My teaching approach
Will Mitchell – Oxbridge TEFL student – 04/02/12
Teaching Methodologies – A brief analysis by
Teaching methodologies have evolved
significantly over the past century in response to the changing requirements of
second language learners, and an increasingly complex understanding of
linguistics and second language acquisition. This short essay will briefly
analyze and compare the three methods of second language acquisition with
particular focus on the intended goal, the roles of the teacher and student,
and the form of the input, output and delivery.
History of Language Acquisition
Historically the need for language
acquisition dates back as far as human history itself with communication having
always been a basic requirement for trade and survival. The known origins of
modern language education in the western world can be found at the end of the
16th Century, when commonly spoken Latin was displacement by the
modern European languages and Latin was then taught as a means of understanding
classical literature, with classes placing a high emphasis on grammar and
During the 18th and 19th
Centuries, language acquisition was used as a means of sharpening the mind
through studying rather than a tool for communicating and translating speech. A
key area of interest during this period was the study of ancient and classical literature,
and at this time language acquisition was solely focused on the understanding
of grammar for the purpose of accurately translating texts. The technique of language
teaching during this period is seen as the first commonly recognized modern
methodology and is now described as the grammar translation method or GTM.
Recent developments in modern language
teaching methodologies have been informed
by a growing abundance of research material from the 20th century, and
from increasingly complex scientific/linguistic studies aimed at understanding language
acquisition by the human brain. This increase in linguistic understanding has provided
valuable insight into areas of difficulty experienced in second language
acquisition, and has subsequently led to the emergence of a variety of theories
and improved teaching techniques, many of which are found in practice around
the world today.
Language usage very loosely brakes down
into two elements; understanding, as defined by the input of language into a
subject (reading and listening) and production, which is the means of
expressing language trough writing and speaking.
Different methodologies place emphasis on
different areas of study and employ various methods of delivery, with the key differences
- The desired goal, or the reason for leaning and desired outcome
- The methods of input, output and delivery of the material,
- The organization of the syllabus;
- The role of the teacher in the classroom,
- The approach to errors and the correction of learners.
- ‘Affective factors’ how much stress is placed on the student.
Stephen Krashnen’s ‘Acquisition/Learning Hypothesis’ states
that adults have two different ways to develop competence in a language:
‘Language acquisition’ is a subconscious process not unlike the way a child
learns language. Language acquirers are not consciously aware of the
grammatical rules of the language but rather develop a feel for correctness.
‘Acquisition’ is the picking-up of a language. ‘Language learning’ on the other
hand refers to the conscious knowledge of a second language, knowing the rules,
being aware of them, and being able to talk about them. The acquisition-learning
distinction hypothesis claims that adults do not lose the ability to acquire
languages the way that children do. Just as research shows that error
correction has little effect on children learning a first language, so too
error correction has little affect on language acquisition.
Many of the teaching methodologies used today are based
either on ‘acquisition’ by communicative means, or by ‘learning’ through
traditional means such as GTM.
Grammar Translation Method (GTM) is the traditional
form of teaching language based on ‘Language Learning’. GTM was first used in
the 18th and 19th Century’s, and was based on grammar
rules and reading. The goal was not communication, but instead to teach the
litery form of the language with a high emphasis on accuracy. Speaking,
listening and pronunciation were largely ignored and in most cases omitted from
syllabuses, which were based around sequenced questions for reading
A typical class would consist of;
explanation of a grammatical rule with the inclusion of some example sentences,
a bilingual vocabulary list, and a reading section exemplifying the grammatical
rule and incorporating the vocabulary; followed by various exercises to
practice using the grammar and vocabulary.
The grammar translation method taught about
the target language, but not how to use it, with classes taught in the
student's first language and with the teacher seen as the authoritive figure of
the classroom. The method was still widely in use until recently, being fast
and relatively easy for the institution and teacher (due to it being delivered
in the native language) and is still used in certain areas of the world where
correctness is preferred to spoken fluency.
The grammar-translation method provides
little opportunity for acquisition by listening or practicing pronunciation,
and relies heavily on sequenced learning.
