Language Teaching

History of language teaching

The history of language teaching presented in this book has been mostly adaptep from Mackey (1975) and Richard and Rodgers (1986 and 2001). The development is presented chronologically so that the history of language teaching can be easily traced back from the past. Some ways of teaching foreign laguages adapted from the book are not necessarily methods, they may be simply collection of some lessons of teaching experiences. Therefore, the presentation of the history of language teaching in this chapter does not imply the development of teaching metods.

Before the nineteenth century

The beginning of foreign language teaching might not be sparated from the Roman Empire when the Romans studied Greek as their scond language. They studied Greek by inviting Greek tutors or having Gree-speaking servants in the household. Finally, peoples in Europe began to learn another foreign language and think about language teaching methods. The first concern with language teaching method in Europe had to do with teaching of Latin. The teaching of Latin began with expansion of the Roman Empire. As the empire expand, people began to learn Latin until that language became the international language of the Western Word, which was the language of church and state at that time. Soon, the language was widely used and became the only medium of instruction in the schools. This made people learn the language as a subject and the methods were mostly limited to Latin grammar for clerics to speak, read and write in their second language, the language in which nearly all academic learning was done. This could be the first way of teaching a foreign language.

The Latin which was taught at schools was Latin which was written several centuries older than the Latin spoken in academic Europe at that time. Old latin was considered very complicated and the mastery of the language was no longer practical. The purpose of learning latin at that time was only the preparation of the Latin classics. At that time there were a number of attempts to improve the teaching of Latin by doing away with the learning of grammar. One prominent scholar who attempted to improve the teaching Latin grammar was Di Marinis (1532) as well as luther, who was opposed to too much formal grammar and to the teaching of rules. The improvement of teaching a foreign language was also suggested by a Czech educator, Jan Comenius (1631), who used imitation, repetition and plenty of practice in both reading and speaking. He was also the one who first attempted to teach grammar inductively and to teach language through pictures.

The emphasis of language teaching changed by the time. Up to the last quarte of the eighteenth century the usual practice in schools was to translate from the second language into the first. Translation way already took the position of teaching grammar. This way of teaching was associated with the work of Meidenger, who 1783 published the writing which advocated translation into the second language through the application of rules of grammar. With the coming of the grammar Translation Methos, the teaching of Latin grammar had become an end in itself. The teaching of Latin grammar had become formalized into sort of intellectual exercises.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the teaching of foreign language was done by providing language learners with texts based on simple sentences containing most of the grammatical features of the target language. At that time a foreign language was taught by using the first language to acquire the foreign language. The scholar who advocated this way was Karl Plotz (1819-81). His method was divided into two parts: 1. Rules and paradigms. And 2. Sentences  for translation into and out of the second language. This might be the introduction of the Grammar Translation Method.

Afther the nineteenth century

The language teaching which emphasized grammar and translation was soon criticized and a new method was introduced. In 1867 Claude Marcel advocated the abolition of translation and grammar rules and the teaching of language first through comprehension of texts. He suggested the teaching of language through abundant listening, then through the reading of simple and familiar material, followed later by speaking and writing. As a reaction against the grammar translation method, in 1866 Heness had started a private school for teaching languages by a natural method, whose assumtion is that languge learners learn a foreign language in the same a child learn the first languge. In 1880 Francois Gouin also added a new element to language teaching physical activity. The idea proposed by Gouin was relatively new at that time but it was first ignored. At the same time the reaction to the grammar translation method also came from vietor. He proposed a new approach to language teaching by using the spoken language as a starting point and providing descriptive phonetics. In this approach new materials were taught thruough 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 might have given rise to the Direct Method.

At the beginning of the twentieth the Direct Method had a definite pattern and the term “Direct Method” was established. The method maintained the principle that no use of the learners language, the typical text started with the spoken language, and reading and writing came later. However, as the principles of the Direct Method spread there was more and compromise with them in order to meet the growing demands for measurable standards of accurancy. The development of the principles included vocabulary exercise and systematic drills of grammar. Even, at a more advanced level translation was included. At all levels certain standards of correctness were required. Finally, the Direct Method almost lost its typical features.

