Zeba Khan

My teaching approach

Over time plethora of teaching methods have been examined and used to help people acquire second language acquisition. This essay will mull over and discuss the following styles: Grammar Translation, Audio-lingual, Silent Teaching Method and Suggestopedia. The idea is to concentrate upon comparing and contrasting these forms of teaching practices and the relevant out comes or success rate in relation to language acquisition and creating a communicative lesson.

One of the oldest and most traditional forms of language acquisition is known as the Grammar Translation or traditional method. The Grammar Translation method was conducted in the native language and required the student to learn vast amount of bi-lingual vocabulary lists. The textbook provided the context the grammar was applied in and if students were confused this was later clarified by the instructor. This meant that the students practiced by translating text from the target language into the native language, to test the students understanding classical texts of the native language were then translated into the target language.

The Grammar Translation method allowed the learner to grasp grammar rules fairly quickly as they were able to deduct grammatical structures of the target language in relation to their native language. Thus providing structures and foundations for the learner.

As this form of teaching is conducted in the mother tongue it did  not cause any teacher and student communication barrier and allowed the teacher to assess if the student had learned what s/he had been taught very quickly.

Nevertheless, it also contains significant disadvantages, the emphasis on the translation meant that the students had no idea how to pronounce or verbally communicate in the target language.  The lack of creativity hindered students ability to express or manipulate the target language.   Therefore, this method did not establish or provide an effective communicative lesson because the emphasis was solely based upon written comprehension or more to the point translation.

In contrast to the Grammar Translation method, during the world war period a quick and effective method was required for learning language. This give birth to the audio-lingual approach, the concept drew from the ideas of two different people and areas. The first influence was from the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield and the other a leading behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner. The audio-linguist believed that individuals can learn a language by listening to words or grammar phrases directly in the target language. Behavioural psychologists using Skinner s principle believed that if the audio learning was then reinforced by repetition and positive or negative rewards the person will learn quickly how to speak and understand the language (Richards, J.C. et al 1986)

The audio-lingual practice comprised of oral drills this meant a teacher would say a phrase or a command in the target language and the student would repeat it in the first instance, then the student would replace what the teacher had stated by shortening the sentence i.e.  Teacher   tell me not to smoke so often  Student   don t smoke so often   . This enabled people to grasp basic verbal skills quickly and to think in the target language.

Noam Chomsky in the 1950 s was the first person to criticise the audio-lingual approach by illustrating the limitations of the structural linguistics framework used.

Nevertheless, this approach emphasised upon pronunciation, thinking in the target language and manipulation of basic sentences.

The audio-lingual approach was a stark contrast to the Grammar Translation, even though both had  teachers leading the lessons the audio-lingual emphasised communication. This allowed students to imitate and understand how the language should sound, enabling them to communicate with the natives of the target language. It was the first real method that created an oral communicative lesson emphasising pronunciation.

However, later research suggested that the traditional method was far more productive than the audio-lingual practice for language acquisition as it provided a greater foundation of grammatical structures (Wilga Rivers 1964)

On the other hand,  other teaching methods developed over time, these were known as Suggestopedia and the Silent Method.

Suggestopedia  entails memorising vast vocabulary (Lozanov 1979), Lozanov believed what limited people s abilities to learn a language was their own preconceptions and expectations. To overcome these obstacles sequences of events needed to take place. This included  relaxing students through role play or interactive tasks, the context involved mapping out situation and features of the focus text, peripheral text this meant meaningful interaction with translations to hand if needed, active concert this incorporated reflective reinforcement with active cognition and lastly passive concert this was repeating material in the meditative mode to reinforce the subconscious memory.

Suggestopedia allowed the student and teacher to have a greater communicative relationship in comparison to the traditional and audio-learning approaches. This method focuses on both the grammar and pronunciation aspects of language learning and has better ways of creating a communicative lesson, than the last two approaches. Even though it is a teacher centred technique it permits the students to vocalise their thoughts or issues in a friendly atmosphere to clear any misconceptions or mistakes.

However, Silent Method is a more student centred proactive style. Silent method is about facilitating active student learning, this is viewed as a discovery and a problem solving method (Brown 1994). There is minimal teacher interaction, the strategy tries to balance written and spoken accuracy by coloured Cuisinere rods. The coloured Cuisinere rods or charts represent and indicate contextual clues for pronunciation or spelling. Students are required to decipher the clues to help them pronounce and spell the words. Nevertheless, if the students are significantly struggling the teacher will intervene to help them ascertain and understand the structures.

In some respects the Silent Method is very similar to the Grammar Translation  and Audio-lingual techniques the minimal interaction does not create a communicative lesson. Yet, the interactive participation of the students creates an atmosphere whereby, the students feel comfortable to communicate in the target language whilst comprehending not only the speaking part of the language but the grammar structure of the target language too.

This essay has compared and contrasted four techniques for language acquisition, only one style demonstrates a two way communicative lesson that is the Suggestopedia method. However, the essay suggests that no matter what technique is used trying to create an equal balance of student and teacher relationship can not be created. Therefore, juxtaposing all the styles would be the best idea to produce an effective communicative lesson whether it is teacher lead or student lead. As potential teachers what needs to recognised and understood is that, different teaching methods have their positive and negative strengths and weaknesses no one style can be applied to every student. Also, no one teaching method can create a hundred percent effective communicative lesson for the teacher or student.  


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