language to the best of their ability It is always best for them to do
it first in a classroom and then in the street!! It is highly likely that they will come
across one of these situations in their future.
Students are motivated towards this method
because it gives them the opportunity to think by themselves, they need to be
prepared for any situation that could arise them. They are truly motivated
because they want to communicate “meaningful” ideas either with their peers or
with the teacher – although the teacher is the one that does less speaking in
this type of method!
The great advantage of the Communicative
Approach is that there is a lot of interaction between students, they get to
experience real-life situations, they socialize, and that the method itself can
be very creative – depending on the teacher of course –. On the other hand,
some of the main disadvantages are that the approach focuses on speaking and
listening, leaving reading and writing a bit behind. Grammar is not explicitly
taught, and that is a main drawback.
There are other methods and approaches
that I have not mentioned in this brief essay, such as the Silent Way, the
Functional Approach, Task Based Learning, etc.
Not because they are not mentioned I feel they are of no importance. I
do believe, all them contribute to achieve the goal I mentioned when I first
started writing. The important thing is to learn to speak a foreign language.
All this methods and approaches are simply the different paths that the society
has developed to make easier for someone to reach their target.
My personal opinion about all this
different methods, systems and approaches, is that there is no right or wrong.
No black or white!!
the purpose is to create a communicative lesson, that will depend entirely on
the audience – that is to say the students – that you have in front of you as a
Again, someone can be very “visual” and he
would love to receive all the information using the Audio-lingual method.
Someone else might be an enthusiastic reader and he/she is very good with
texts, so for him/her the best thing would be a Grammar Translation method,
because for that person, by the use of this method he/she feels they are
receiving all the information they need.
Other students will simply enjoy the task
based method, because they like challenges and little tasks…..
So as I said before, this is a very personal option. If I had to choose which
one would be the ideal one, I would say a combination of all of them, and I
would explain why and how it should be done, but I guess that is another