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Methods and approaches to ELT

Lecture 2
Introduction The Grammar Translation
Learning Theories and Method
approaches ALA
Behaviourism CLL
Cognitivism/Mentalism Suggestopaedia
Language vs. Acquisition The Silent Way
Task based learning TPR
Humanistic approaches CLT/CA/BAA
No one knows exactly how people learn a
language, although a lot of research has been done
over the years.

Certain theories have had a deep effect upon

language teaching despite the fact they had as
starting point the way in which people learn their
first language.

Only relatively recently the study of second

language acquisition has gained great importance,
leading to the development of theories and
approaches to language teaching.
1. BEHAVIORISM B. F. Skinner (1904-1990, Harvard University)
relies on the idea of conditioning (the starting point was the
Albert experiment, carried by Watson and Raynor, 1920).
Skinner suggested that language is a form of behavior.

In order to do that one needs to follow a three stage procedure:

- stimulus
- response
- reinforcement of positive behavior

Verbal behavior (1957) - the theory of conditioning to the way

humans acquire their mother tongue. The child receives a verbal
stimulus, he responds and he receives a reinforcement.

The theory was applied to language teaching in ALA.

2. COGNITIVISM/MENTALISM a group of psychological
theories which draw on the work in linguistics of Noam
Chomsky (1928 - , MIT)
1959 -The model of language acquisition (reaction to
Skinners Verbal Behaviour) - promoted a new theory in
language learning-acquiring mother tongue meant
mastering two levels:
-competence - the finite set of rules in a language
-performance-the infinite number of utterances that can
be produced starting from the limited number of rules
Chomskys idea was that language is not a form of
behavior, but a complicated system based on rules which
have to be learned.
3. LEARNING vs. ACQUISITION - Stephen Krashen
(1941-, University of Southern California) - acquisition
of a language = sub-conscious process which results in
knowing of a language.
learning = a process which results only in knowing
about the language, a conscious process.
acquiring - more successful and also longer lasting
than learning.
children do not consciously acquire their mother
tongue and that this happens as a result of the input
that they receive from the other speakers of
FLT focused on making students to learn linguistic items
consciously, but in isolation.
input - the language that the students hear or read, it
should be at a slightly higher level that the students are
capable of using, but at a level that they are capable of
this type of input is called roughly tuned the
comparison to the way in which adults talk to children, by
simplifying the language, so that the children can more or
less understand, thus becoming comprehensible input.
it contrasts with finely-tuned input, that is language
chosen to be precisely at students level, which becomes
the object of conscious learning.
4. TASK - BASED LEARNING (R. Allwright, 70s)
focused the whole process of learning a language on
solving some tasks which supposedly offer a better
experience about learning than the traditional
concentration on a grammar point.
it challenged all traditional notions of language
teaching and he banished grammar/formal instruction
out of the classroom.
students should be asked to perform
tasks/communicative activities in which they have to
use the foreign language, stating that the more they
do this, the better they become at using the language.
in solving a task, a lot of language can be learned
incidentally because tasks emphasize meaning and
also problem solving.
Allwright did not equate teaching and learning and

he claimed that what teachers think they teach is

sometimes very different from what students learn.
in solving the tasks students naturally come into

contact with language, but in a more natural way,

which tries to imitate real life communication.
see the Bangalore Project N. S. Prabhu,
5. HUMANISTIC APPROACHES view the student as a
whole person, language teaching helping him not only
learning the language, but also developing as a person.
encourage the creation of positive feelings in the

design all kinds of activities to make students feel good

and remember happy times and events while practicing

the language at the same the same time.
See Gertrude Moskowitz (1978) Caring and Sharing in the Foreign
Language Classroom, Heinle and Heinle Publishers.
The Grammar Translation Method - the clasical
method is one of the oldest methods used by
teachers all over the world. Its principles and
techniques are similar to those used for teaching
dead languages, such as Latin or Greek.

