Different Approaches / Theories to Language Learning and Teaching
In any society, language is important to communicate productively. Without an intelligible language, the geometrical progression of any society is impossible. The best example is the story of Babel in the Holy Bible. Briefly, during the time of Noah, people were wicked and God punished all of them with the great flood except Noah, his family members, and male and female from every species in the animal kingdom.
After the great flood, the people became sinful once again and they knew God would be angry with them and He would punish them once again with the destructive flood. Therefore, they wanted to escape from the anger of God by constructing a tower. God knew their plan and He confused the tongues of the people and they could not build the tower anymore due to the incomprehensibility of the language they were speaking to one another.
This incident proves the point that our lives would become terrible if we do not know or comprehend a language. In addition to political, economic, social and religious reasons, we need language(s) to communicate and to lead our lives well; Hence, we learn as many languages as possible and that’s where the method(s) and approaches to language teaching come into action.
Objectives At the end of the unit, the student-teacher :
- knows the history of English language teaching.
- understands various approaches and methods comprehensively.
- understands the method(s) /approach(es) s/he should use in his/her English classroom; comprehends important terms related to English language teaching
History of Language Teaching
A brief History of Language Teaching
Before we learn some important theoretical aspects of English language teaching, it is imperative to know the history of language teaching, in brief.
Latin was a popular and an important language which was widely learnt in most parts of Europe and middle-east region for many centuries. However, due to various religious, political, and economic phenomena Latin slowly lost its importance among masses.
French, Italian, and English gradually gained popularity during the sixteenth century in Europe. Latin gradually faded away but the study of Latin has become a model to learn a foreign language – analysis of its grammar and rhetoric – from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.
Learners studying at grammar schools in England were introduced to Latin grammar. Children learnt grammar rules, declensions and conjugations, etc through rote learning (Kelly, 1969; Howatt, 1984). After the learners attained required levels of proficiency, they were taught advanced grammar and rhetoric.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Roger Ascham, Montaigne, Comenius and John Locke had tried reforming curriculum and suggested how Latin should be taught (Kelly 1969; Howatt,1984). By the nineteenth century, the approach to studying Latin had become an established practice to study a foreign language. A foreign language textbook in mid-nineteenth century had lessons planned around grammar points. Grammar points were identified, and rules were explained using illustrations.
In the nineteenth-century, a foreign language textbook laid stress on rules regarding word formation and sentence structure, which the teachers explained and the learners memorized later on. The oral exercises were minimal and a few written exercises were given to explain the rules. Books published by Seidenstucker and Plotz during this period were note-worthy. The textbook of Seidenstucker had detached sentences to demonstrate rules. He divided his text into two parts. The first part had rules and necessary examples. The second part had French sentences for translation into German and vice-versa. Plotz too followed the same kind of a pattern. Teaching a foreign language in this manner was known as Grammar-Translation Method or Classical Method
The three major views related to language are:
- The structural view: language comprises structures they carry meaning (e.g. grammar).
- The functional view: language is a medium to complete a certain function (e.g. requesting, enquiring, etc.).
- The interactive view: language is a means to make and maintain social relations in society, concentrating on patterns of moves, acts, negotiation and interaction found in conversational exchanges. This view has been influential since the 1980s.
Definitions of approach, method, and technique :-
- Anthony (1965) put forth the idea of approach, method, and technique in the following way:
- An approach is a set of…assumptions dealing with the nature of language teaching and learning.
- A method is an overall plan for the orderly presentation of language material… and all of which is based upon, the selected approach.
- A technique is that which actually takes place in a classroom.Techniques must be consistent with a method, and therefore in harmony with an approach as well.
- Grammar–Translation Method
- Direct Method
- Audio-Lingual Method
- Situational Approach
- Dr. West’s New Method
- Bilingual Method
- Natural Approach