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Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2017
14 Pages, Grade: 82%
2. Goals of language teaching
2.1. Language related goals
2.2. Other goals of language teaching
3. Goals of DM and GTM with regard to language acquisition
3.1. The Direct Method
3.1.1. Development of the Direct Method
3.1.2. Features of the Direct Method
3.1.3. Language related goals of the Direct Method
3.1.4. Advantages and disadvantages of the method
3.2. The Grammar Translation Method
3.2.1. Development of the Grammar Translation Method
3.2.2. Features of the Grammar Translation Method
3.2.3. Language associated goals of the Grammar Translation Method
3.2.4. Advantages and disadvantages of the method
3.3. Comparison of the outcome of the two methods
4. Goals of language teaching beyond language acquisition
4.1. The Direct Method
4.1.1. Interactions in the classroom
4.1.2. General education goals of the Direct Method
4.2. The Grammar Translation Method
4.2.1. Interactions in the classroom
4.2.2. General education goals of the Grammar Translation Method
4.3. Comparison of the outcome of both methods with regard to general education goals
Two methods of teaching foreign language, the Direct Method and the Grammar Translation Method are described and compared. The underlying principles with main focus on acquisition of communicative skills and grammatical knowledge respectively are illustrated. Looking at possible results of either method we find that there is no gradual difference between them in the sense of better or worse, but that both have completely different targets. The suggestion is made to combine different methods in order to achieve multiple goals and to vary the emphasis according to individual goals.
The most ancient and probably most fundamental controversy in language teaching is the one between Direct Method (DM) and Grammar Translation Method (GTM). Both of these have totally different underlying approaches.
For interested educational stakeholders or educators, there are two important questions, they should think of before looking for an appropriate method: What do I want the students to achieve? How can the learners best reach this goal?
One can think of different goals which should be reached by teaching a language and every teacher will want to cover most of them in their teaching. The emphasis however is very divers between the different approaches that have been developed over the years. And the most apparent difference, a completely different idea of how to teach language (as shown below) shows up between the two mentioned methods and their approaches respectively. This is why it is so interesting and exciting to compare these two methods and this is why I will try to tackle that task in this paper.
Before taking a closer look at the two methods and their approaches we will focus on the different goals of language education as mentioned before:
The first and main goal of teaching a language obviously is teaching the language. But here rises already the first question: What is the language that we want the learners to learn? Are we talking about skills in oral or written language? Is our focus more on active or passive language i.e. on speaking and writing or listening and reading respectively? Are we concerned about correctness or fluency? Does correctness mean formulating grammatically correct sentences or texts, does it refer to perfect pronunciation and intonation, are we talking about style aptly adapted to the contextual situation? And does fluency have to do with the speed of writing or speaking, with the ability to develop own ideas and own formulations while speaking or writing rather than using memorized phrases? Or do we want the learners to know about the language, understanding its structure, its roots, its development? Combining all these options a mathematician could easily calculate the possible desired outcomes of language education. So, only looking at the primary intentions of teaching a language we get an enormous amount of goals. But there is more than learning the language in language learning.
When teaching language, we also teach thinking. Logical or lateral i.e. creative thinking. Critical thinking. We teach learning strategies. We train memory and memory strategies. We teach social behaviour. We create motivation going beyond our subject. We teach values and ethic. We teach culture. We also teach knowledge that extends to related subjects to the target language such as the grammar of the students´ first language, stylistic elements like figures of speech used in all or many languages, geographical and cultural knowledge of the country or countries in which the target language is spoken and whatever material is dealt with in the texts we use for language training.
Keeping all these aspects of teaching in mind we will now have a look at the probably first practiced way of teaching which has later resulted in the Direct Method.
As Celce-Murcia supposes (Celce-Murcia 2014), already in the classical period language teaching had as primary goal competence in communication. The world had started closing in and the classical Greek developed into the koine (κοινή), which was rather a spoken language. It was used nevertheless also in most written texts of the long period from the 3rd century b.c. until the 3rd century a.c., the most famous example of course being the New Testimony of The Bible. What had begun as Alexandrian dialect now became lingua franca for the European world (Metzler 2010). As books were quite expensive at that time, one really has to assume that teaching took place orally in the first place although of course also reading and writing will have been practiced. The focus of learning was however the development of communicational skills.
