The Direct Method and Second Language Acquisition Approach
There are many different teaching approaches and methodologies that have been adopted where some could say that one is more popular and effective than the other. A method is a plan for presenting a certain language material that is to be learned. There is no correct form of methodology and teachers have their own style of teaching. What works best for a teacher, their students, and seeing progress is of most importance. In this instance, the direct method to language acquisition and how it should be applied will be discussed.
English being a universal language, the number of learners is set to increase, whether in schools, businesses, or online. A major factor that could affect the future of English teaching is modern technology, which can be proportional to one another. Modern technology will only get more advanced and will continue to disrupt the way English language is taught.
This can be related to language acquisition, a process which can take place at any period of one's life. In first language acquisition, it refers to the unconscious learning of one's native language. Second language acquisition is the learning of a second language after the native language has been acquired.
The direct method - can also be thought of as "the natural method" - of teaching attempts to target the learner in the same way as when a second language is learnt, namely second language acquisition as mentioned above. The direct method is carried out in the target language and only useful everyday language is taught. Everyday language, quite simple, vocabulary and phrases that can be used in a wide range of everyday situations
However tempting it may be to use a word or two of the mother language, the direct method never uses a single word outside the target language. It may take some time but through trial and error, the student will begin to build fluency. If this is how students learnt their first language, then the same method should apply for the second language acquisition.
One note to point out is that grammar is taught inductively. When teaching new grammar, the rule is given only after the learner has induced the underlying framework for this rule. This allows the students to attempt different methods to solve the problem first then the rule is introduced later.
With any method, there are always advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of the direct method allows the learner to successfully express themselves in only the target language. The learner receives more input in the target language than when the language is instructed in their native language. This will enable the learner to create direct associations between words in the language being learnt and concepts in their mind, actions, situations.
The disadvantages of the direct method is that it may be unsuitable for large class and more suited for small classes or individual learners. At the beginning, the learner may feel overwhelmed by the new language, and this can have a negative effect on their learning. When there is a big contrast between the learner's native language and the target language, certain aspects could be difficult to explain without using the learner's native language. At the early stages, the learner simply lacks the vocabulary to understand these aspects when they are explained in the foreign language. On the contrary, this is where the direct method tries to combat these problems.
- Second Language Acquisition Approach.
Language acquisition is the process of how humans gain the capacity to perceive and comprehend a language, as well as to construct and use words to communicate. It usually refers to first language acquisition; ones acquisition of their native language. The ability and the capacity to use a language requires a range of knowledge such as syntax, phonetics, and vocabulary. This is distinguished from second language acquisition, which is acquiring a second language.
Briefly going over the stages of first language acquisition, this can be thought of as: Imitation - this is when the student learn to speak by imitating utterances heard around them and analogy. Repetition - students strengthen their responses by corrections and repeating after the teacher. Memorisation - being able to remember key words or phrases that could have been memorised after being corrected. Then follows controlled drilling and reinforcement of these key words and phrases and correction has been made.
How this should be applied to second language acquisition and high-lighting problems that may need to be combated are discussed. At the silent and receptive stage, at the beginning of language acquisition, students may be silent or use non-verbal communication e.g. pointing or nodding and there is no language fluency or grammar at this stage. As a teacher, you need to understand what comes to their mind first. If asking a simple question, you may need to use body movement and gestures after each word - if possible - to help reinforce what you are saying and get the point across. In the early production stage, students might begin to speak a few words, a broken sentence, or even a phrase building upon a small foundation of vocabulary. With encouragement, a student's confidence can begin to grow even thought the student might not feel confident with the language yet. You need to applaud a student, boost their confidence to make contributions, and be expressive to know that the the student has made an effort, and is making progress. Regardless of any mistakes, you are allowed to correct them after because the main objective is to get the students talking. Once doing so, the student will retain the information as to not make the same mistake again. When it comes to speech emergence, this is where communication will begin to form. Sentences and phrases may become longer, more vocabulary may be used, and some grammar may begin to emerge. After a certain amount of consistent learning, greater comprehension and fluency are gained and hopefully students begin to read or write in the target language. Lastly, students start thinking in the target language.
In the classroom, if you need to read the sentences several times before proceeding to the next one, then do so. Also if there’s a particular vocabulary or concept that you want to elaborate, then spend a little more time on it. For example, a role-play can be carried out to reinforce this. When you present a concept using visual aids, you are giving students something they can associate the concept with. For example show photos, as this reduces Teacher Talking Time (TTT). When it comes to wrapping up this activity, the student will be able to recall the concept. Always refer back to visual aids to make sure the students understand, perhaps by testing them a bit. In addition, simple gesture can get your point across and you can also do actual body demonstrations instead of just using your arms.
With a specific example, for instance you want to teach new vocabulary, in this case colour. One might want to simple write the translation on the board. Using the direct method would encourage a teacher to bring out several objects of the same colour, point to each object and repeat the colour. With repeated exposure, the students will get a grasp of the new word.
- The Future of English.
More and more of the international business world considers English as a necessity and a core skill for the future generation. This can result in multi-national companies increasingly adopting English as their corporate language of choice. Online based companies can offer online full-time paid teaching positions but these tend to be highly competitive. The dominance and value of English as the global language of business means it is a widely taught language and countries are investing in school reforms and teacher training programs.
A major factor on the future of English is technology. Teachnology is a very powerful tool and forever changing in any industry and profession, gradually becoming second nature. Technology will continue to innovate the way English language strategies are taught. Teachers - not just ESL teachers - need to be able to adapt to the needs of twenty-first century learners as increased technology usage in classrooms is accelerating at a rapid pace.
The growth and range of technology has shaped the way classes are taught and allows blended learning through many different methods. Some examples are the interactive (SMART) whiteboard, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and tablets for the students, which synchronises with the overhead projector (OHP). Mobile technology use is becoming popular in the classroom and this allows students to access high-quality content anytime and anywhere. There are more opportunities for ESL teachers to teach online as more learners turn to online facilities e.g. Skype. This eliminates geographical factors and so ESL teachers can work from anywhere in the world. It can be a drawback for schools as the technology for online tutoring improves, schools become more informed, resulting in an increase in demand for online tuition.
In this generation, students are born into the world of technology so teachers need to keep up with the ever constant changes to communicate and collaborate effectively with their students through modern technology.
Modern technology will have an impact on the way classes are taught, especially with the teaching method and approach that is mentioned above. Teachers are able to start their own private online English businesses and by facilitating share-screen, however, it is time consuming, tricky, requires self-promotion and networking efficiently.
Just as we acquired our first language through our surroundings and repeated exposure, so should the lessons too. It is said that students learn best when you teach them things that are only slightly beyond their level and slowly make the lessons more difficult. In the classroom, the direct method has an ample amount of choices to help you teach, however, it could be a problem with first language acquisition or complete beginners learning a second language. Depending on the level of the student, the materials and body language that you use can only reach a certain extent. If you see a student struggling, you can help them get to what they want to say by giving them simple and small inputs. Encouragement goes a long way and this can enhance a student's learning ability. Where there may be flaws, modern technology can aid this.
With the advancement of modern technology and the Internet, language educators now have the tools to offer students a more immersive, multimedia learning environment that can help to bridge the gap between learning difficulties of individuals.