The direct method is a method of language teaching associated with Francois Gouin and Charles Berlitz. The method came about as much needed replacement for the grammar translation method. The history of the method took a long way before it had its relatively typical features. At first the method was given different names in different countries and the sort of teaching engendered by the direct method was quite different among the countries. A brief story of the birth of the method adapted from Mackey (1975: 143-148) is presented here.
A long before Direct Method was widley used, there were a lot of reactions against the teaching of grammar through explanation and translation. One of the first extreme reactions was the idea that the target language was taught through inductive grammar by using texts written in the target anguage. With the coming of the iductive teaching of grammar, the grammar translation method became an end.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, there was a movement that advocated the abolition of translation and grammar, and the teaching of the target language through abundant listening. This way of teaching was then improved by adding physical activity in presenting language materials. One of the pioneers of this movement was Gouin of France. He applied principles of modern psychology to the learning of language; he implemented the principles of the association of ideas, visualization, learning through senses, centers of interest, play and activity in familiar everyday situations. This way of teaching gave rise to the direct method movement.
Although direct method was introduced in France, the method was first ignored in the country. The method found some support in Germany, scandinavia, and finally people in France accepted the method at the turn of the century. Later, the method was also developed in england and the united states. Since the method was developed in different countries, the language teaching engendered by this method was at first disorganized and different people tried to understand the ideas introduced by gouin in different ways.
The direct method was finally developed in different directions in differernt countries. In Germany, the modification of the direct method took a form of eclectic method, which was the combination of the direct method and the grammar translation method. In england the direct method was widely used but people gradually drifted back to some forms of grammar translation approach. In belgium the method had a compromise with the natural method. In the USA the direct method was not popular and americans tried out the new “reform” method, proposed by Vietor. He proposed a new approach to language teaching by using the spoken language as a starting point and providing descriptive phonetics. In his approach new materials were taught through gestures and pictures and through the use of words already known. The grammar was also taught but done in inductive way through the study of texts. His approach was also known the phonetic method or reform method. The methods proposed by gouin and vietor migh give rise to the direct method.