Monday, March 15, 2010

The grammar-translation method

The grammar-translation method

The grammar-translation method of foreign language teaching is one of the most traditional methods, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was originally used to teach 'dead' languages (and literatures) such as Latin and Greek. As Omaggio comments, this approach reflected "the view of faculty psychologists that mental discipline was essential for strengthening the powers of the mind." (Omaggio 89) Indeed, the emphasis on achieving 'correct' grammar with little regard for the free application and production of speech is at once the greatest asset and greatest drawback to this approach.

As Howatt (1984) says, "the original motivation of this method was reformist." Before this method, the traditional scholastic approach suggested a reading knowledge of foreign language by studying grammar and applying this knowledge to the interpretation of texts. Later, the traditional text was replaced by the use of exemplificatory sentences. At one time the Grammar translation method was called the classical method, since it was first used in the teaching of the classical languages, Latin and Greek.

The major characteristic of the grammar-translation method are-

1. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a language in order to read its literature or inorder to benefit from the mental discipline and intellectual development that result from foreign language study. Grammar Translation is a way of studying a language that approaches the language first through detailed analysis of its grammar rules, followed by apptibation of this knowledge to the task of translating sentences and texts into and out of the target language. it hence views language learning as consisting of little more than memorizing rules and facts in order to understand and manipulate the morphology and syntax of the foreign language. "The first language is maintained as the reference system in the acquisition of the second language" (Stern 1983:455).

2. Reading and writing are the major focus; little no systematic attention is said to sealing or listening.

3. Vocabulary selection is based solely on the reading texts used, and words are taught through bilingual word lists, dictionary study, and memorization. In a typical Grammar Translation text, the grammar rules are presented and illustrated, a list of vocabulary items is presented with their translation equivalents, and translation exercises are prescribed.

4. 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. Earlier approaches to foreign language study used grammar as am age to the study of texts in a foreign language. But this was though to be too difficult for students in secondary schools, and the focus on the sentence was am attempt to make language learning easier.

5. Accuracy is emphasized. Students are expected to attain high standards in translation, because of " the high priority attached to meticulous standards of accuracy which, as well as having an intrinsic moral value, was a prerequisite for passing the increasing number of formal written examinations that grew up during the century ,"

6. Grammar is taught deductively- that is, by presentation and study of grammar rules, which are them spatiafe through translation exercises. In most Grammar Translation texts, a syllabus was followed for the sequencing of grammar points throughout a text, and there was am attempt to teach grammar in am organized and systematic way.

7. The students' native language is the medium of instruction. Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the target language.

8. Having learners get the correct answer is important; the teacher often supplies the correct answer when students don't know it.

9. A paramount/chief use of translation exercises

10. Grammar provides the rule for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.

11. Reading of difficult classical texts is begun early.

12. Little or no attention is paid to pronunciation.

Disadvantage of GTM

Obviously, there are many drawbacks to the grammar-translation approach.-

Worst effect of this method is on pupil's motivation. Because (s)he cannot succeed - leads to frustration, boredom and indiscipline.

. Virtually no class time is allocated to allow students to produce their own sentences, and even less time is spent on oral practice (whether productive or reproductive)

Students may have difficulties "relating" to the language, because the classroom experience keeps them from personalizing it or developing their own style.

In addition, there is often little contextualization of the grammar -- although this of course depends upon the passages chosen and the teacher's own skills.

Text-bound and confined to only reading and writing; not a communicative activity because it involves no oral interaction;

.Not suitable for classroom work because students must do the writing on their own;

Associated with 'different language,' with literary or scientific texts, & not suited to the general needs of language learners.

. Absolute use of mother tongue is undesirable;

. Boring both to do and to correct.

. It gives pupils the wrong idea of what language is and of the relationship between languages.

. Language is seen as a collection or words isolated/independent & there must be a corresponding word in the native tongue for each foreign word he learns.

. The conception of language is neither upheld by linguistics nor based upon any formal psychology.

. Results in a lot ABOUT the language, but doesn't result in the ability to speak the language.

. Academic forms of language presented-grammar explanations are given in meticulous detail.

. Few hypotheses covered.

. Not good for oral proficiency.

. No interaction/communicative practice.

. No cultural awareness.

. There is a concern for accuracy.

. Not proficiency oriented.

Again students are forced to read word by word, and, consequently, rarely focus completely on the message. Thus form, not meaning, gets the focus.

Even when the objective is accuracy, this method is not effective for the students with less intellectual ability. The muddle through the structure and make mistakes repetitively. Thus they build up a cumulative habit of mistakes.

In this method there is no attempt to account for individual variation of the students. As Stephen D Krashen (1982) says, "there is also no attempt to specify when rules are to be used, the implicit assumption being that all students will be able to use all the rules all the time.

Modification the Grammar Translation method dominated foreign language teaching of Europe from the mid eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century. Since then the increasing opportunities of communication among different nations necessitated oral proficiency in foreign languages. New approaches to language teaching were developed al which stressed on the need of speaking skill. Again, from 1880s the members of the so-called Reform movement revitalized the discipline of linguistics suggesting tat language is primarily a spoken form. Thus, a new approach emerged in the form of the Direct Method.


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