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					Trends in TEFL Theory
The Decline of Latin Five hundred years ago Latin was the dominant language of education, commerce, religion and government in the western world. As Latin declined in usage, the study of Latin took on a different function. The study of Classical Latin and an analysis of its grammar and rhetoric became the model for foreign language study from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Latin grammar was taught through rote learning of grammar rules, study of declensions and conjugations, translation and practice in writing sample sentences. Latin was said to develop intellectual ability and the study of Latin grammar became an end in itself.

As modern languages entered university curriculums, they were taught on the Latin model. Textbooks consisted of statements of abstract grammar rules, lists of vocabulary and sentences for translation. Speaking the foreign language was not the goal, and oral practice was limited to students reading aloud the sentences they had translated. These sentences were constructed to illustrate points of grammar and were of no use in real communication. For example, “The philosopher pulled the left leg of the hen.”

The Grammar— Translation Method By the nineteenth century, this approach became known as the Grammar-Translation Method. The main characteristics of this method were these: 1. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a language to read its literature and to benefit from the mental discipline and intellectual development that result from foreign language study. 2. Language learning consists of memorizing rules in order to understand and manipulate the syntax of the foreign language. 3. The grammar rules of the language are first studied and then these rules are used to translate texts. 4. Reading and writing are the major focus. Speaking and listening are of little importance. 5. Vocabulary is taught through memorization and dictionary study. 6. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. Much of the lesson is devoted to translating sentences. 7. Accuracy is emphasized. High standards of translation were expected to pass tests. 8. Grammar is taught deductively – by presentation/study of rules. 9. The student’s native language is the medium of instruction. Grammar-Translation dominated Europe from the 1840s to the 1940s. It is a method for which there is no theory. There is no attempt to justify it or to relate it to issues in linguistics, psychology or educational theory.

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Increases opportunities for communication among Europeans during the mid-nineteenth century created a demand for oral proficiency. Language teaching experts began to consider how high schools could be more effective in teaching foreign languages.

Francis Gouin F. Gouin (1831-1896) developed an approach to teaching foreign language based on his observations of children’s use of language. He believed that language could be learned when people used it to achieve something consisting of a series of related actions. His method used situations and themes as ways of organizing and presenting oral language – the Gouin ‘series’. In the first lesson students might learn. I I I I I I walk toward the door. get near the door. stop at the door. hold the handle. turn the handle. open the door. I I I I I I walk. get near. stop. hold. turn. open.

His emphasis on the need to present new teaching in a context and the use of gestures and actions to convey meaning later became part of other methods. Gouin’s ideas had little impact because the language teaching profession was poorly organized and had no channels for communication of new ideas.

The Reform Movement From the 1880s linguistics became more important. Phonetics – the scientific analysis and description of the sound systems of languages- was established. Linguists emphasised that speech, rather than the written word, was the primary form of language. The reformers believed: 1. The spoken language is primary and oral-based methodology should be stressed. 2. Learners should hear the language first, before seeing it in written form 3. Words should be presented in sentences, and sentences should be practiced in meaningful contexts not as isolated, disconnected elements. 4. The rules of grammar should be taught only after the students have practiced the grammar points in context – grammar should be taught inductively. 5. Translation should be avoided, although the mother tongue could be used in order to explain new words and check comprehension.

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Gouin has attempted to build a methodology around the observation of child language learning. Other reformers turned their attention to such naturalistic principles of language learning. These methods were called the “Natural Methods’. Sauveur and other believers in the Natural Method argued that foreign language could be taught without translation or the use of the learner’s native tongue if meaning was conveyed directly thought demonstration and actions. They believed that a language could best be taught by using it actively in the classroom and the students would induce rules of grammar. The Natural language principles provided the foundation for what became known as the Direct Method. Berlitz uses the Direct Method (although they call it the Berlitz Method). The Direct Method stands for: 1. Classroom instruction exclusively in the target language. 2. Only every day vocabulary and sentences are taught. 3. Oral communication skills are built up in a graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small classes. 4. Grammar is taught inductively. 5. New teaching points are introduced orally. 6. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects and pictures. Abstract vocabulary is taught by association of ideas. 7. Both speech and listening comprehension are taught. 8. Correct pronunciation and grammar are emphasized.

The Direct Method was successful in private language schools where students were motivated and native speaking teachers were used. But is failed to consider the practical realities of public schools. It lacked a solid basis in applied linguistic theory and was often criticized by the more academically proponents of the Reform Movement. It was perceived to have several drawbacks. 1. It required teachers who could speak the foreign language fluently. 2. It was dependent on the teacher’s skills rather than the textbook. 3. Teachers were required to go to great lengths to avoid using the native tongue when sometimes a brief explanation in the student’s mother tongue would be efficient.