Approaches ‘by Acquisition’
Audio Lingual Method
The Audio lingual method, otherwise known
as the ‘Army Method’ is a communicative approach to learning by ‘acquisition’
and was introduced prior to the Second World War when there was a direct need
for soldiers to learn sentence structures quickly for use in action zones. The
audio lingual method is based on psychology and grammar structures, and
involves the repetitive drilling of students with grammatical sentence
patterns, with noun and verb replacements offering some scope for variation.
The learning process is one of ‘habit formation’ and the role of the teacher is
to model the language pattern through speech by of ‘drilling’.
Focus is given to psychological absorbsion and the intended
goal is communication rather than reading or writing. Structured grammatical
patterns are not provided but are implied by the teacher and learnt through
acquisition with vocabulary added afterwards. A high emphasis is placed on
The Audio-lingual method is in use today and a typical
lesson would usually begin with a dialogue containing the grammar and
vocabulary to be focused on in the lesson. The students mimic the dialogue and
eventually memorize it. After the dialogue comes pattern drills, in which the
grammatical structure introduced in the dialogue is reinforced, with these
drills focusing on simple repetition, substitution, transformation, and
Whilst the audio-lingual method provides opportunity for
some acquisition to occur, it relies on the sequenced learning of structures
and vocabulary and provides little or no scope for creative adaption of output
by students, and is limited in this sense.
Direct Method or ‘Berlitz Method’
The Berlitz method is an early form of teaching by ‘Language Acquisition’. First
introduced in at the beginning of the 20th Century, it is an example
of a direct communicative approach to teaching, with vocabulary and speaking
emphasized over grammar. The majority of successful modern TEFL teaching is
based on communicative/acquisition methods and many teaching methodologies use
the basic principles of the Direct/Berlitz method.
Classes using the ‘direct method’ are
taught entirely in the target language, students should be speaking 80% of the
time during class and translation from/to the native language is actively
discouraged throughout by the teacher. The primary concerns of the direct
methods are speaking and listening, and the intended goal is for students to
begin constructing and adapting sentences through practice.
Interaction between the students and the
teacher form the basis of the syllabus, which is centered on real life
situations, topics covering realistic needs and short grammar and vocabulary
exercises. The Direct methods highlight the purpose of language as
communication, although writing and reading are also encouraged outside of
class from the onset.
A typical class involves discussion entirely in the target
language with the teacher using examples of language in order to inductively
teach grammar; students are to try to guess the rules of the language by the
examples provided and by the use of ‘realia’ (objects, props and pictures). The
teacher’s role is to demonstrate and interact with the students throughout the
course of a class, asking questions about relevant topics and trying to use the
grammatical structure of the day in the conversation. Accuracy is sought but
not insisted upon, and errors are corrected through practice where this is not disruptive
to learning or student confidence.
The direct methods provide more a far more comprehensible
input than the grammar translation and audio lingual methods previously
discussed, whilst retaining a focusing on grammar patterns, vocabulary and
pronunciation are emphasized through practice in realistic situations.
"What theory implies, quite simply, is that language acquisition,
first or second, occurs when comprehension of real messages occurs, and when
the acquirer is not 'on the defensive'... Language acquisition does not require
extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious
drill. It does not occur overnight, however. Real language acquisition develops
slowly, and speaking skills emerge significantly later than listening skills,
even when conditions are perfect. The best methods are therefore those that
supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages
that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production
in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready',
recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and
comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production."
Krashen, Stephen D. 1981. Principles and Practice in
Second Language Acquisition. (6-7)
Research unanimously indicates that
learning a second language by ‘communicative’ or ‘acquisition’ methods in low
anxiety environments consistently produces better results than those based on
the traditional sequenced learning of grammar using textbooks or drilling
techniques. Many successful teaching methodologies have combined all the above,
with elements of both ‘language learning’ and ‘language acquisition’ although
those based on the communicative methods are more widely recognized.
The most effective teaching methodologies
are currently based on the principles of the direct method, focusing on the
communicative approach to use language in real contexts.
Grammar and vocabulary are learnt through
function and form exercises through which structures appear in realistic
settings. Students learn through practice and are encouraged in natural use of the
language through which they complete tasks. These methods encourage a high
degree of interactive student acquisition; make best use of classroom time,
whilst delivering practical language skills in an interesting and fun way.