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Methodology is concerned with how to teach and/or study. Many methodologies have been tried and tested over the years and are still being used.

Approximate chronology[edit]

Grammar Translation[edit]

See main article Grammar Translation.

Possibly the most traditional method, based on the learning of grammar rules under the assumption that learners will then be able to use the language. All, or most, instruction is in the students' L1. Still widely used in standard education throughout the world. It is also closely associated with rote learning and language drills.

Direct Method[edit]

See main article Direct Method.

The Direct Method followed the Grammar Translation Method (see above) and was to a large extent a reaction against it. It attempted to give students practice in spontaneous oral communication, and encouragement in thinking in the target language. It was also a total immersion method in that all instruction is in the students' L1.

Total Immersion[edit]

See main article Total Immersion.

A reaction to Grammar Translation that insisted on teaching and learning in the target) language.

Audio-lingual method[edit]

See main article Audio-lingual method.

Like the traditional Grammar Translation method mentioned above, this is based on repetition drills, rote learning and is mainly associated with language labs.

Community Language Learning[edit]

See main article Community Language Learning.

The teacher acts as a facilitator, translating as required.


See main article Suggestopedia.

Teachers play relaxing music or use art to lower the "affective filter". It was developed in the 1960s by the Bulgarian psychiatrist Georgi Lozanov. Additional importance is given to the learning environment as well as the authoritative behaviour of the teacher (Richards & Rodgers 2001, p. 100). The most distinguishing feature of Suggestopedia, however, is the aim to “help the students achieve [...] childlike openness, plasticity and creativity” by putting them into a state called “infantalization” (Stevick, 1976, p. 156) - in other words by removing distractions or negative feelings which may inhibit language learning.

The Silent Way[edit]

See main article The Silent Way.

One of the most well-known applications of humanism in ELT, the Silent Way was proposed by Gattegno (1972).[1] In this approach the teacher doesn't speak, but merely facilitates circumstances which help students learn and based on creating challenges to raise learners' awareness and thus encourage their independence.


See main article Counselling-Learning.

Another example of humanism in ELT, it was described by Curran (1976). The teacher basically acts a "facilitator" providing "an emotionally secure environment" in which the students themselves decide what they want to learn.[1]

Total Physical Response[edit]

See main article Total Physical Response.

Students respond in some physical way to teachers' instructions.

The Natural Approach[edit]

See main article The Natural Approach.

Communicative Language Teaching[edit]

See main article Communicative Language Teaching.

Emphasises the actual use of language rather than a detailed study of its grammar.


See main article Dogme.

The teacher doesn't prepare classes; merely uses whatever happens to be in the room.


See main article PPP.

Present (or Presentation), Practice and Produce (or Production).


See main article ESA.

Teachers Engage students by amusing them and challenging them using games, pictures, and stories; Study, in which students analyse the construction of the language used, that is, sounds, grammar, and vocabulary; and Activate, in which students use the language to communicate, in activities such as role-plays, debates, discussions, and story writing.[2]

Criticism of methodologies[edit]

It is clear that some of the methodologies are counter-intuitive - not to say downright weird. While teachers should obviously view things with an open mind, a certain level of scepticism is sometimes appropriate. It is likely that, over time, experienced teachers select whatever elements of these methodologies work for them and adapt them to their particular, possibly eclectic, teaching style.

It also seems highly probable that something which works well for one teacher (or with one student) will not work for another.

There is also the question of how seriously we should take methodologies; Scott Thornbury has suggested the idea of discrete methodologies may be an oversimplification as they all tend to have good and bad elements, or perhaps good and bad practitioners.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Humanistic language teaching" British Council/BBC
  2. "ESA: Engage, Study, and Activate" British Council/BBC

See also[edit]

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