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The Grammar Translation Method. ► 16th century: Latin no longer the dominant international language of communication. ► Latin = a subject in the school curriculum

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the grammar translation method
The Grammar Translation Method

►16th century: Latin no longer the dominant international language of communication.

►Latin = a subject in the school curriculum

►The study of classical Latin and an analysis of its grammar and rhetoric became the model for foreign language study in the 17th and 18th centuries.

►By the 19th century, this approach had become the standard way of studying foreign languages. It was known as “the Prussian Method”. It dominated FLT from the 1840s to the 1940s.

►It was originally used to teach 'dead' languages and literatures such as Latin and Greek

►It is still used in situations where understanding literary texts is the primary focus of foreign language study and there is little need for a speaking knowledge of the language.

►This approach was based on the thought that mental discipline was essential for strengthening the powers of the mind

  • focus on learning the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language in order to read literature in the target language
  • A fundamental goal for students is to be able to translate one language into the other
  • The main skills to de developed are reading and writing.
  • Classes are teacher-centred
  • Grammar is taught deductively
  • Memorization of grammar rules, grammatical paradigms and vocabulary
  • The sentence is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. Much of the lesson is devoted to translating sentences into and out of the target language, and it is this focus on the sentence that is a distinctive feature of the method.
  • Accuracy is emphasized
  • The student's native language is the medium of instruction. It is used to explain new items and to enable comparisons to be made between the foreign language and the student's native language.
textbook contents
Textbook contents
  • Statements of abstract grammar rules
  • Lists of vocabulary
  • Sentences for translations
  • Oral practice was limited to the students reading aloud the sentences they had translated.
the reform movement pre reformers the mid ninetenth century

Claude Marcel (1793-1876) 1853. Language as a Means of Mental Culture and International Communication; or Manual of the Teacher and the Learner of Languages. London.

---. 1869. The Study of Languages Brought Back to its True Principles. New York.

►child language learnig as a model

► the importance of meaning

►reading to be taught before other skills

►language teaching should be located within a broader educational framework

Thomas Prendergast (1793-1896)

1864. The Mastery of Languages, or, the Art of Speaking Foreign Tongues Idiomatically. London.

►Children use contextual and situational cues to interpret utterances

►they use memorized phrases and routines in speaking

► The first structural syllabus, advocating that children be taught the most basic patterns.


François Gouin (1831-1886)

1880. The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages. Paris.

►He based his approach to teaching on his observations of children's use of language.

►He believed that language learning was facilitated through using language to accomplish events consisting of a sequence of related actions: the famous Gouin "series“.

►Emphasis on presenting new teaching items in a context that makes their meaning clear, using gestures and actions to convey meaning

Gouin’s series:

I walk towards the door

I draw near to the door,

I draw nearer to the door

I get to the door

I stop at the door

The door moves

The door turns on its hinges

The door turns and turns

I open the door wide

I let go of the handle

I strech out my arm

I take hold of the handle

I turn the handle

I open the door

I pull the door


1886. The International Phonetic Association was founded and its International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) was designed to enable the sounds of any language to be accurately transcribed

  • 1. The study of the spoken language
  • 2. Phonetic training in order to establish good pronunciation habits
  • 3. The use of conversation texts and dialogues to introduce conversational phrases and idioms
  • 4. An inductive approach to the teaching of grammar
  • 5. Teaching new meanings by establishing associations within the target language rather than with the mother tongue



Asociación Fonética Internacional

Article 1

Foreign language study should begin with the spoken language of everyday life, and not with the relatively archaic language of literature.

Article 2

The teacher’s first aim should be to thoroughly familiarize his pupils with the sounds of the foreign language. Towards this end he should use a phonetic transcription which will be employed exclusively in the early stages of the course without reference to conventional spelling.

Article 3

The teacher’s second aim should be to introduce his pupils to the most common sentences and idiomatic phrases of the foreign language. With this end in view, his pupils should study consecutive texts –dialogues, descriptions and narratives– which should be as easy, natural, and interesting as possible.


