Language Teaching Methodologies Through the Years

Language Teaching Methodologies Through the Years (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

Here is a reference to the major schools of language teaching methodology that have surfaced in the last century.  I have found that a general knowledge of these is helpful in exploring proficiency-based teaching.  Though most have been proven to be quite ineffective, understanding why they are not effective is important to remind ourselves of what we should avoid in the classroom as we teach toward language proficiency.

  • Grammar-Translation Method (1890s-1930s): It consisted mainly of exhaustive use of dictionaries, explanations of grammatical rules (in English), some sample sentences, and exercise drills to practice the new structures.
  • Cognitive Approach (1940s-1950s): This approach introduced the four principle language skills for the first time: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Oral communicative competence became the focus. Comprehensible auditory input became important and speaking in the target language began to occur. Learning about the language was overemphasized.
  • Audio-Lingual Method (1950s-1960s): Lessons often began with a sample dialogue to be recited and memorized. This was followed up with substitution pattern and saturation drills in which the grammatical structure previously introduced was reinforced.  Repetition, substitution, transformation, and translation were the drills. This method favored habit-forming drill techniques.
  • The Direct Method (1970s):. Reference to English equivalents became discouraged. Grammar learning became inductive in nature without overt explanations. Teacher/student interaction became fuller, guessing of context or content and completing fill-ins. Accuracy in pronunciation and oral expression became vital. Examples to be followed became the main intention.
  • The Natural/Communicative Approach (1960s-2000s): Originally developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen, this acquisition-focused approach sees communicative competence progressing through three stages: (a) aural comprehension, (b) early speech production, and (c) speech activities, all fostering “natural” language acquisition, much as a child would learn his/her native tongue. Following an initial “silent period”, comprehension should precede production in speech, as the latter should be allowed to emerge in natural stages or progressions. Lowering of the Affective Filter is of paramount importance. Only the target language is used in class now, introducing the “total immersion” concept for the very first time, with auditory input for the student becoming paramount. Errors in speech are not corrected aloud. Now the classroom becomes more student-centered with the teacher allowing for students to output the language more often on their own. Formal sequencing of grammatical concepts is kept to a minimum.
  • Total Physical Response/TPR(1960s-2000s): This approach, also known as TPR, was founded by James Asher. In this method, both language and body movement are synchronized through action responses and use of the imperative (direct commands). TPR may be used in conjunction with some other methods involving psychoneuro kinetic techniques wherein the teacher gives a host of commands with the students then responding by “acting out” the command: “Stand up”, “Go to the door”, “Sit down”, etc. Kinetic movement of the hands and arms is incorporated in lieu of rote memorization. Student speech is delayed until they feel comfortable enough to give other students commands too. TPR is very effective in teaching temporal states, personal pronouns, and other deep grammatical structures.
  • The Silent Way (1960s-2000s): Dr.Caleb Gattegno, originally out of Alexandria, Egypt, introduced this classroom technique wherein the teacher remains silent while pupils output the language on cue through perpetual prompting. This is the production before meaning school of thought and practice. A color-coded phonics (sound) chart called a fidel, with both vowel and consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus permitting the pupil to produce orally on a continuous basis in the target language, vía a sequence of phonemes or sound units. The Silent Way truly gives students a spoken facility.
  • Suggestopedia (1960s-2000s):This extremely esoteric, avant-garde method is subconsciously subliminal in texture. It is based on the pioneering efforts in 1967 of Bulgarian medical doctor, hypnotist, and psychology professor Georgi Lozanov and on his techniques into superlearning. Classes are small and intensive, with a low-stress focus.  Material is presented in an especially melodic and artistic way. By activating the right “creative side” of the brain, a much larger portion of the intellectual potential can be tapped, thus drawing out long-term memory.  This innovative approach to language pedagogy maximizes the learners’ natural holistic talents.  Background classical or baroque chamber music, oftentimes accompanied with soft lights, pillows or cushions on the floor for relaxation, accentuate active and passive meditations, séances, yoga, breathing exercises leading into the “alpha state”, songs for memorization purposes, therapy sessions and stream-of-consciousness catharsis in the target language with little reliance on English.
  • Organic World Language (OWL) (2009- ):  Proficiency-Based language teaching that focuses on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). Darcy Rogers is the Founder of OWL, and began developing the methodology in 2003. Her work is based on second language acquisition research, student motivation, and best teaching practices. Focusing on creating a space for second language to be naturally acquired, she believes in placing emphasis on students developing language through movement, social interaction, play and 100% immersion. The goals of OWL are: 1.) To use the second language 100% of the time  2.) To not be afraid of a second language environment 3.) Take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes!) 4.) To be able to infer and circumlocute  5.) To participate & be part of a community.
  1. Grammar-Translation Method (1890s-1930s): Around the turn-of-the-century, language students often translated cumbersome volumes from Classical Greek or Latin into English vía this approach. It consisted mainly of exhaustive use of dictionaries, explanations of grammatical rules (in English), some sample sentences, and exercise drills to practice the new structures. Little opportunity for real second-language acquisition existed then.
  2. Cognitive Approach (1940s-1950s): This approach introduced the four principle language skills for the first time: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Oral communicative competence became the focus. Comprehensible auditory input became important and speaking in the target language began to occur. Learning about the language was overemphasized.
