Topic 13 – History of the evolution of the teaching of foreign languages: the grammar-translation methods to current approaches.

Topic 13 – History of the evolution of the teaching of foreign languages: the grammar-translation methods to current approaches.

Language teaching has been around for many centuries, and over the centuries, it has changed. Various influences have affected language teaching. Reasons for learning language have been different in different periods.

Ancient Times

In the very early stages of life we found the Rosetta stone as the firt written document in which we can oberesve how humans try to translate and undertand eachothers. Greeks were interested in what they could learn about the mind and the will through language learning. The Romans were probably the first to study a foreign language formally. They studied Greek, taught by Greek tutors and slaves in order to read the classics.

Europe in Early Modern Times

In Europe before the 16th century, much of the language teaching involved teaching Latin to priests. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, French was a lingua franca for speaking to foreigners. The status of Latin changed during the 17th century and and French, Spaish and Portuguese were introduce in the study of languages through the 18th century in Universities such Harvard. The analysis of the grammar and rhetoric of Classical Latin became the model language teaching with and emphasis on learning grammar rules and vocabulary by rote, translations, and practice in writing sample sentences.

The 19th and Early to Mid-20th Century

The Grammar-Translation Method

The grammar-translation method was the dominant foreign language teaching method in Europe from the 1840s to the 1940s, and a version of it continues to be widely used in some parts of the world, even today.

Early reformes

However, even as early as the mid-19th, theorists were beginning to question the principles behind the grammar-translation method. Changes were beginning to take place. There was a greater demand for ability to speak foreign languages, and various reformers began reconsidering the nature of language and of learning. Among these reformers were two Frenchmen, C. Marcel and F. Gouin, and an Englishman, T. Pendergast. Through their separate observations, they concluded that the way that children learned language was relevant to how adults should learn language. Marcel emphasized the importance of understanding meaning in language learning. Pendergast proposed the first structural syllabus. He proposed arranging grammatical structures so that the easiest were taught first. Gouin believed that children learned language through using language for a sequence of related actions. He emphasized presenting each item in context and using gestures to supplement verbal meaning.

Though the ideas of these and other reformers had some influence for a time, they did not become a method. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the direct method was established.

Reform. Direct Method.

However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, linguists became interested in the problem of the best way to teach languages. These reformers, who included Henry Sweet of England, Wilhelm Vietor of Germany, and Paul Passy of France, believed that language teaching should be based on scientific knowledge about language, that it should begin with speaking and expand to other skills, that words and sentences should be presented in context, that grammar should be taught inductively, and that translation should, for the most part, be avoided. These ideas spread, and were consolidated in what became known as the Direct Method, the first of the “natural methods.” The Direct Method became popular in language schools, but it was not very practical with larger classes or in public schools.

The 20th century

Second language theorist rejected behaviourisim and structuralism in favour of rationalist and congnitivism. They concluded that language learning involves active mental processes. There were two main rationalist methods. The cognitive method and the cognitive anti method. The former was based on meaningful practice through dialogues and practice ruled in the classroom and the latter developed by Newmark and reinbell established that the learner should be in charge of his/her process of learning. There was no book, and no material control.

From 1970 to 1980 a proliferation of methods and approaches developed in Europe. It is worth mentioning.

Suggestoppedia: developed by the Bulgarian psychologist, Georgi Lozanov (see picture on the right.) Lozanov claimed that by using this method one can teach languages approximately three to five times as quickly as conventional methods.It is a set of learning recommendations derived from Suggestology, which Lozanov describes as “a science … concerned with systematic study of the nonrational and/or non-conscience influences” that human beings are constantly responding to inputs.

The main features of suggestopedia are: The use of music to relax learners. The furniture, decoration and the arrangement of the classroom. Teacher’s authority. The teacher plays a central role and he/she is the source of all information.

Community language learning: forms part of the Humanistic Approach to language learning founded by Charles Curran. The key idea is the human necessity to be understood. In order to do so the students determine what is to be learned, so the teacher is a facilitator and provides support. In the basic form of CLL, a maximum of 12 students sit in a circle. There is a small portable tape recorder inside the circle. The teacher (who is termed the ‘Knower’ ) stands outside the circle. When a student has decided they want to say something in the foreign language, they call the Knower over and whisper what they want to say, in their mother tongue. The teacher, also in a whisper, then offers the equivalent utterance in English (or the target language). The student attempts to repeat the utterance, with encouragement from the Knower, with the rest of the group eavesdropping. When the Knower is satisfied, the utterance is recorded by the student.

Silent Way: founded by Caleb Gattegno, and characterised by its focus on discovery, creativity, problem solving and the use of accompanying materials. Richards and Rodgers (1986:99) summarized the method into three major features.

Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates. The Silent way belongs to the tradition of teaching that favors hypothetical mode of teaching (as opposed to expository mode of teaching) in which the teacher and the learner work cooperatively to reach the educational desired goals. (cf Bruner 1966.) The learner is not a bench bound listener but an active contributor to the learning process.

Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects. The Silent Way uses colorful charts and rods (cuisenaire rods) which are of varying length. They are used to introduce vocabulary ( colors, numbers, adjectives, verbs) and syntax (tense, comparatives, plurals, word order …)

Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned.

Natural approach: The natural approach developed by Tracy Terrell and supported by Stephen Krashen, is a language teaching approach which claims that language learning is a reproduction of the way humans naturally acquire their native language. The approach adheres to a communicative approach to language teaching and rejects earlier methods such as the audiolingual method and the situational laguage teaching approach which Krashen and terrell (1983) believe are not based on “actual theories of language acquisition but theories of the structure of language ”

It is based on a theory of language in which communication is seen as the primary function of language, and adhere to a communicative approach to language teaching, focusing on teaching communicative abilities rather than sterile language structures. What really distinguishes the Natural approach are its premises concerning the use of language and the importance of vocabulary:

Language is viewed as a vehicle for communicating meaning and messages.

Voacbulary is of paramount importance as language is essencially its lexicon!

This means that language acquisition can not take place unless the acquirer understands messages in the targe language and has developed sufficient vocabulary inventory. In fact it should be easier to reconstruct a message containing just vocabulary items than one containing just the grammatical structures. ( unit 14 krashen).

Total Physical Response: Total physical response (TPR) is a language teaching method developed by James Asher and it is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, instructors give commands to students in the target language with body movements, and students respond with whole-body actions. Orders and responses serves two purposes: It is a means of quickly recognizing meaning in the language being learned, and a means of passively learning the structure of the language itself. Grammar is not taught explicitly but can be learned from the language input. TPR is a valuable way to learn vocabulary, especially idiomatic terms, e.g., phrasal verbs.

21th century

In the wake of this proliferation of approaches and theories many teachers left wondering about the best method. Nowadays the most accepted is CLT. ( end of every unit). Clt and CC.