The Direct Method was finally developed in different directions in different countries. In Germany, the modification of the Direct Method took a from of Ecletic 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 froms 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, a method which was similar to the Direct Method.

The Direct Method, whose objective was the ability in using the language orally, was finally reevaluated in the USA. It was believed that student only wasted their time in schools in trying to achieve something ipossible: speaking in the target language. It would be useful if they learned something attainable: teading in the target language. This assumtion gave a way to the Reading Method. However, the reading Method did not last very long. The method was unsucceful in preparing people to communicate in the target language when the USA government needed its people to master foreign languages for international communication in short time. This idea was caused by the need to make the USA Army able to speak foreign languages which were spoken in other parts of the world. This condition trigged the government to think about a new method of teaching foreign languages. In 1942 a new method was established and named the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), or often called the Army Method. This method was the embryo of the Audio-Lingual Method.

The new era

Theaching methods are the applications of theoretical findings; they may have developed from theories and then put into practice. The second half of the twentieth century has given new languge teaching methods. One of the new methods that has been well known and used internatioanally is Audio-Lingual Method. It seems that the method is the only method that has been developed very well. The USA government funded the project of developing the method. Many people involved the project. Not only language teachers but also linguits and psycholgists were involved in the project. Finally, in 1960’s the method was widely adopted for teaching foreign languages in North American colleges and universities. It provided the mehodological foundations for materials for the teaching of foreign languages at college and university level: in the USA and Canada, and its principles formed the basis of such widely used series as tha Lado English Series and English 900 (Richards and Rodgers, 1986: 48). These material are still in use today.

Not long after the emergence of the Audio-Lingual Method, some other new methods have been developed. The new methods have been developed based on theories of the language and theories of language teaching or learning. The new methods –to mention some –are the Silent Way of Gattegno, the community language learning of Curran, the total Physical Response of Asher, Suggestopedia of Lozanov and Communicative Language Teaching. It is interesting that most of the methods were developed in the USA. One of method mentioned-Suggestopedia- was developed in East European countries and one- Communicative Language Teaching- in England. At glance the new methods are differents one from another, or different from the traditional methods. If we compare their underlying principles of the methods, the methods have many things in common with other methods. Or, the new methods may have been developed from the traditional methods. For example, the Silent Way and the Total Physical Response, two of the new methods, seem to share a principle that the presence of physical objects promotes learning. Also, the activities in the Total Physical response cannot be easily distinguished from those of the Gouin method, which used physical activities to present language materials. The community language learning, whose language syllabus comes from the students, cannot be separated from the Unit method, which trusted its syllabus on a vote by language learners.

Teaching methods have been introduced in language teaching for a long time and they can be traced back several centuries ago. The history of language teaching methods began with grammar teaching of Latin and Greek, and then the method was improved with the introduction of translation in teaching the languages, which was populary known as the Grammar Translation Method (GTM). The GTM was also called the classical methods since it was first used in the teaching of classical languages, latin and greek. Since Latin was learned based on written language of classical literature, the GTM ignores authentic spoken communication and social contexts of the language. This method was widely used for century before the method was replaced by the Direct Method, which emphasized on the mastery of the target language for communication. Finally, the second half of the twentieth century has given new language teaching methods, namely: Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), the Silent Way, the community language learning (CLL), the total physical response (TPR), suggestopedia, communicative language teaching (CLT), and some others. Some methods may have been developed based on experience in teaching a foreign language in the past without considering theories on language teaching. Some people may disagree that such methods can be clasified as methods even though some other people call them methods. The methods may be just a group of activities in teaching experience or they are just single activities in language teaching. Or, they are probably not methods but they may be assumptions in language teaching. This kind of argument may happen among language teachers since different teachers may have different perceptions toward the nature of method. In order to have similar preceptions towards the nature of method, the concepts of approach, method and technique will be discussed in the following section.


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