Lawrence Humphries

My teaching approach

Essay Title: Methods of Teaching and Learning

Submitted: 30/04/2012

Student: Lawrence Humphries



Language teaching tradition has been subjected to a many changes, especially throughout the twentieth century, perhaps more than any other discipline. Teaching this tradition has been practiced, in various adaptations, in language classrooms all around the world for centuries. (Thanasoulas) As this short essay demonstrates, there are some milestones in the development of this tradition, and this research shows how various methods have been selected and implemented with the goal to produce optimal methods and techniques for language teaching and learning.


Language teaching methods from the 17th through to the 20th century, known as the Classical Method, were largely associated with the learning of Latin and Greek. This form of teaching focused on grammatical rules, syntactic structures and along with memorisation of vocabulary and translation of literary text. Now known in language studies as the Grammar Translation Method it is still used as a model of language teaching although critics state that the over use of breaking down the grammar restricts the student's communicative ability in the foreign language structure and does little to enhance the student's communicative ability in the foreign language. (Thanasoulas)


In contrast to this classical method Suggestopedia is a teaching method which is based on the understanding of how the human brain works and learns most effectively. Developed by the Bulgarian doctor and psychotherapist Georgi Lozanov the term 'Suggestopedia', derived from pedagogy, and is also known as accelerated learning.  Applied mainly in foreign language teaching, the method claims that it can teach languages approximately three times as quickly as conventional methods.

The key elements of Suggestopedia include a rich sensory learning environment (pictures, colour, and music), a positive expectation of success and the use of a varied range of methods. It uses a structured approach using the following four stages:


  • Presentation
    A preparatory stage in which students are helped to relax and move into a positive frame of mind, with the feeling that the learning is going to be easy and fun.
  • First Concert - "Active Concert"
    This involves the active presentation of the material to be learnt. For example, in a foreign language course there might be the dramatic reading of a piece of text, accompanied by classical music.
  • Second Concert - "Passive Review"
    The students are now invited to relax and listen to some Baroque music, with the text being read very quietly in the background. The music is specially selected to bring the students into the optimum mental state for the effortless acquisition of the material.
  • Practice
    The use of a range of games, puzzles, etc. to review and consolidate the learning. (Brown H 1987)

Critics  such as Bowen suggest that there is, however, little evidence to support the claims of success, pointing out  that many people find classical music irritating rather than stimulating. The dialogues and the lack of a coherent theory of language may also serve to confuse rather than to motivate, and logistically  the provision of comfortable armchairs and a relaxing environment are beyond the means of most educational establishments.Bowen does suggest, however, that certain elements of the approach can be taken and incorporated into modern language teaching. The use of music, creating a relaxed environment and long dialogues can be motivating and relaxing, creating conditions in which learners are alert and receptive  can have a positive effect on motivation. Suggestopedia has raised an interesting debate in the areas of both learning and memory.(My English Pages)


The Direct Method or Berlitz Method was created by Maximilian Berlitz and Francoise Gouin and was a late 19th century response to the Grammar Translation approach which was prevalent at the time. This was the first use of total immersion where no mother tongue was used in the classroom . The main focus of the Direct Method is speaking, and then later students work on reading and writing. To convey meaning, teachers directly communicate through mime, objects and pictures. Grammar is not taught directly, instead it is taught inductively, where students are presented with grammar patterns to discover grammar rules themselves. (Nikki, N)The focus of this method is listening and speaking, and students practice real-world conversations and scenarios.


Critics point out that the teaching of direct methods are largely dependent on the teaching skills rather than on a textbook, and not all teachers were proficient enough in the foreign language to adhere to the principles of the method. Also adherence to Direct Method principles was often counterproductive, since teachers are required to go to great lengths to avoid using the native tongue, when sometimes a simple brief explanation in the student's native tongue would have been a more efficient route to com­prehension (Vobs)


The Audio-Lingual method of language teaching originates from the 1950’s after the advent and popularity of audio tapes.(Linguistics, 1999)The focus of audio-lingual method is accurate pronunciation and grammar enabling the learner to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations with sufficient vocabulary and grammar patterns. The emphasis is on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them. The main Characteristics are as follows:

  • Language learning is habit-formation
  • Mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they are considered bad habits
  • language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form
  • Analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis
  • The meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context
  • The main activities include reading aloud dialogues, repetitions of model sentences, and drilling
  •  Lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation and pronunciation of the teacher by the students.



