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A brief history of language teaching





Preface 4

1 A brief history of language teaching. 6

The Grammar-Translation Method. 7

Language teaching innovations in the nineteenth century. 9

The Reform Movement 10

The Direct Method. 11

2 The nature of approaches and methods in language teaching. 15

Approach and method. 15

Approach 16

Design 18

Procedure 23

3 The Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching. 24

Approach 27

Design 28

Procedure 30

4 The Audiolingual Method. 34

Approach 36

Design 38

Procedure 42

5 Communicative Language Teaching. 46

Approach 49

Design 52

Procedure 57

6 Total Physical Response. 58

Approach 58

Design 58

Procedure 58

7 The Silent Way. 58

Approach 58

Design 58

Procedure 58

8 Community Language Learning. 58

Approach 58

Design 58

Procedure 58

9 The Natural Approach. 58

Approach 58

Design 58

Procedure 58

10 Suggestopedia. 58

Background. 58

Approach 58

Design 58

Procedure 58

11 Comparing and evaluating methods: some suggestions. 58

Methods and language curriculum development 58



The proliferation of approaches and methods is a prominent character­istic of contemporary second and foreign language teaching. To some, this reflects the strength of our profession. Invention of new classroom practices and approaches to designing language programs and materials reflects a commitment to finding more efficient and more effective ways of teaching languages. The classroom teacher and the program coor­dinator have a wider variety of methodological options to choose from than ever before. They can choose methods and materials according to the needs of learners, the preferences of teachers, and the constraints of the school or educational setting.

To others, however, the wide variety of method options currently available confuses rather than comforts. Methods appear to be based on very different views of what language is and how a language is learned. Some methods recommend apparently strange and unfamiliar classroom techniques and practices; others are described in books that are hard to locate, obscurely written, and difficult to understand. Above all, the practitioner is often bewildered by the lack of any comprehensive theory of what an approach and method are. This book was written in response to this situation. It is an attempt to depict, organize, and analyze major and minor approaches and methods in language teaching, and to describe their underlying nature.

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching is designed to provide a detailed account of major twentieth-century trends in language teach­ing. To highlight the similarities and differences between approaches and methods, the same descriptive framework is used throughout. This model is presented in Chapter 2 and is used in subsequent chapters. It describes approaches and methods according to their underlying theories of language and language learning; the learning objectives; the syllabus model used; the roles of teachers, learners, and materials within the method or approach; and the classroom procedures and techniques that the method uses. Where a method or approach has extensive and ac­knowledged links to a particular tradition in second or foreign language teaching, this historical background is treated in the first section of the chapter. Where an approach or method has no acknowledged ties to established second or foreign language teaching practice, historical per­spective is not relevant. In these cases the method is considered in terms of its links to more general linguistic, psychological, or educational traditions.

Within each chapter, our aim has been to present an objective and comprehensive picture of a particular approach or method. We have avoided personal evaluation, preferring to let the method speak for itself and allow readers to make their own appraisals. The book is not intended to popularize or promote particular approaches or methods, nor is it an attempt to train teachers in the use of the different methods described. Rather it is designed to give the teacher or teacher trainee a straight­forward introduction to commonly used and less commonly used meth­ods, and a set of criteria by which to critically read, question, and observe methods. In the final chapter we examine methods from a broader frame­work and present a curriculum-development perspective on methodol­ogy. Limitations of method claims are discussed, and the need for evaluation and research is emphasized. We hope that the analysis of approaches and methods presented here will elevate the level of discus­sion found in the methods literature, which sometimes has a polemical and promotional quality. Our goal is to enable teachers to become better informed about the nature, strengths, and weaknesses of methods and approaches so they can better arrive at their own judgments and decisions.

Portions of Chapter 2 are based on Jack C. Richards and Theodore Rodgers, ''Method: approach, design, procedure," TESOL Quarterly 16(2): 153-68. We would like to thank the following people for their assistance in the preparation of this manuscript: Eileen Cain for Chapter 6; Jonathan Hull, Deborah Gordon, and Joel Wiskin for Chapter 7; Graham Crookes and Phillip Hull for Chapter 8; and Peter Halpern and Unise Lange for Chapter 9. We would like to acknowledge especially the editorial skills of our editor, Sandra Graham of Cambridge University Press.