  3. Audio-Lingüal Method (1950s-1960s): With the advent and popularity of audio tapes, this approach ushered in the first recordings wherein the language learner could actually hear and mimic native speakers on reel-to-reel audio tapes, often used with earphones in a language lab setting. Lessons often began with a sample dialogue to be recited and memorized. This was followed up with substitution pattern and saturation drills in which the grammatical structure previously introduced was reinforced, with emphasis given to rapid fire student response. Repetition, substitution, transformation, and translation became the order of the day. This method was strongly influenced by B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist view toward learning which favored habit-forming drill techniques. Unfortunately, most students couldn’t transfer these dialogues into their own real-life experiences.
  4. The Direct Method (1970s): This method presented discussion in the target language as the major priority. Reference to English equivalents became discouraged. Grammar learning became inductive in nature without overt explanations given the pupil. Teacher/student interaction became fuller, guessing of context or content, completing fill-ins, and doing “cloze” exercises were the order of the day. Accuracy in pronunciation and oral expression became vital. Examples to be followed became the main intention.
  5. The Natural/Communicative Approach (1960s-2000s): Originally developed by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen, this acquisition-focused approach sees communicative competence progressing through three stages: (a) aural comprehension, (b) early speech production, and (c) speech activities, all fostering “natural” language acquisition, much as a child would learn his/her native tongue. Following an initial “silent period”, comprehension should precede production in speech, as the latter should be allowed to emerge in natural stages or progressions. Lowering of the Affective Filter is of paramount importance. Only the target language is used in class now, introducing the “total immersion” concept for the very first time, with auditory input for the student becoming paramount. Errors in speech are not corrected aloud. Now enters the era of glossy textbooks, replete with cultural vignettes, glossaries, vocabulary lists, and glazed photographs. A deliberate, conscious approach to the study of grammar is considered to have only modest value in the language learning process. Pairing off of students into small groups to practice newly acquired structures becomes the major focus. Visualization activities that often times make use of a picture file, slide presentations, word games, dialogues, contests, recreational activities, empirical utterances, and realia provide situations with problem-solving tasks which might include the use of charts, maps, graphs, and advertisements, all to be performed on the spot in class. Now the classroom becomes more student-centered with the teacher allowing for students to output the language more often on their own. Formal sequencing of grammatical concepts is kept to a minimum.
  6. Total Physical Response/TPR (1960s-2000s): This approach, also known as TPR, was founded by James Asher. In this method, both language and body movement are synchronized through action responses and use of the imperative (direct commands). TPR may be used in conjunction with some other methods involving psychoneuro kinetic techniques wherein the teacher gives a host of commands with the students then responding by “acting out” the command: “Stand up”, “Go to the door”, “Sit down”, etc. Kinetic movement of the hands and arms is incorporated in lieu of rote memorization. Student speech is delayed until they feel comfortable enough to give other students commands too. TPR is very effective in teaching temporal states, personal pronouns, and other deep grammatical structures.
  7. The Silent Way (1960s-2000s): Dr.Caleb Gattegno, originally out of Alexandria, Egypt, introduced this classroom technique wherein the teacher remains silent while pupils output the language on cue through perpetual prompting. This is the production before meaning school of thought and practice. A color-coded phonics (sound) chart called a fidel, with both vowel and consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus permitting the pupil to produce orally on a continuous basis in the target language, vía a sequence of phonemes or sound units. Brightly colored Cuisenaire rods, which are also used in Mathematics, are integrated into this method (used as manipulatives) for pupils to learn spatial relationships, prepositions, colors, gender and number concepts, and to create multiple artificial settings through their physical placement. Lines or blank spaces on a chalkboard represent syllables, devoid of letters in them, for a subliminal, collective memory experience in recall for the students. Students are encouraged to self-correct their pronunciation errors through manual gesticulation on the part of the instructor. Modeling of correct pronunciation for students is discouraged. The greatest strength of this method lies in its ability to draw students out orally, while the teacher “takes a back seat”. This method works most effectively with round tables being used to promote small group discussion and for ample student rotation. In general, reliance on and the use of a structured textbook or an outlined syllabus is much discouraged during the initial phases of learning. The Silent Way truly gives students a spoken facility.
  8. Suggestopedia (1960s-2000s): This extremely esoteric, avant-garde method is subconsciously subliminal in texture. It is based on the pioneering efforts in 1967 of Bulgarian medical doctor, hypnotist, and psychology professor Georgi Lozanov and on his techniques into superlearning. Classes are small and intensive, with a low-stress focus.  Material is presented in an especially  melodic and artistic way. By activating the right “creative side” of the brain, a much larger portion of the intellectual potential can be tapped, thus drawing out long-term memory.  This innovative approach to language pedagogy maximizes the learners’ natural holistic talents.  Background classical or baroque chamber music, oftentimes accompanied with soft lights, pillows or cushions on the floor for relaxation, accentuate active and passive meditations, séances, yoga, breathing exercises leading into the “alpha state”, songs for memorization purposes, therapy sessions and stream-of-consciousness catharsis in the target language with little reliance on English. Little emphasis on grammar is given. Such non-verbal communication as kinesics, paralanguage, environmental proxemics, and oculesics can be incorporated into the method, along with Robert Rosenthal’s Pygmalia used in the classroom. Soviet Hypnopedia (sleep-learning) which was developed by such researchers as A.M. Syvadoshch in Leningrad and by L.A. Bliznitchenko in Kiev, Sophrology (a memory training system), the Tomatis Approach, Schultz-Luthe’s autogenic therapy, Suggestology, and the Suzuki Method of learning music are considered to be closely related to this Bulgarian approach. This method has sprung two offshoots or derivatives which include Donald Schuster’s Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching (or SALT) and Lynn Dhority’s Acquisition through Creative Teaching (or ACT). Like other “modern” approaches, language is perceived globally (in chunks or blocks), while attention to fine tuning or to detail comes later.
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