Article 4

In the early stages grammar should be taught inductively, complementing and generalizing language facts observed during reading. A more systematic study of grammar should be postponed to the advanced stages of the course.

Article 5

As far as possible expression in the foreign language should be related by the teacher directly to ideas and other expressions in the language, and not to the native language. The teacher should take every opportunity to replace translation by references to real objects or pictures or by explanations given in the foreign language.

Article 6

At a later stage, when writing is introduced, such written work should be arranged in the following sequence; first, reproduction of thoroughly familiar reading texts; second, reproduction of narratives orally presented by the teacher; and third, free composition. Written translations from and into the foreign language are considered to be appropiate only at the most advanced stage of the course.


Wilhelm Viëtor (1850-1918). 1882. Language Teaching Must Start Afresh. Henninger

Henry Sweet (1845-1912). 1899. The Practical Study of Language. A Guide for Teachers and Learners. London.

  • 1. Careful selection of teaching content (what to be taught)
  • 2. Imposing limits on teaching content
  • 3. Arranging content in terms of the four basic skills
  • 4. Grading materials from simple to complex


the principles of the reform movement
The principles of the Reform movement
  • 1. Spoken language is primary, and this should be reflected in an oral-based methodology.
  • 2. The findings of phonetics should be applied to teaching and to teacher training.
  • 3. Learner should hear the language first, before seeing it written.
  • 4. Words should be presented in sentences, and sentences should be practised in meaningful contexts.
  • 5. The rules of grammar should be taught after the students have practised the grammar points in context, that is, inductively.
  • 6. Translation should be avoided, although the mother tongue could be used to explain new words and check comprehension.
the direct method
The Direct Method

The result of "natural/naturalistic" language learning principles:

Lambert Sauveur (1826-1907). 1874. Introduction to the Teaching of Living Languages without Grammar or Dictionary. Boston.

F. Franke. 1884. Die praktische Spracherlernung auf Grund der Psychologie und der Physiologie der Sprache dargestellt (Practical Language Adquisition).

MaximilianBerlitz (1852-1921). 1882. Méthode pour l'enseignement de la langue française dans les écoles Berlitz. Boston.

• second language learning similar to first language learning

• a monolingual approach to teaching = no translation

• meaning coveyed directly through demonstration and action

practical principles
Practical principles
  • Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.
  • 2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.
  • 3. Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.
  • 4. Grammar was taught inductively.
  • 5. New teaching points were introduced orally.
  • 6. Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.
  • 7. Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.
  • 8. Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.
practical guidelines
Practical guidelines
  • Never translate: demonstrate
  • Never explain: act
  • Never make a speech: ask questions
  • Never imitate mistakes: correct
  • Never speak with single words: use sentences
  • Never speak too much: make students speak much
  • Never use the book: use your lesson plan
  • Never jump around: follow your plan
  • Never go too fast: keep the pace of the student
  • Never speak too slowly: speak normally
  • Never speak too quickly: speak naturally
  • Never speak too loudly: speak naturally
  • Never be impatient: take it easy

☛The Direct Method: the best known: The Berlizt Method:

Successful in private schools



• Difficult to implement in public secondary schools.

♦native or with nativelike fluency teachers.

♦dependent on the teacher's skill, rather than on textbooks.

♦teachers were required to go to great lengths to avoid using the native tongue.

By the 1920s, use of the Direct Method in noncommercial schools in Europe had declined. In France and German, it was gradually combined with grammar-based activities.


1923. The Coleman Report

  • Teaching conversational skills was considered impractical (restricted time available, limited skill of teachers, irrelevant interest of that skill for the average American student)
  • Consequently, it advocated that a reasonable goal would be developing a reading knowledge of the foreign language: gradual introduction of words and grammatical structures in simple texts.
  • Emphasis in reading characterized foreign language teaching in the U.S.A. until World War II.
  • Vocabulary was seen as an essential component of reading proficiency.
  • Consequences:
  • A concern for vocabulary ☛ frequency counts ☛Michael West. 1953. A General Service List of English Words. (± 2.000 basic words).