Sunday, October 16, 2011

MODULE 4: Comparing Language Teaching Methods

Comparing Language Teaching Methods

All of these language teaching methods provide useful ways to help our learners, however, as we have noticed throughout history some of them are more effective depending on societies’ needs. At the beginning of the century and even thirty years ago communication, especially media was not developed yet. Therefore the demands were simple and static; people carried out their lives in the same area, they did not have to keep long distance relationships, only a few were able to pay expensive costs, now business (for example) has been one field that started and has motivated the language teaching methods improvement because individuals’ interests, profiles and priorities have changed and that happens in every aspect of present day life.

I think the last appealing methods are not attractive because they do not consider learners as human beings and they do not provide flexibility. Working with people implies a sense of sympathy, learners have feelings, intellect, fears, instincts, special needs, interests and expectations, desire to learn, etc; the only way to success in learning is taking into account these characteristics. On the other hand it is indispensable language teachers have the chance to adjust procedures, to adapt their materials, activities, assessment, etc according to their needs.

I agree with the possibility of combining different methods to get the “most effective” one. As I said above, without considering learners as human beings and being flexible no method will be successful. So what I find helpful is to take “pieces” from the procedures available to get my own.

Six popular language teaching methods developed in the past 50 years

1. Direct Method: it’s not allowed to speak in the mother tongue, lessons begin with dialogues in a modern conversational style, actions and pictures are used to make meaning clear, grammar is learnt inductively, the teacher must be a native speaker.
Teaching activity:
The teacher explains vocabulary about Christmas using pictures, realia, and demonstrations. He/she gives details about how people celebrate this special day.

-Listening and speaking are the focus
-Authentic language is used.
-The use of the target language is permanently.
-Learners’’ errors are accepted and considering as a part of the learning process.
-Visuals and realia are used to illustrate meaning.
-The assumption a second language can be learnt in the same way as the first, without considering that the conditions are different.

-Affective factors, motivation, Learning styles, students’ needs, interests and expectations are not taking into consideration.

2. Audio lingual: lessons begin with dialogues, memorization is used, language is a habit formation, grammatical structures are sequenced and rules are taught inductively.
Teaching activity:
The teacher starts the lesson with this dialogue:
Customer: Where can I find the butter?
Clerk: it is the dairy section, at the back of the store. I can show you.
Customer: that’s OK, I can find it myself now.
Clerk: Is there anything else you are looking for today?
Customer: Can you also tell me where to find the shampoo?
Clerk: It’s in the health and beauty supplies, in aisle 4.
Customer: thanks a lot.
Clerk: you are welcome. Have a good day.
Learners read it and start repeating and memorizing it line by line.


-Vocabulary is taught in context.

-Audio-visual aids are used.

-Correct responses are positively reinforced immediately

-The emphasis is not on the understanding of words, but rather on the acquisition of structures and patterns.
-Everyday dialogues are the main resource to develop a lesson.
-Patterns are learnt by repetition
-The responses given by the student in the foreign language are automatic.
-Drills are used to teach structural patterns
-Set phrases are memorized with a focus on intonation
-Grammatical explanations are kept to a minimum.
-Focus is on pronunciation.
-This method does not improve the communicative ability.

3. Affective-Humanistic: affective factors are taken into account in class; emotions are important and determine learning, that’s why class atmosphere is relevant, when learners feel comfortable they learn easily.
Teaching activity:
“Show and tell”: Learners are asked to design their own poster to talk about their daily routines. They work in pairs and describe the activities they do during the week. Some volunteers show and explain their posters to the whole class.

-Respect is emphasized.
-Communication that is meaningful to the learner is emphasized.
-Instruction involves much work in pairs and small groups.
-Class atmosphere is viewed as more important than materials or methods.
-Peer-support and interaction are necessary for learning.
-The teacher is a facilitator.
-The teacher should be proficient in the target language since translation may be used to help students feel at ease.

-Communication that is meaningful to the learner is emphasized.
-Since learners work in pairs or groups the teacher is not able to monitor and assess
every one to give feedback.
4. Reading Approach: Reading comprehension is the only language skill emphasized.
Teaching activity:
Several reading comprehension exercises are available. According to the texts teachers choose particular selections, and include different types of questions.


-Vocabulary is controlled at first and then expanded.

-Translation is used.

-Only the grammar useful for reading comprehension is taught.
-Reading comprehension is the only language skill emphasized.
-The teacher does not need to have good oral proficiency.
- This method does not improve the communicative ability.

5. Cognitive Approach: Through language learners can develop their cognitive skills. Language learning is not the goal is the tool to improve thinking skills.
Teaching activity:
According to the learners’ level and content teachers may state different language and cognitive or academic objectives. It is clear the focus of the lesson is not just communication; the goal here consists on providing learning opportunities and even challenging tasks to improve thinking skills through. WH-questions must be used in this approach, especially why.

-Language learning is viewed as acquisition, not habit formation.
-Learners are responsible for their own learning.
-Grammar is taught deductively.
-Pronunciation is important but it is not expecting perfection.
-The four skills are considered important.
-Errors are a part of the learning process.

6. Communicative Approach: its main objective is to make learners able to communicate; they require a variety of tasks to facilitate students express their thoughts. Interaction is relevant because it creates opportunities to share or exchange information, opinions, comments, etc. Teaching and learning is stated for specific purposes. Real language is the focus of the class (that’s why authentic materials and social functions are principal). Technology is used as well.
Teaching activity:
There is a wide variety of activities to make students communicate. The development of the four skills with one purpose: effective communication.

-The goal of language teaching is learner ability to communicate in the target language.
-The content of the course includes social functions and linguistic structures.
-Students learn the target language in different social contexts.
-Skills are integrated from the beginning, the activities involves the four abilities.
-The teacher should be able to use the target language fluently and appropriately.

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