The TEFL Centre Malaga 120 hour teacher training course content 4 TEFL roots. The road to current teaching approaches.
The TEFL Centre Malaga 120 hour teacher training course content 4: TEFL roots. The road to current teaching approaches.
course offers students a sound preparation in the ‘Communicative Approach
’ to language teaching. However, for centuries leading up to the present, the ‘Grammar-Translation Approach
’ has been used as the predominant way for learners of a second language to acquire knowledge and competence in the target language.
The origins of this method lie in the studies of Latin and Greek. These languages in their classical form are now ‘dead’ (in disuse) and Italian and Modern Greek are their off-spring. As a result there is no speaking and listening element and the grammar-translation approach was sufficient to serve its end of allowing scholars to read and discuss classical texts in their own language. Also, being versed in classics is traditionally one of the defining traits of a person considered to have a well-rounded education and thus reinforced the use of the method due to the perceived need to be versed in Latin and Greek.
But it was in the 19th century that new approaches were developed, mainly owing to the fact that the speaking and listening skills needed acquiring, and the grammar-translation approach was ineffective at getting the desired results.
French born Francois Gouin wrote a ground-breaking book on language learning after his disastrous attempts at learning German through studying grammar and memorising vocabulary (he apparently committed a 30,000 word German dictionary to memory and learnt whole books by heart!). To his horror (as you can imagine after so much effort), it didn’t go anyway to helping him become communicative in German though. When he returned to his native France, he found his 3-year-old nephew had become adept at French and led him to conclude that a language was learnt by perceptions being made into concepts which in turn needed language to be expressed. So he suggested lessons should consist of learning connected sequences of sentences, for example ‘I pick up the cup. I put a teabag in it. I pour in some hot water. I stir and then wait. I drink my tea.’ This is a ‘meaningful’ series of utterances that can be used to reflect real world activity.
Some 10 years after this, the German Charles Berlitz (of phrase book and school fame) promoted the direct method approach. It had a similar idea to Gouin’s, but used no translation, with only the target language being spoken in the classroom and lots of student talking time. The ‘Direct Method
’ was hence born. It was very popular at first, but needed too much individual student attention to be adopted in the public sector and hence did not become as universally adopted as it might have.
Motivated by an ever more internationally-aware world outlook (the II World War helped a lot) the American army in particular went a long way to developing the ‘Audiolingual method
’. It built on the Direct Method, but added the idea of habit formation by memorising key set phrases, drilling structural patterns, contextualising language (more than Gouin’s version), pronunciation practice, and positive reinforcement for ‘correct’ speech. As can be seen, many of these elements appear repeatedly found in modern text books.
The approach got attacked in the mid sixties as research showed that language acquisition was not simply a matter of habit creation and that ‘error’, far from being a problem, actually formed a useful and necessary part of learning. Then in the 70s the influence of linguists such as Chomsky put a new focus on psychological factors, leading to several new methods. The more important of these were:Suggestopedia
(Lazonov 1979): based on Soviet research, it posits that our brains can learn much more than we think if we relax (comfy chairs, soft music etc.), making us ‘suggestible’ and hence receptive language learners. But supplying the surroundings and input meant the method in its pure form was not practical, although it did offer useful insights into learning and how learners often have more capacity to learn than normal teaching experiences suggested.The Silent Way
(Gattegno 1972): No, not the students, silly! The teacher is silent. The teacher’s only role is to promote student-student interactions directed at solving language problems and promote language learner autonomy and cooperation.Strategies-based instruction
(many contributors, especially Malley and Charmont 1990s): Importance is given to the awareness of learning style and becoming aware, of strategy-building activities in the classroom.The Natural Approach
(Krashen and Terell 1970s to 1980s): It is distinguished by the emphasis on decreasing learner anxiety and the fact that production of target language should be allowed to emerge spontaneously by previously giving students copious amounts of language input. Developments in the method also allowed for some grammar input.Task-based language learning
(Richards and Rodgers, 2001): The idea is that by attaching language input to tasks for students to achieve, language can be meaningfully learnt. The result is a focus on the task as the language learning unit.At the TEFL centre
, the course will allude to all these approaches since they all have something to offer. The approach we will be focusing on is the ‘Communicative Approach
’ or Communicative language teaching (CLT)
: It emphasises student-student and student-teacher interaction, the use of authentic materials, personalised as well as non-personalised content, attention to the 4 skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and the role of the teacher as a ‘learning facilitator’ rather than an ‘instructor’.
The reality of day-to-day teaching experience soon demonstrates that there are certain ‘essential’ principles that should be in the awareness of the well-prepared TEFL teacher, and the application of these is a product of being sensitive to the target audience and knowing what the constraints of timetabling, materials and syllabus will allow you to do.
The learning process in language acquisition and communicative competence
embraces so many variables that can influence the choice of how to best use our time in the classroom that a given situation can justifiably call on any combination of approaches. However, ultimately it will be you, the teacher, which decides what that combination should be.
We are sure that our TEFL course
will make that choice possible for you (and enjoyable!), and supply you with a wealth of possibilities so as to always be able to serve your students in their best interests.
Posted on December 13th, 2017