it relies on acquisition of language by learning

vocabulary and grammar rules, with translation
employed as the main operational technique.
Steps of a grammar translation lesson:
Teachers model reading of the text;
Students reading (a paragraph or two for each student),
with the teacher carefully correcting every
Inscription, on the blackboard and in the students
notebooks, of the new words, in the form of long bilingual
lists; the students had to memorize the entire list;
Deductive presentation of grammar: the rule was
explained, them ilustrated with examples; practice
Translation of the text into the students mother tongue,
with insistence on the linguistic and stylistic subtleties of
the text;
Reading comprehension questions: teachers questions, to check on
and/or facilitate understanding of the text by the students;
Re-telling the story; the students had to memorize the informational
content of the text, as well as long passages (quotations) from it; the
teacher carefully corrected the students mistakes;
Translation into the target language; the text to be translated could be
a summary of the original text, or some other text containing the
newly acquired vocabulary and grammar pattern(s);
Literary analysis of the text (i.e. a survey of the plot and message,
character portrayal, analysis of the writers style, etc.) to highlight the
exceptional literary achievements of the writer;
Homework: a written summary of the text, a literary essay, translation,
the method mainly focused on reading and writing skills, and
considered listening and speaking of secondary importance.
Audio-lingual method/approach (ALA) - based on Skinners
theory, still used in many parts of the world.
Steps of an audio-lingual lesson:
The teacher presents the new lesson orally and writes the main
ideas on the blackboard (the new vocabulary is underlined);
Explanation of the new words, with the help of paraphrase,
mimicry, visual or realia (no translation); inscription of the new
Explanation (target language only) of the new grammatical patterns
(if necessary);
Model reading (if possible, with the help of an electronic device,
e.g. a record player or tape recorder) so that the students should
listen to native speaker pronunciation;
Students reading, with the teacher insisting on correct
pronunciation; dramatized reading (i.e. the students are assigned
the various roles in the dialogue) is highly favoured;
Repetition of the dialogue until memorized; this way, the new
vocabulary and grammar are learned in context;
Pattern practice for habit information: the new structures are
drilled in similar, though slightly different, contexts (e.g.
substitution, transformation exercises, etc.);
Simulation and role play: the student are asked to act out the
situation and produce similar dialogues (role play);
The homework is as easy-going as the learning process itself:
fill in blanks, tick the correct answer, join sentences, etc.

ALA brought about considerable improvements:

learning vocabulary in context;
a new type of teacher-student relationship;
focus on oral communication.
The rather limited performances of ALA made it inappropriate
for the needs of the modern man.
Community Language Learning aims at giving
students only the language they need.
SS are seated in a circle outside of which there is a

knower who helps them with the language they want

to use. When they have decided what they want to
use, they say it in their native language and the
knower translates it into the target language, so that
they can use it. Thus, they acquire the language they
want to acquire.
Suggestopaedia developed by Georgi Lozanov (1926-)in the
early 60s.
students learn in comfortable and relaxed environment
(baroque music), they are given new names and listen to
extended dialogues, the assumption being that the adoption of a
new identity and the dependence on listening to dialogues helps
students acquire the language.
The Silent Way Caleb Gattegno (1911-1988, Egypt, Maths,
Foreign Languages);
the teacher gives a very limited amount of input, modeling
the language to be learnt once only and then indicating what the
students should do through pointing and other silent means.
no criticism or praise are allowed, the teacher simply
indicates that the student should try again until success is
the teacher can use Cuisenaire rods (rods of different lengths
and colours) to signify grammatical units, stressed and non-
stressed parts of words, even sentences or stories.
Total Physical Response (TPR) James J. Asher,
favours Krashens theory.
the teacher gives students instructions, while the

students, without speaking, simply have to carry out

the orders.
when SS are ready, they can give commands to other

SS learn the language through actions, by means of a

physical response rather than drills.

Communicative language teaching (CLT)/
Communicative Approach (CA)/ Balanced Activities
Approach (J. Harmer)
the CA to teaching foreign languages emerged due to
the changes in the British language teaching tradition in the
late 1960s.
not a highly structured method, but rather a broad set
of ideas generally accepted as good teaching practice.
although it began largely as a British innovation, it was
soon embraced by the educational systems of other
European countries.
Communicative language teaching relies on premises such as:
1. The ultimate aim of foreign language teaching is to develop
the learners communicative competence;
2. Learning begins with imitation; but, unless the learner moves
on to the stage of free production, it does not turn into actual,
long-term learning;
3. Developing language skills is more important than teaching
4. Meaning is more important than form; fluency of language is
as important as linguistic accuracy; grammar should be taught
only when necessary;
5. Appropriacy of language is as important as linguistic accuracy;
6. Active participation and affective involvement in the learning
process motivate the student and enhance learning;
7. Spontaneous, improvised practice is more efficient than
mechanical repetition;
8. Language is a mere medium for communication; communication
has a social purpose;
9. Communication is basically interactive;
10. Language learning should be task-oriented: the students must be
made to perform tasks with the help of the language;
11. Language must be learned with the help of authentic material;
12. Mother tongue is an important element of the students world:
the students mother tongue should be used whenever
explanations in the target language would be too time-consuming;
translation is also accepted; however, the teacher should use the
target language as extensively as possible.
With communicative teaching:
The aim of foreign language teaching shifts from

linguistic content to language use;

Linguistic competence becomes subordinated to

communicative competence.