Developments in the United States The popularity of the Direct Method in Europe lead some Americans to attempt to have it complemented in American schools and colleges. However, a study in the 1920s suggested that a more realistic approach to foreign language study would be to help students gain a reading knowledge of the language by introducing words and grammatical structure in simple reading texts. Reading became the goal of most foreign language programs in the USA. An emphasis on reading continued to characterize foreign language teaching in the USA until World War II.

Developments in the United Kingdom The British applied linguist Henry Sweet recognized the limitations of the Direct Method. In the 1920s and 1930s the Reform Movement in Britain laid the foundations for what became known as Situational Language Teaching in Britain (Audiolingualism in the USA)

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Empiricists vs. Rationalists The history of language teaching doesn’t have a linear development. The faults of one method are not corrected by each superseding method. Rather we have two separate histories. The great theoretical division between linguists – the empiricists vs. the rationalists – also divides the language teaching methodologies. Decisions on language teaching methodology have not been primarily the result of practical and disinterested experimentation; they have been decisions based instead on differing theories of language. Definition of Terms Empiricism – the view that experience (especially of the senses) is the only source of knowledge. Rationalism – the theory that the exercise of reason provides the only valid basis for action or belief. Behaviorism – the psychological school that believes that observable behavior rather than mental activity is the essential scientific basis of psychological data. Empiricists - [Behaviourists] European American Jespersen, Palmer, European Leonard Bloomfield and the Reform Movement Descriptive Linguists Empiricists Teaching Methods Imitative methods of mimicry and memorization with pattern drills. Rationalists Francois Gouin Berlitz De Sauze Noam Chomksy Rationalists teaching methods Grammar-Translation Gouin’s Series Method Direct Methods (Berlitz and de Sauze)

Basic Tenets of the Empiricists 1. Language acquisition is a kind of habit formation through conditioning and drill. 2. Normal use of language is either mimicry or analogy; grammatical rules are merely descriptions of habits. 3. Extreme behaviorists believe that human s use the same learning processes as other animals – a stimulus-response model of conditioning. 4. The mind is a blank tablet upon which the outside world imposes various sorts of knowledge. 5. Humans are essentially machines, which have been molded by the outside world. Basic Tenets of the Rationalists 1. Man is born with the ability to think and learn a speciailized cognitive code called human language. 2. Man is equipped with a highly organized brain that permits certain kinds of mental activity which are impossible for other animals 3. All languages work in the same way – they all have words and sentences and sound systems and grammatical relations. These universals of language to the structure of the brain. Birds inherit the ability to fly, and fish too swim. Men inherit the ability to think and to use language in a manner, which is unique to our species. 4. A given language has to be learned, but the capacity to learn languages is inherited. 5. Language learning is creative not imitative. Knowledge of a language allows a person to understand infinitely many new sentences, and to create grammatical sentences.

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The Empiricist Approach of Structural Linguistics Language is based on structural patterns Behaviorists and descriptive linguists refuse to admit that ‘knowledge’ of a language might be primarily a matter of the mind, of mental activity. Descriptive linguists want to make their study of language scientific. They will describe only what they can observe. The mind can’t be observed and therefore can’t be studied scientifically. Language is a collection of concrete observable signs. There is no hidden structure, which can’t be observed directly. The descriptive approach leads directly to structuralism. The concrete signs of language have a structure rather than a rule-governed grammar. The fundamental units of structural descriptions are the distinctive sounds of language, the phonemes. These sounds are combined into meaningful units, morphemes. Then we make words out of morphemes. Finally, we make phrases and sentences out of phrases. Sentences were thought to be built by analogy to the structural patterns of sentences previously heard. Whenever a person speaks, he is either mimicking or analogizing. The sounds of the language are the building blocks and the empiricists (structuralists) are obsessed with phonology and pronunciation. A Language is a Set of Habits By downplaying the role of mind and knowledge the descriptive linguists believe that language is a set of habits acquired by conditioning. Babies acquire language by repetition and by receiving positive and negative reinforcement. Through mimicry and imitation the child learns to speak without thinking. All we need to do is mimic a few basic sentences, and then make new ones by analogy as the occasion arises. This is the basis for pattern drills in the classroom. Memorization speeds up the process of accumulating a store of sentences. Skinner believed that human language is essentially not different from gesture language or animal language. Teach the Language, not About the Language Empiricists believe that language is a set of habits. Therefore, teaching language is teaching a set of habits, not a set of rules for sentence formation. There is no possibility that the rule of grammar might be a description of some sort of mental rule by which (perhaps without conscious thought) a speaker forms sentences; instead, the rule of grammar is a summary of behavior. Structure is different from grammar. (Structure = students master the structure of the language as a conditioned response. Grammar = teachers lead the students to reason out their answer according to the ‘rules’.) Not to teach about the language is to avoid giving grammatical rules for sentence formation, since the notion of rule following is inconceivable in the behaviorist tradition. The Native Speaker is Always Right Teachers in the empiricist approach have a profound fear of mistakes, because mistakes are seen as first step in forming bad habits. Memorization of authentic sentences spoken by native speakers is very important. Rote memorization and repetition of native speech is central for the empiricists. Languages are Different Descriptive linguists believe that there are no linguistic universals. Languages can differ from each other unpredictably and without limit. We can’t infer rules and make generalizations. For the empiricists students should merely memorize the genuine utterances of native speakers and allow the habits of the language to be imposed upon them.

