Historical Approaches to Teaching English as a Foreign Language
There have been numerous approaches to teaching English over the years but I am going to compare and evaluate the traditional grammar translation method, the audiolingual method and the communicative language teaching method.
There are over ten different methods or approaches but the three main ones I have mentioned in paragraph one are the most common.
The Traditional Grammar Translation approach has been used all over Europe and was popular from 1840 to the 1940s mainly and was used as the primary method of learning another language until about 20 years ago. It involves learning the new language by focussing on reading and writing and learning all the rules of grammar. It is derived from the classical method of teaching Greek and Latin. I myself was sometimes taught in this way at secondary school when I was studying French and Spanish and I believe it was useful and was helpful in that by learning the verb endings I was able to adapt any verb and use it. This wouldn’t be the case if I had learned key words and phrases ‘parrot fashion’ without knowing the root of the verb and the different tenses.
This way of teaching and learning is very much teacher led and very structured. Little emphasis is placed on speaking and listening. Teachers may use literary works/classics by famous authors in their scheme of work and grammar is taught through studying the rules, followed by translating the texts and completing written exercises. Spelling tests are given when students have memorised new words given by the teacher. Higher ability students can be required to translate texts word by word. This method’s main goals are to help students to read and translate texts in the target language and also to extend their general intellectual development by accessing literary works and other informative texts. The majority of the time this method is delivered in the student’s mother tongue. Grammar rules are learned by written work, drills and translating sentences. The skill exercised is reading and only in certain contexts.
For this method of learning text books are used in the main with vocabulary banks and bilingual dictionaries at the back of the book.
The implication of this method for the teacher is that lessons can be well structured, peaceful and teacher-led with lots of reading aloud and writing practise. Students will also become accustomed to using bilingual dictionaries when translating and also be well practised in memorisation techniques. Some students may feel restricted in this learning environment and poor behaviour may be displayed by those who learning styles are mainly kinaesthetic or social. Other students may show lack of interest and not really understand the concepts of the lesson as emphasis has been placed on the execution of grammar. This is a very traditional method and there is very little student to student interaction. To summarise this approach: grammar rules and translation are the central feature of this learning style, meaningful communication is not important, pronunciation is not considered, accuracy, reading and writing are greatly emphasised. Students learning through this method may be lacking in speaking and listening skills as these are overlooked.
The quote from Bahlsen, a student of Plotz, stated this method was: ‘a veritable forest of paragraphs, and an impenetrable thicket of grammatical rules.’ This method of learning has been rejected by many modern teachers and scholars.
The audio lingual approach was first used during World War II to teach military personnel another language. This involves focussing on listening, speaking and pronunciation. The student would listen to a recording of a dialogue and then practise by drilling, listening and repeating, substitution of other words, and transformation. Accuracy with punctuation is very important and translation into the mother