In the end of the 19th century the Direct Method was born with one strict rule: No use of the mother tongue was permitted! Celce-Murcia lists up the key features of this method (Celce-Murcia 2014): "Lessons begin with short dialogues and anecdotes in modern conversational style, actions and pictures are used to explain meaning" ("The words this and that are model words of the DM"(Chiniwar 2016), never the mother tongue is used), Grammar is not taught explicitly but learned inductively (according to Humboldt´s espousal that language cannot be taught but only better learning conditions can be provided), "literary texts are not analysed grammatically, but read for pleasure" (thus creating motivation), "the culture of the native language is taught also inductively"(Celce-Murcia2014). In the first lessons students are repeating given phrases and sentences, but very soon they should start to think in the target language, encouraged by tasks like telling their mates about their homes, their hobbies and so on. Severe mistakes are not corrected by the teacher but help is given for self-correction. All this has as precondition that the teacher is highly proficient in the target language. This last “conditio sine qua non” may not seem really relevant from the academic point of view, but in fact had great influence on the application of this method, as appropriate teachers could not always be found. (Uhnegbu complains that also appropriate teaching material fitting to the regional context is not always available (Uhnegbu et al.,2015), which however is part of the method, because the culture of the target language should be learned that way as well.)
Let us have a look at the most important goals of this method: The main focus lies on communication. Here a special emphasis is given to spoken language rather than writing. Although active and passive skills are furthered there is a certain bias in favour of speaking. Grammar is not dealt with deductively, but students are expected to develop an intuitive feeling inductively. There is a clear stress on fluency, pronunciation is trained from beginning. As condition for this talking in free speech there is another stress on vocabulary rather than on grammatical structures. Pupils learn to communicate in the language but do not get deeper information about the language.
As an outcome we can expect that learners who are taught by this method or rather fostered in their acquisition will quickly develop a good command of the target language in means of communication, will be better in oral production and comprehension than in writing and reading, will only later achieve knowledge about grammatical structures of the language, but will develop an unconscious feeling of grammatical correctness. Possibly they may have problems in writing or analysing complicated texts, as reading is not a focus of this method and texts used in the lessons are rather narrative than expository.
The most obvious advantage is that the learner achieves a good performance in the target language and learns to think in it. Hence inappropriate translations are avoided. The student will not be able to explain grammatical structures which might be a hindrance for self-correction. In the beginning there might be a psychological barrier because of the completely unknown language (Mollaei et al, 2017). This effect will be enhanced, if the culture of the two languages is very different (Uhnegbu et al 2015).
Before we look at other achieved or targeted goals of this method we will have a look at the directly language-related goals of the Grammar Translation Method.
According to Celce-Murcia (Celce-Murcia 2014) the strand which led to this method began in the Renaissance. People of the higher classes were very fond of showing their good education and passing it on to their children. Middle class parents tried to foster their children by providing them with an upper-class education. According to the idea of rebirthing the classical age, they preferred the classic Latin from the vulgate, the ancient Hellenistic Greek from the Koiné. Accordingly, the study of classical texts and intensive occupation with the grammar were taught. As the related technics were a matter of knowledge rather than practical use, they were adopted by universities and in the beginning 19th century the Grammar Translation Method was born.
As the focus is of this method is not to learn by heart but by brain, everything has to be explained. Typically this is done by using the first language of the students. The target language is not used for communicational issues. Grammatical structures are analysed, grammar is learned deductively. Translations are performed and already at an early stage difficult texts are read. As communication plays a minor role, the teacher needs a good knowledge about the target language and its grammatical structures but does not have to be a fluent speaker. This might be an advantage if there should be a shortage of fluently speaking teachers. (Celce-Murcia, 2014)
What are the main goals of this method? The emphasis lies on understanding the target language, its structure, grammar and relation to the first language. Students do not have to become fluent speakers of the target language, but should be able to deductively produce correct language. Reading of difficult texts and their translation should be learned. Highly developed literacy is the main goal while communication is not fostered.
As result we can expect learners instructed by this method to have good knowledge about the target language and its grammatical structures, to be better in reading and writing than in speaking and listening and to be able to produce correct items of language, especially in translations (even if this might not be fluent). They will however possibly have problems to communicate in the target language.
The GTM is described as stultifying (Cummins,2008) and tedious, thus creating frustration (Liu et al, 2007) and accused to reverse the natural learning process of a language (Khan et al., 2016). Therefore, it is praised as a quick, easy and economical way of teaching, especially where a large number of students have to be taught by one teacher (Memai et al., 2016). Translation is seen as a tool for promoting transfer across languages (Cummins, 2008). Students develop high grammatical competence (Chang, 2011) which is mainly achieved by the stress on reading instruction (Zanjan, 2017).
Comparing the language related results of the two methods one could come to the conclusion that DM- students will be very good communicators especially in oral situations, who may commit errors in favour of fluency but don´t know much about the language, while GTM- students will be perfect grammarians and translators who can´t really use the language in every day communication. This would be the expectation. If this is not, what we see as a result, this is due to the fact, that none of the methods will be used exclusively- the longer the instruction lasts the less. So even if the students go different ways, which may result in a similar difference as described above at an earlier stage, in the end or at a higher level of language competence the two ways will merge again resulting in overall competent speakers, readers, communicators and translators.
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