These are some notes I made on the Grammar Translation Method. They are rather fuller than the present entry. If nobody objects within a couple of weeks, I will format them and put them in place of the present entry --gramorak 21:08, 31 March 2011 (UTC)
The origins of modern language teaching lie in the 17th century study of Latin. Until then, Latin had been the dominant world language of commerce, culture, politics and religion; now it was gradually displaced by French, Italian, and English. School Latin changed from study of a living language to a school subject, study of a dead language. One reason for its place in the curriculum was the belief that that intellect could be sharpened by reading the literature of the Greeks and Romans. The main goals of the study of classical languages were to develop mental sharpness by being able to read the literature in L2; to achieve this, grammar rules and vocabulary must be learnt. As modern languages began to be taught in European schools, methods were largely based on the academic study of Latin. These methods became formalised in the 19th century as the first of the methods to be considered in this paper, the Grammar-Translation Method Teaching was carried out in L1, with little attention paid to pronunciation or any communicative aspects of the language. Students received bilingual vocabulary lists and grammar rules based on texts to be studied. The grammar provided the rules for combining words into sentences. Study of the text was followed by translation and grammar exercises (with little attention paid to context) to reinforce the knowledge. Heavy emphasis was placed on absolutely correct answers. Error correction was done by the teacher. The only skills really practised were reading, sometimes to a high level, and writing, often at a mistake-ridden level. The role of the teacher was authoritarian, and most interaction was Teacher-Student. Advantages of the method seen by its advocates include:
• Translation is a simple way to explain words/phrases. Other methods (explanation through definition, illustration in L2) are time-consuming, and may not succeed with all learners. • Questions and answers in L1 can efficiently test reading or listening comprehension without involving the learner’s, perhaps weak, speaking and writing skills. • Even teachers not fluent in L2 can teach effectively with this method. • Learners can ask in L1 about points they do not understand – and understand the answers. • A contrastive study of L2 with L1 gives an insight into the structures of both languages. Critics see many disadvantages:
• The natural order in which a child learns L1 is reversed. • The most important skill for many learners is speaking, largely ignored by this method. • The curriculum lacks any kind of spontaneous creativity. • Exact translation is rarely possible. Most languages have their own words, structures and idioms which do not have exact counterparts in other languages. • The method gives little real pattern practice; it teaches by rule rather than use. • Learners learn not the language but about the language. • There is no active role for the learner. • Real communication receives very little attention.
Such teaching can still be found today, though with more attention paid to speaking skills. Learners whose native learning styles include the linguistic and/or logical-mathematical may respond well to this method.
- Great.--Bob M 19:26, 1 April 2011 (UTC)