The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. - William Arthur Ward
Language Teaching Methods
In language study, as in life, if a person is the same today as he was yesterday, it would be an act of mercy to pronounce him dead, and to place him in a coffin rather than in a classroom. - John A. Rassias, Philosophy of Language Instruction, 1967
What are the Methods of Teaching?
Many different language teaching methods have been used throughout history. So, what are the methods of teaching that could be considered as the best methods of teaching? - Unfortunately, there is no prescriptive answer. Each method had its supporters as well as its critics. Some methods have been criticized, rejected and are not used anymore; others are widely used today in many countries; still others have a few followers but are not very popular. Obviously different methods and approaches work differently for different people and a universal optimum method will probably never be invented. However, the following questions are being asked every day: Which is the best language teaching (or learning) method? How to learn (or teach) a foreign language effectively? What is the method of teaching I should use?
Which is the Best Language Teaching Method?There is no evidence that a certain method is superior to other methods and is suitable for all language teachers and all learners in all situations. There is no ‘best method’ of teaching a foreign language, and it is the job of the language teacher to decide which method (or a combination of methods!) can be best applied during the different stages of the teaching process, and in view of that, design a course, prepare teaching materials, select textbooks, and write lesson plans to meet the objectives. Below we will briefly discuss the basic and the most widely spread language teaching methods and will reflect on their efficiency.
Revision of the Basic Teaching MethodsContent Based Teaching Method
Content Based Language Teaching Method or Content Based Instruction (CBI) focuses on the subject matter. The centre of attention can be academic courses such as basic study skills, computers, geography, or cultural knowledge. CBI is effective because students acquire language skills with an emphasis on meaningful content rather than on the language itself. CBI results not only in language acquisition but also in content learning (gaining knowledge), increased motivation, and greater opportunities for employment. Language teachers can create content-based lessons or units by using technology.
Communicative Language Teaching Method
Communicative language teaching (CLT) is an approach to the teaching of languages that emphasizes interaction and is based on the idea that the goal of learning L2 is to gain communicative competency. It focuses on the functional aspects of language and less on the formal grammatical structures. Task-based, problem-solving activities, exchange of personal information and open-ended questions are used as the most important means of communication. The focus is on the development of skills related to the ability of expressing and understanding personal ideas, opinions, feelings and needs. Students work in small groups with selected authentic, ‘real-life situation’ materials and case studies.
The Audio-Lingual MethodThe Audio-Lingual Method (or the Aural-Oral Method) focuses on listening to language models and acting in everyday situations. Learners are given short dialogs to memorize from the tape and to present them as accurately as possible. Students practice patterns of language and drill them until response becomes automatic. This method if appropriately combined with CLT and CBI methods can effectively improve language skills.
Total Physical Response MethodTotal Physical Response (TPR) method is based on ‘speech in action’. It was developed by an American professor of psychology James Asher. The method is founded on the principle that listening comprehension should be fully developed first, in a similar way when a child starts learning a language. Only when listening comprehension skills are fully developed, other skills should be developed. TPR method is suitable for mixed ability classrooms, for kinesthetic learners, and for students with learning disabilities.
The Direct MethodThe Direct Method (or Natural Method) requires that all teaching is conducted in L2. Although it aims at developing all four skills, it focuses on listening and speaking. No translation is used. This method was introduced by the German professor of phonetics Wilhelm Viëtor.
Lazanov's Method of SuggestopediaSuggestopedia (lately called Desuggestopedia) was developed by the Bulgarian doctor and psychotherapist Georgi Lozanov. The first element of Dr. Lazanov's Method is the positive suggestion that learning is easy (students feel relaxed and happy); the second element focuses on providing learners with large amounts of learning material at a level appropriate to their age and interests – pictures, dramatized texts, music, songs and games. This method works for both children and adults. However, it can be expensive.
Pimsleur Language Learning SystemThe Pimsleur System is based on the idea of natural language learning capabilities. It was designed and developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur, an authority in the field of applied linguistics. He taught phonetics and phonemics at the University of California; later he was a Fulbright lecturer at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. Dr. Pimsleur system is centered on four basic ideas: anticipation, graduated interval recall, core vocabulary, and organic learning. It enables learners, by using carefully designed audio-tape programs, to acquire effectively language skills in a similar way as children acquire their native language skills; develops languages skills quickly and without tedious drills.
Language Immersion means that the learner is in a real life situation where he or she must use the target language. In an immersion school the student ‘lives’ the language, i.e. the target language becomes his/her lifestyle. Classes are taught entirely in the target language; in addition, learners live with a family where everyone uses only the learners’ target language. Immersion programs can be categorized according to students' age: early immersion (4-8), middle immersion (9-11) and late immersion (11+). Immersion programs can be further classified according to degree of immersion: total immersion, partial immersion, bilingual immersion, FLES - Content-based Foreign languages in Elementary Schools immersion, and FLEX - Foreign Language Experience immersion. Language immersion environment is often created in language villages and summer camps.
Lernen durch Lehren
Lernen durch Lehren - Learning by Teaching - method was established by a famous German Professor Jean-Pol Martin. It is an effective method for students to learn by teaching their peers. The students take the teacher's role and teach their peers. At present Learning by Teaching is a widely spread method not only in Germany but also in many other countries.
The Grammar Translation MethodThe Grammar Translation Method was the principal method in Europe in the 19th century. It was based on teaching grammar structures and vocabulary with direct translations. Latin language (dead language) was successfully taught by using Grammar Translation Method. Little attention was paid to interpersonal communication or pronunciation. Today most experts admit that this method is ineffective.
Advanced Language Learning Software Tell Me More
Advanced speech recognition technology allows learners to engage in real-life dialogues and conversations. The program features the patented S.E.T.S. (Spoken Error Tracking System) technology which provides learners with immediate feedback and the opportunity to improve their pronunciation. The software is distributed globally throughout Europe, Asia, South America, North America, the Pacific Rim, and the Middle East. It is available in English and in many other languages
.Which Method to Use?The teacher must decide which method or a combination of methods can be applied during the different stages of the teaching process. The selection should be determined by the students’ age, educational background, class size, school requirements, learning objectives and other factors. The teacher has to decide how to design a course, prepare teaching materials, select textbooks, and write lesson plans to meet the objectives.