There are many different ways to teach languages today. These styles of teaching all have a certain degree of merit, depending on what the student is exactly looking for out of his/her language classes. For example, a student may want to learn the basics of a language for purely conversational purposes, such as an upcoming holiday or traveling in a foreign country for a prolonged period of time. On the other hand, a student may wish to learn a second language for work or business reasons. This is where it is important to differentiate between the styles, and adapt the style to the students wants and needs. For the purposes of this piece, an attempt will be made to highlight some of theses different teaching methods and practices. Based on the evidence presented, a recommendation will be made as to which method could be a possible better option for the school moving forward.
The first method for analysis is called the Direct Method. Like the name suggests, it is a very direct approach to teaching. It was originally developed as an idea in the early 1900s, but has gained more prominence and prestige towards the end of the 20 th century. Professors like Tracy Tyrell and Stephen Krashen have written over 400 journals and university documents on the area of second language acquistion and bilingual education. The Direct Method differs from many of the other language methods in that, it teaches exclusively in the target language. This is done with a view to immersing the student in the target language. When we look at other methods later in this piece comparisons will be easier to come by. Characteristics of this style of method include: Grammar being taught through examples of the linguistic form, emphasis on spoken language and pronunciation, teaching through realia and also a focus on question and answer type exercises. Another principle characteristic of this method is whereby the students are encouraged to make up 80% of the talking time of the class. In this sense the teacher is more of a facilitater, whereby the student is the participant. This style of teaching may be suited best to early level learners or younger children. A continuous assessment style of homework on a weekly basis could be a worthwhile way to monitor the performance and progress of the students. Concept Check Questions throughout the lesson may also be useful to recap on knowledge previously acquired.
This teaching method is particularly effective for improving vocabulary, communication and pronunciation skills because it teaches the students the language and not about the language. Students are involved from start to finish and practice in their target language. However, it does neglect some of the reading and writing skills that other methods put more of an emphasis on. Also this style might not suit the shyer students who are stronger at the grammer side of a language. Another possible disadvantage maybe that it is almost impossible to replicate the first way we acquired our mother tongue, because we have already acquired it. Subconsciously when we learn a new word we know the word in our mother tongue; when we acquire our first language we have no word to compare or associate it with.
The second method used is the Audio Lingual Method. This particular method was originally used in the early 20th century. It became much more prominent during the middle of the century following the outbreak of the second world war. There was all of a sudden need for soldiers to be trained in foreign languages for communication and interpretational purposes. It is similar in many ways to the Direct Method in so much as it teaches in the target language. One of the fundamental differences between the two is the focus that is put on vocabulary. Correctiveness is rewarded, whereas mistakes are punished. Drilling is a key facet of this style where students are taught by repetition. A greater emphasis is put on the pronuncition and mastering the grammatical structure. Again the students have an active role during class time, while the teacher acts as an observer/corrector. Although it has some advantages, it would not be the method I would recommend. Students can end up feeing like robots through constant repetition and drilling. Little motivation or interest is paid in class as a result of the constant repetition, and the lack of change or diversity from the syllabus.
The third method for consideration is the Grammer Translation Method. This method has been around for many centuries and may have derived from Greek and Roman times as a teaching tool. The method is largely based on the principles of learning grammar rules and grammatical competence. The classes are carried out in both the target language and the mother tongue, although most of the explanations are carried out in the students' native tongue. With this style the emphasis is for the students is to learn the grammatical rules and structures of the language and the subsequent ability to apply them correctly to a sentence. Mistakes are generally corrected before moving on. More of a focus is placed on reading and writing than on listening and speaking, unlike the previous two methods. Pronunciation and vocabulary may suffer as a result. In this type of class the teacher is the facilitator who provides the tools for the students to work within ie the grammatical rules. This type of teaching may suit someone who is working for a company and needs a proficient level of the target language to correspond with post and or emails. Possible homework/revision questions could occur throughout the class or at the end through CCQ's ( Concept Check Questions) or multiple choice questions, to test the students' level of understanding.
The final method for your consideration is called the Behaviourist Method. This method, in comparison to the other three focusses on stimuli and responses. Teaching is dictated by the environment and certain conditions that influence teaching. One of the chief pioneers of this style of teaching was Ivan Pavlov(1847-29) a Russian physiologist with a keen interest in classical conditioning. One of his most famous experiments was on the behaviour of dogs, and their reaction to stimuli. After conducting tests, in which the dog was presented with food after a bell had been rung, Pavlov discovered that the dog only began to salivate after the bell had been rung. In essence, the dog wasnt actually learning anything new, but solely associating the bell with food. When applying this to teaching, it is in my opinion, a post dated form of education. It can make the students feel like machines, and whereby it may have been effective in the past, newer more progressive methods have been adapted and integrated successfully into mainstream education. The Behaviorist Method, in my view, will only bring the students to a certain level, where they will 'plateau', ie they will discontinue to learn anything new- like the dog's in the experiment previously mentioned. In this type of classroom situation the teacher becomes an authority in the class and takes full control like traditional methods. The student in this case becomes a passive participant. Possible exercise or homework here would relate to traditional methods of repetition and recapping on what has previously taught. Learning definitions and rules by heart could constitute traditional homework exercises.
In conclusion, an attempt has been made to highlight the different methods of teaching. Each method has its fundamental positives and negatives or pros and cons. An attempt was made to try to illustrate two methods which focus on different fundamentals of the english language. With the Direct Method and Audio-Lingual Method the focus for the student is on speaking and listening, thus enhancing vocabulary and communication skills. The other examples given, (Behaviourist and Grammar Translation Method), concentrate more on the reading and writing skills, and in my opinion neglect the more important communication skills. Were I to be given an opportunity as a director of education my preference would be to take the more Direct Approach. The aforementioned theories all have merit, but some are outdated and impractical in todays society. The introduction of realia and other props in a classroom environment would keep students more highly stimulated. An interactive class where the teacher is merely the passive participant presents a better chance of learning to the perspective students.