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A Brief Review on Foreign Language Teaching

Most books on language teaching list the various methods that have been used in the past, often ending with the authorís new method. These new methods are usually presented as coming only from the authorís mind, as the authors generally give no credence to what was done before and do not explain how it relates to the new method. For example, descriptive linguists (who?) seem to claim unhesitatingly that there were no scientifically-based language teaching methods before their work (which led to the audio-lingual method developed for the U.S. Army in World War II). However, there is significant evidence to the contrary. It is also often inferred or

even stated that older methods were completely ineffective or have died out completely when even the oldest methods are still used (e.g. the Berlitz version of the direct method). One reason for this situation is that proponents of new methods have been so sure that their ideas are so new and so correct that they could not conceive that the older ones have enough validity to cause controversy. This was in turn caused by emphasis on new scientific advances, which has tended to blind researchers to precedents in older work.

There have been two major branches in the field of language learning; the empirical and theoretical, and these have almost completely separate histories, with each gaining ground over the other at one point in time or another. Examples of researchers on the empiricist side are Jesperson, Palmer, and Leonard Bloomfield, who promote mimicry and memorization with pattern drills. These methods follow from the basic empiricist position that language acquisition basically results from habits formed by conditioning and drilling. In its most extreme form, language learning is seen as basically the same as any other learning in any other species, human language being essentially the same as communication behaviours seen in other species. On the theoretical side are, for example, Francois Gouin, M.D. Berlitz, and Elime de Sauzé, whose rationalist theories of language acquisition dovetail with linguistic work done by Noam Chomsky and others. These have led to a wider variety of teaching methods ranging from the grammar-translation method to Gouinís ―series method‖ to the direct methods of Berlitz and de Sauzé. With these methods, students generate original and meaningful sentences to gain a functional knowledge of the rules of grammar. This follows from the rationalist position that man is born to think and that language use is a uniquely human trait impossible in other species. Given that human languages share many common traits, the idea is that humans share a universal grammar which is built into our brain structure. This allows us to create sentences that we have never heard before but that can still be immediately understood by anyone who understands the specific language being spoken. The rivalry of the two camps is intense, with little communication or cooperation between them.



A student who starts studying Methods will be puzzled by the variety of ―methods he may come across in books and journals and, of course, there are good grounds for this. At different periods, depending on the aims of teaching and learning a foreign language, new methods sprang up. In each case the method received a certain name; sometimes its name denoted logical categories, for example: the synthetic method (synthesis), the analytic method (analysis), the deductive method (deduction), the inductive method (induction), sometimes the method was named after the aspect of the language upon which attention was focused as in the cases of the grammar method, the lexical method, the phonetic method. A third set of methods

received their names from the skill which was the main object of teaching. Among these are the translation method (translation), the oral method (oral language).

Sometimes the method got its name from the psychology of language learning: in this

category the following names occur: the intuitive method, the conscious method, the direct method. Finally, the method was sometimes named after its inventor. Thus we find: the Amos Comenius method, the Jacotot method, the Gouin method, the Berlitz method, the Palmer (West, Fries) method.

In some cases the methods bear coupled names: they represent two sides of teaching, for example, the leading aspect of the language and the skill the pupils acquire (the grammar-translation method), or the name of the author and the language activity which is the main aim in teaching - ―Fries oral method, ―the method of teaching reading by West. We may find even such names as ―hear-say-see-say read- write method and others. It would be impracticable in a short chapter such as this one to give a classification of methods. All that one can hope to do is to select for comment those methods which have had a long history and have influenced the contemporary methods of foreign language teaching, and live on in them. This brief review will deal with:

1. the grammar-translation method, the oldest method of teaching foreign languages which had its origin in Latin schools;

2. the direct method which began to be widely used in schools in the 1870ís;

3. contemporary methods.

The Grammar - Translation Methods. The grammar translation method instructs students in grammar, and provides vocabulary with direct translations to memorize. It was the predominant method in Europe in the 19th century. Most instructors now acknowledge that this method is ineffective by itself. It is now most commonly used in the traditional instruction of

the classical languages, however it remains the most commonly practiced method of English teaching in Japan. At school, the teaching of grammar consists of a process of training in the rules of a language which must make it possible to all the students to correctly express their opinion, to understand the remarks which are addressed to them and to analyze the texts which they read.

The grammar-translation method was widely used in teaching the classics, namely Latin, and it was transferred to the teaching of modern languages when they were introduced into schools, first as an optional and then as a compulsory subject. In teaching a foreign language by means of the grammar-translation method attention was paid to the assimilation of grammar rules of the foreign language that pupils studied. The vocabulary was ―tuned up to grammar. Translation was extensively utilized both as a means of explanation of new words, grammar forms, and structures, and as a means of mastering the foreign language, all exercises for assimilating the

language material being limited to translation from the mother tongue into the foreign language and from the foreign language into the mother tongue.

The distinguishing features of the grammar-translation method are 1) insistence upon grammatical analyses and 2) the assumption that grammatical categories can be defined in general terms with reference to meaning, the grammatical categories being the common denominator of all languages. According to the grammar-translation method the best way to say a sentence in a foreign language is to start with a sentence in the mother tongue, analyze it grammatically into such components as subject, i. e., one who performs the action, predicate, that which denotes the action, object, that which receives the action, etc. If necessary pupils go on with the analyses, for example, they name tense, mood, etc.