A brief history of language teaching

This chapter, in briefly reviewing the history of language teaching meth­ods, provides a background for discussion of contemporary methods and suggests the issues we will refer to in analyzing these methods. From this historical perspective we are also able to see that the concerns that have prompted modern method innovations were similar to those that have always been at the center of discussions on how to teach foreign languages. Changes in language teaching methods throughout history have reflected recognition of changes in the kind of proficiency learners need, such as a move toward oral proficiency rather than reading com­prehension as the goal of language study; they have also reflected changes in theories of the nature of language and of language learning. Kelly (1969) and Howatt (1984) have demonstrated that many current issues in language teaching are not particularly new. Today's controversies reflect contemporary responses to questions that have been asked often throughout the history of language teaching.

It has been estimated that some sixty percent of today's world pop­ulation is multilingual. Both from a contemporary and a historical per­spective, bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception. It is fair, then, to say that throughout history foreign language learning has always been an important practical concern. Whereas today English is the world's most widely studied foreign language, five hundred years ago it was Latin, for it was the dominant language of education, commerce, religion, and government in the Western world. In the six­teenth century, however, French, Italian, and English gained in impor­tance as a result of political changes in Europe, and Latin gradually became displaced as a language of spoken and written communication.

As the status of Latin diminished from that of a living language to that of an "occasional" subject in the school curriculum, the study of Latin took on a different function. The study of classical Latin (the Latin in which the classical works of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero were written) and an analysis of its grammar and rhetoric became the model for foreign language study from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Chil­dren entering "grammar school" in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eigh­teenth centuries in England were initially given a rigorous introduction to Latin grammar, which was taught through rote learning of grammar rules, study of declensions and conjugations, translation, and practice

in writing sample sentences, sometimes with the use of parallel bilingual texts and dialogue (Kelly 1969; Howatt 1983). Once basic proficiency was established, students were introduced to the advanced study of grammar and rhetoric. School learning must have been a deadening experience for children, for lapses in knowledge were often met with brutal punishment. There were occasional attempts to promote alter­native approaches to education; Roger Ascham and Montaigne in the sixteenth century and Comenius and John Locke in the seventeenth century, for example, had made specific proposals for curriculum reform and for changes in the way Latin was taught (Kelly 1969; Howatt 1984),. but since Latin (and, to a lesser extent, Greek) had for so long been regarded as the classical and therefore most ideal form of language, it was not surprising that ideas about the role of language study in the curriculum reflected the long-established status of Latin.

The decline of Latin also brought with it a new justification for teach­ing Latin. Latin was said to develop intellectual abilities, and the study of Latin grammar became an end in itself.

When once the Latin tongue had ceased to be a normal vehicle for communi­cation, and was replaced as such by the vernacular languages, then it most speedily became a 'mental gymnastic', the supremely 'dead' language, a disci­plined and systematic study of which was held to be indispensable as a basis for all forms of higher education. (V. Mallison, cited in Titone 1968: 26) As "modern" languages began to enter the curriculum of European schools in the eighteenth century, they were taught using the same basic procedures that were used for teaching Latin. Textbooks consisted of statements of abstract grammar rules, lists of vocabulary, and sentences for translation. Speaking the foreign language was not the goal, and oral practice was limited to students reading aloud the sentences they had translated. These sentences were constructed to illustrate the grammat­ical system of the language and consequently bore no relation to the language of real communication. Students labored over translating sen­tences like the following:

The philosopher pulled the lower jaw of the hen. My sons have bought the mirrors of the Duke. The cat of my aunt is more treacherous than the dog of your uncle.

(Titone 1968: 28)

By the nineteenth century, this approach based on the study of Latin had become the standard way of studying foreign languages in schools. A typical textbook in the mid-nineteenth century thus consisted of chap­ters or lessons organized around grammar points. Each grammar point was listed, rules on its use were explained, and it was illustrated by sample sentences.

Nineteenth-century textbook compilers were mainly determined to codify the foreign language into frozen rules of morphology and syntax to be explained and eventually memorized. Oral work was reduced to an absolute minimum, while a handful of written exercises, constructed at random, came as a sort of appendix to the rules. Of the many books published during this period, those by Seidenstucker and Plotz were perhaps the most typical... [Seiden-stucker] reduced the material to disconnected sentences to illustrate specific rules. He divided his text carefully into two parts, one giving the rules and necessary paradigms, the other giving French sentences for translation into German and German sentences for translation into French. The immediate aim was for the student to apply the given rules by means of appropriate exercises... In [Plotz's] textbooks, divided into the two parts described above, the soie form of instruction was mechanical translation. Typical sen­tences were: 'Thou hast a book. The house is beautiful. He has a kind dog. We have a bread [sic]. The door is black. He has a book and a dog. The horse of the father was kind.' (Titone 1968: 27)

This approach to foreign language teaching became known as the Gram­mar-Translation Method.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1355

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