Juliette Weir

My teaching approach

Compare and contrast several teaching methods and approaches by considering their effectiveness in creating a communicative lesson.


Many methods have been developed over the years with regards to teaching.  Styles have been incorporated to suit the needs of students in an ever changing society, especially with regards to language learning.  Indeed, few are viable to use in following a full syllabus.  Many can be and are used in conjunction with one another to add variety to lesson planning.  This essay will compare and contrast three teaching methods; the Berlitz method (direct method,) Audio-lingual method and the Total Physical Response method (TPR) 

The Berlitz School in Germany believed that when learning a new language, the Mother Tongue was neither important nor relevant.  It focuses on using language as an instrumental tool of communication.  Hence being regarded as a communicative approach to learning.  The two prominent skills involved are speaking, a productive skill and listening, a receptive skill.  Thus, by learning through the target language only it imitates the same process a child uses when learning their mother tongue (MT).  In comparison to this, the Audio Lingual method does not ignore the use of the MT, instead using it as a useful tool to translate vocabulary into the TL and various grammatical structures also.  The method analyses the contrasts in grammatical structures between the MT and TL in order to predict possible problems that may arise for the students due to language transfer.  The Berlitz method directly opposes any such comparison of grammatical structures, viewing the traditional method as both ineffective and confusing for the learner.  Grammatical structures in any two languages are never similar and therefore to compare them is pointless.  Berlitz believes in students being able to decipher such structures directly from the input language on their own, similarly to children when learning their MT.  Although students following the more traditional Audio-Lingual method may be able to name each verb tense and explain grammatical rules, the Berlitz students would have a more native feel as to when to use each tense.  The Audio-Lingual method could lead to confusion as the student relies on remembering the corresponding tense from the MT to the TL.

Similarly to the Berlitz method, TPR mimics the processes used when children first learn a language. Children never had the use of another language when learning their mother tongue therefore anything but the use of the TL is irrelevant and unnatural to human beings when acquiring a second language.   The most important difference between these two methods is that whilst students using the Berlitz method respond through speech, those learning through TPR response through movement.  Therefore it is a comprehensive approach to learning, the most common of those taught in the classroom.  Although TPR relies on a physical response from the students, both methods are taught exclusively in the TL so that with repetition the language is absorbed ready to be reproduced by the student.

All 3 methods are similar in the fact that they emphasise the use of the TL in lessons and that through repetition and correct pronunciation students will imitate the teacher’s behavioural patterns with regard to speech; eventually making such habits their own.  TPR and AL use the drill system to “drill” in the TL, the only difference being the response of the students.  Students learning through the AL method, the students mimic word for word the teacher´s phrases, whereas in TPR the students repeatedly act out the commands.  All 3 demonstrate vocabulary and grammar by displaying them in context.  Indeed this is the only way the Berlitz method teaches grammar and vocabulary.  This method is very effective in providing a communicative lesson, as the pupils are interested in learning structures and words relevant to day to day life and provides good grounds for conversation to arise.

The teaching approaches in all 3 are distinct.  All 3 rely on a direct representation of a real life situation or experience into a linguistic construction.  Whereas the AL method relies on mimicry, translation and memorization of grammatical rules and vocabulary, the Berlitz method believes that this traditional method is ineffective in providing a communicative lesson.  They believe that printed text and reading are to be avoided for as long as possible, until a good grasp of speech is obtained.  This is because it is believed that these two other practices could hinder the obtaination of oral fluency.  In the AL method, one of the first parts of the class structure is the memorization of a dialogue read by the student the day before.  Followed by an introduction to the relevant grammar such a verbs and conjugations; yet again to be memorized.  The use of text books is also advocated.  A vocabulary list is presented and expected to be learnt by heart, consisting of translation into the mother tongue.  The lesson structure would then end with a short reading exercise.  Both methods use question and answer exercises to practice said grammar or vocabulary.  However, the main component of the AL method is the drill exercise.  The teacher says a phrase and the students are expected to mimic the phrase with correct pronunciation over and over again, either individually or as a group.  With regards to the TPR method, emphasis is put on the comprehension of the language rather than speaking it.  Dr Asher, the originator of the method, referred to this as a body conversation.  It is at its most useful for the beginning stages of learning a language, as students learn through kinetic exercises and the memory is enhanced through physical association and they enjoy doing so.  However this method is restricted to using only the imperative form.  Simple tenses could also be taught in this way albeit not very profoundly.  

With regards to teaching a whole syllabus TPR has to be used in combination with other teaching methods.  Dr. Asher understood the limiting qualities of his method and claims that the intention was always for it to be used in combination with other methods.  Regarding the organisation of the syllabus, the Berlitz method depends on a step by step progression in language learning.  Focusing on simple objects and simple structures, practiced through the target language, to then progress onto more complex vocabulary and grammatical structures.    This is implemented through question and answer patterns.  Thus forcing the students to use the TL from the start; providing a motivating beginning to language learning and ensuring good pronunciation.  All is loosely supported by reading with writing being introduced only at the highest level of language acquisition.  Indeed this directly contrasts with the belief of the AL method which advocates all 4 practices from the very start.  Grammar rules are explained and memorized.  Receptive and productive skills are put into play making it a less communicative approach than the Berlitz method, henceforth making the lessons taught using the Berlitz method the most communicative and effective.

The goals of students when learning languages are to be able to communicate to a near fluent level.  Regarding the different methods to be able to achieve this either the AL or Berlitz method would be appropriate.  However if the goal of the student is to learn how to master all 4 practices the AL would be more suited to them as homework would be set and marked.

As with any teaching method, the teacher’s attitude and behaviour is important and will have an effect on the pupil.  They must be patient, motivated and remain positive.  However, with regards to the Berlitz method I believe their attitude to be the most important as they are the only resource for the students, especially at the beginning stages.  The TPR method the teacher must be focused as to ensure that the class does not get out of hand, especially if they are young children.

Personally I believe the Berlitz method to be the most effective in providing a communicative lesson.  It is the only one who focuses on communication.  The AL method uses a combination of the comprehensive approach and the communicative approach but its methods have proved to be demotivating to students.  Indeed I learnt languages through this method and found it incredibly boring.  It could possibly have been one of the major factors as to why languages are not popular at school.  The TPR response method is very effective when used in combination with other method in providing a communicative lesson.  When learning a language the most effective way to do so is to go to the country and immerse oneself fully, something that the Berlitz method tries to imitate by avoiding the MT at all costs. 


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