Although correct grammar is expected it is taught inductively, and as with the Direct Method the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom. Critics point out that mastering a language requires more the just the observable data, it also requires the underlying performances of linguistics, social linguistics and discourse competences. (Vobs)


The communicative method of language teaching developed and became widely used during the 1970’s using more authentic language situations and engaging students in real-life situations. This approach has been adapted and used in many language institutions and is known under a variety of names, including notional-functional, teaching for proficiency, proficiency-based instruction and communicative language teaching.


The communicative approach makes use of real-life situations that require communication; teachers create situations that students are more likely to encounter in everyday life and in contrast to repetition and drills used in the Audio-lingual method the communicative approach can leave the students in suspense as to the goal of the exercise which may vary according to their responses and reactions. The situations can vary daily and the student’s motivation to learn comes from their desire to communicate in meaningful ways using meaningful topics. Language experts such as Margie S. Berns, believe that language is interaction, an interpersonal activity that has a clear relationship with society; with this in mind the belief is clear that the use or function of the language has to unite with the situational context to enable conversation. (Online resources, 1993)


The role of the teacher and the relationship with the student contracts significantly with the Suggestopedia approach which has a higher teacher talking time. Teachers in communicative classrooms talk less and listen more, thus becoming more like facilitators of the student’s learning, the teacher sets up the activities creating performance goals for the students the observes,  acting as a referee or monitor. The students must do most of the talking and with this increased responsibility in participation proponents believe that this increases the confidence of the students using the target language in general. (Tourism Generation 2005-2012)


Exercises for the communicative approach are designed to be interesting and fun with materials authentic to the native speaker of the target language, examples of material could be newspapers, menus, weather forecasts and timetables. Students are given the opportunity to express their individuality by having them share their ideas and opinions on a regular basic.(Mortida 2010) Errors will be a natural part of learning a language, constant correction during fluency or communication exercises are not necessarily essential and can even be counterproductive; usually the teacher will discreetly correct mistakes or generalize errors at the end of the exercises; this contrasts radically from the Audio-lingual method that instantly praises correct traits but also gives negative feed-back to incorrect use of form and language. (Scribd 2012) Meaning is given precedence over form and although method grammar is still taught it is less systemic then traditional methods and usually taught alongside innovative approaches.



A more extreme method of teaching the communicative approach was developed in the 1970’s by Caleb Gattegno who originated the “Silent Way”. The three basic tenets of the theory were that students learning was facilitated by discovering rather then repetition, learning through the use of material objects, such as colored rods, and problem solving, with the “silent” based on the premise that the teacher should say as little as possible in the classroom in order to encourage the learner to talk as much as possible. The method is highly structured with language taught through sequencing sentences based on grammatical complexity and is described as a “building-block” approach.


This approach has though attracted criticism with arguments that the method is difficult to take beyond the very basics of a language, also the fact that it can only be used in very small group situations. It does however leave a legacy with many language schools adapting the task-based methods for problem solving situations in language classrooms. (One Stop English, 2011)


In conclusion, what Language acquisition does not appear to require is extensive use of conscious grammatical rules and tedious drills, although both of these approaches can add value to learning and are useful in various stages of learning. Language learning does not occur overnight, real language acquisition usually develops slowly, even when conditions are perfect. The best methods seem to be more successful in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear.






























Brown,D.H. (1987) Suggestopedia (Available at: (Accessed 28/04/2012)


Thanasoulas D. (2002) The History of English Language Teaching (Available at ) (Accessed 28/04/2012)


Nikki, N.(2007) Direct Method/Berlitz Method of language learning (Available at (Accessed 29/04/2012)


Rogers, C (2012) Direct Methods (Available at: (Accessed 28/04/2012)


My English Pages (2012) The origin of Suggestopedia (Available at: (Accessed 30/04/2012)


Online resources (1993) Communicative Language Teaching: An Introduction And Sample Activities (Available at: (Accessed 29/04/2012)


Scribd (2012) Compare and Contrast (Available at : ) (Accessed 30/04/2102)


Linguistics (1999) Methodologies in Foreign Language Studies (Available at: (Accessed 30/04/2012)

One Stop Englsh (2011) Teaching Methodology (Available at: (Accessed 30/04/2012)



Tourism Generation (2005-2012) Communicative Methodology (Available at: (Accessed 30/04/2012)


Mortdida (2010) Communicative Language Teaching Method (Available at : (Accessed 30/04/2012)

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