Discussion Questions (1)

The Grammar Translation Method

1. According to R and R, GTM has no advocates, but is still widely practiced. Why?

-- Purpose of foreign language learning: There are situations where the ability to read in a foreign language is the primary purpose of language learning. While it is still a controversial issue as to to what extent training in listening and speaking can facilitate the development of one's reading skills, many people, instructors as well as learners, feel intuitively, that the time spent on reading is the time best spent for developing reading skills. The grammar translation gives people the impression that it is the method best for learning to read by minimizing listening and speaking in the teaching process.

-- Practical constraints: The grammar translation method is the easiest method to use in a situation where the instructor has very limited proficiency in the target language, the class size is large, there is a lack of resources such as videos, cassette tapes and recorders, and other teaching aids;

-- Learner factors: Adult learners often feel like to know the rules of a language in learning a language. They often ask why. They won't feel secure enough to use the language unless they know and understand the rules. This tendency encourages and sometimes requires the instructor to focus on detailed descriptions of grammatical rules in language teaching. Many adult learners don't feel comfortable to engage in learning activities such as role-playing, dramatizing.

-- Testing: Under many circumstances, doing well in a test is the immediate goal of language learning. Thus, How language learning is tested determines how language is taught. Traditionally, foreign language testing has been written in format and has focused on the testing of knowledge, rather than skills. The testing of communicative skills is also usually more difficult and time consuming in terms of both writing and scoring the test.

-- Attitude toward language and language learning: When a foreign language is learned as a school subject, it tends to be regarded as an area of study in the same way as chemistry or math. The instructor tends to teach about the language, rather than teach the language.

The Direct Method

1. Why is this method known as the DIRECT method? What does the word "direct" mean?

--The word direct refers to the direct connections between the new words in L2 and meanings or objects without translation into or from L1.

2. The method is also known as the Natural Method. What does the word natural mean here?

-- to help L2 learners learn the language in the same way children learn the first language, which is considered the natural way of language learning.

3. The DM was quite successful in private language schools but never achieved comparable success in secondary school education. What do you think are some of the reasons behind this? Or what do you think are some of the difficulties for implementing the DM in a secondary school classroom?

-- To help a learner learn a language through the use of that language requires a considerable amount of time and certain level of intensity of instruction. It is very unlikely that school curriculum can provide such amount of time and intensity.

-- An instructor has to be highly proficient in the target language to be able to use the DM effectively. Many foreign language instructors don't have that proficiency.

Situational Language Teaching

1. There are many similarities between the DM and SLT, such as a focus on listening and speaking and the use of questions-and-answers. What are some of the differences between the two methods?

-- DM is more extreme regarding the use of L1 and instructor being native speakers;

-- At the theoretical level, DM is trying to help learners to learn the language as children learn the first language; However, advocates of SLT (e.g., Hornby) explicitly claimed an L2 cannot be learned in the exactly the same as the first language though they do encourage learners to use their naturalistic competence as much as possible.

-- Some differences lie at the curriculum, rather than method level. DM is used mainly in private language schools, with smaller class size or in an intensive language program;

-- SLT is more systematic in its selection, grading, and presentation of materials; It also has better articulated principles such as those by Hornby and Palmer;

-- While DM also uses the visual aids and the classroom situation to convey meanings, the use of situation is a fundamental principle in SLT;

-- DM never achieved the popularity in secondary schools as SLT did. Its use is limited to private language schools.