The Direct Methods. The direct method, sometimes also called natural method, is a method that refrains from using the learnersí native language and just uses the target language. It

was established in Germany and France around 1900 and is best represented by the methods devised by Berlitz and de Sauzé although both claim originality and has been re-invented under other names. The direct method operates on the idea that second language learning must be an imitation of first language learning, as this is the natural way humans learn any language - a child never relies on another language to learn its first language, and thus the mother tongue is not necessary to learn a foreign language. This method places great stress on correct pronunciation and the target language from outset. It advocates teaching of oral skills at the expense of every traditional aim of language teaching. Such methods rely on directly representing an experience into a linguistic construct rather than relying on abstractions like mimicry, translation and memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary. The method relies on a step-by-step progression based on question-and-answer sessions which begin with naming common objects such as doors, pencils, floors, etc. It provides a motivating start as the learner begins using a foreign language almost immediately. The direct method appeared as a reaction against the grammar-translation method. The prerequisites that brought about the appearance of new method are as follows. The rapid development of various branches bf industry and the tremendous development of international trade and colonial expansion required plenty of officials who had a practical mastery of the language, people who could speak and write a

foreign language and be able to communicate with foreigners. Therefore practical mastery of a foreign language becomes the main purpose of teaching this subject at school. The characteristic features of the direct methodí are as follows:

∑ the practical direction in the teaching of foreign languages which is understood as teaching language skills and speaking in particular, therefore spoken language becomes the basis of teaching;

∑ the ignoring of the existence of the mother tongue as it is assumed that learning the mother tongue and learning a foreign language are similar processes, merely undertaken at different ages;

∑ restricted application or very often complete elimination of translation as a means of teaching a language which plays a leading part in the grammar-translation method; instead of translation, visual aids and various oral and written exercises are recommended on a large scale;

∑ the inductive approach to teaching grammar, i. e., the learner may discover the rules of grammar for himself after he has become acquainted with many examples (in the grammar-translation method the rule is first stated, and then sentences embodying the rule are studied; later the rule is put into practice by writing new sentences, generally by translating sentences from the mother tongue into the foreign language);

∑ great care in teaching pronunciation throughout the course, and especially the first weeks and months; correct pronunciation must be constantly practised since comprehension and speaking is possible if the learner has adequate pronunciation in the target language;

∑ great attention to the subjects of the texts, especially a topical arrangement of the material with the purpose of ensuring speech development.

The most orthodox advocates of the direct method were F. Gouin, M. Berlitz, M. Walter, and

Contemporary Methods

All the points mentioned above are undergoing further development in contemporary Methods abroad. There are many methods of language teaching and a considerable amount of controversy as to the best way of foreign languages teaching abroad at present. However it is possible to group them into (1) traditional methods which have their origin in the grammar-translation method, and (2) audio-lingual methods which are considered to be a further development of the direct method line. The traditional approach to foreign language teaching is characterized by (1) the use of the native language for explanation, retention and checking; (2) the deductive explanation of grammar and the use of grammar exercises; (3) the development of all the language skills, i. e., hearing, speaking, reading, and writing from the beginning of the course. This approach is called traditional because it has been prevalent in schools for a long time. The traditional methods, although they are adopting some kinds of innovation in teaching techniques and teaching materials, still retain hose distinguishing characteristics which were mentioned above. Since these methods are often contrasted with audio - 1ingua1 methods and the latter are

considered to be contemporary ones, we shall dwell upon the audio- lingual methods more thoroughly.

Audio-lingual method

The audio-lingual method was developed around World War II when governments realized that they needed more people who could conduct conversations fluently in a variety of languages, work as interpreters, code-room assistants, and translators. However, since foreign language instruction in that country was heavily focused on reading instruction, no textbooks, other materials or courses existed at the time, so new methods and materials had to be devised. For example, the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program created intensive programs based on the techniques Leonard Bloomfield and other linguists devised for Native American languages, where students interacted intensively with native speakers and a linguist in guided conversations designed to decode its basic grammar and learn the vocabulary. This ―informant method‖ had great success with its small class sizes and motivated learners.

The U.S. Army Specialized Training Program only lasted a few years, but it gained a lot of attention from the popular press and the academic community. Charles Fries set up the first English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, to train English as second or foreign language teachers. Similar programs were created later at Georgetown University, University of Texas among others based on the methods and techniques used by the military. The developing method had much in common with the British oral approach although the two developed independently. The main difference was the developing audio-lingual methods allegiance to structural linguistics, focusing on grammar and contrastive analysis to find differences between

the studentís native language and the target language in order to prepare specific materials to address potential problems. These materials strongly emphasized drill as a way to avoid or eliminate these problems.

This first version of the method was originally called the oral method, the aural-oral method or the structural approach. The audio-lingual method truly began to take shape near the end of the 1950s, this time due government pressure resulting from the space race. Courses and techniques were redesigned to add insights from behaviourist psychology to the structural linguistics and constructive analysis already being used. Under this method, students listen to or view recordings of language models acting in situations. Students practice with a variety of drills, and the instructor emphasizes the use of the target language at all times. The idea is that by reinforcing 'correct' behaviours, students will make them into habits. The typical structure of a chapter employing the Audio-Lingual-Method (ALM - and there was even a text book entitled ALM) was usually standardized as follows:

∑ First item was a dialog in the foreign language to be memorized by the student. The teacher would go over it the day before.

∑ There were then questions in the foreign language about the dialog to be answered by the student in the target language.

∑ Often a brief introduction to the grammar of the chapter was next, including the verb and conjugations.

∑ The mainstay of the chapter was ―pattern practice‖, which were drills expecting ―automatic responses from the student as a noun, verb conjugation, or agreeing adjective was to be inserted in the blank in the text (or during the teacherís pause). The teacher could have the student use the book or not use it, relative to how homework was assigned. Depending on time, the class could respond as a chorus, or the teacher could pick individuals to respond. It was really a sort of ―mimicry-memorization.

∑ There was a vocabulary list, sometimes with translations to the mother tongue.

∑ The chapter usually ended with a short reading exercise.

 

 

Lecture 3


Date: 2014-12-22; view: 3668


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