Even though silent way has principles deriving from general education, the method has principles related to learning foreign languages. The following are some of the principles of the silent way regarding to foreign language learning.
- The work requires language learners to relate the linguistic signs to truth that they perceive with their senses (Stevick, 1980: 47). This is why this method always considers physical objects in language learning. Rods and word charts are meant to present truth in front of language learners so that they can see them and touch them. Even though rods and word charts are typical in this method, other physical objects may be used to substitute their function.
- Language is not learned by repeating after a model. Language learners need to develop their own “inner criteria” for correctness (Larsen-Freeman, 1986: 58). This suggest that language teacher not always model new sounds of a target language but rather uses gestures or other signals to show language learners how to modify or correct their sounds. Inner criteria of language learners will monitor and self correct their own production.
Cattegno explain his use of the concept of “inner criteria” by giving an analogy to the working of machinery.
“in machinery it is common to reserve a part of energy used by any piece of machinery to indicate it is functioning well; and this acts upon the flow of the energy through it so as to keep it working according to the program. A similar control mechanism has been sought in human beings. When we utter a word that is unwanted or out of sequence, or when we distort a sound, we immediately provide the alternative wanted. This proves that while we are engaged in the jobs of talking, writing, discusing, etc, part of our consciousness is occupied in supervising the activity. This part feed back to the self in change of information which is, then, used at once to either let the flow go on or to introduce correction when needed (Cattegno, 1978: 29)
- Meaning is made clear by focusing learners’ perceptions, not through translation (Larsen-freeman, 1986: 59). When language learners makes a mistake or misconception of something, the teacher does not correct it through translation but he/she tries to show something to make the meaning clear. For example, when the teacher says “a blue rod” to a learner and the learner takes a red rod, she will take a red rod and show it to the learner without giving any comment.
- Reading is worked on from the beginning but follows from what language learners already know (larsen-freeman, 1986: 59 and 2000). Afther language learners can produce sounds in the target language and connect the sounds with the truth, they begin to read symbols in the target language. This process can begin after the first class and language teacher does not have to delay it.
The principle mentioned above, with other principles, make the silent way different from other methods. The other principles of the method will represent the procedure of the method and will be discussed below.