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The Rationalist Approach to Language Learning A Living Language is Characterized by Rule-Governed Creativity A language learner must learn certain fundamental principles that govern the structure of that language and that enable him to generalize, to multiply his experience a thousand times. To know a number of ready-made sentences is not to know the language. To know a language is to be able to create new sentences in the language. Language is creative. An infinite number of sentences can be constructed by what seems to be a rather small finite number of grammatical rules. Making a conscious effort to figure out how to say things is more efficient than hoping we will unconsciously learn how to say tings if we memorize enough basic sentences.

The Rules of Grammar are Psychologically Real Children can’t formulate the rules of grammar which they use so how can we say they ‘know’ these rules. Knowledge doesn’t always have to be formulated. Children can use tools before they learn the name for these tools. We can distinguish between a rule and a formulation of a rule. The rule can be psychologically real without any formulation of it. We don’t need to memorize the rules from a grammar book. A few carefully chosen examples of a rule in operation can lead us to understand the rule. Embedding these examples in a dialog to be memorized might hide their significance entirely. The rules of grammar are psychologically real and indicate that language use is closely linked to thinking. If a person has merely memorized the formulations of the rules from a grammar book, then the rules are not yet psychologically real and can’t be used for thinking in and language remains dead for that person.

Man is Specially Equipped to Learn Languages Languages are not so different. On the abstract level all human languages have a similar design. The similarities among all languages define human language as being qualitatively different from the so-called ‘animal languages’ and they seem to be dependent on the biological make up of man. It is not just the size of man’s brain that allows him to learn language; it is the organization of his brain. Developmental studies of language learning are extremely important in showing the dependence of language learning on biological processes. The language development of every child is remarkably similar regardless of the language or culture. Some children learn language sooner and faster than others, but the order of development is more or less the same for most children. Exposure to the target language is no guarantee that a person will learn the language. It is the meaning of the words and sentences that is crucial to language learning. Languages can’t be learned without a situation of meaningful use. A learner must be actively involved in learning. Man is specifically equipped to learn languages. Language habits are not imposed from the outside – they are learned by the human brain.

A Living Language is a Language in which we can Think A learner can’t say he knows a language until he thinks in it. Memorizing sentences and patterns will help a learner to perform certain tasks in the target language. However, this doesn’t mean that he is competent in that language. If a student has memorized the rules of the language, then the rules are not yet psychologically real and can’t be used for thinking and the language remains dead.

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Rationalist vs. Empiricist: Comparison The issue at stake for the rationalist is that language is a mental phenomenon and must be treated as such. For the empiricist the issue at stake is ‘science’. If language is going to be studied scientifically, we must exclude all evidence about language except the observable overt linguistic behavior of other people. Rationalists argue that the richest potential gold mine of linguistic information comes from our own knowledge of our native tongue. Rationalists believe we have a well-defined system of rules which can generate infinitely many new grammatical sentences and which can rule out deviant utterances as being ungrammatical. The empiricists would say that language is an ill-defined systems of habits which allows any new sentences produced by such flexible processes as analogy, blending, and editing, and which would not rule out any utterance as ungrammatical. It makes a world of difference whether a linguist looks at language and sees a system of conditioned habit or a symbolic system, which a person knows; whether he sees in language use a process of mimicry and analogy, or a process of rule-governed creativity. And one of the greatest practical differences between the theories lies in the language teaching methodologies, which they spawn.

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