The Grammar – Translation Method

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					The Grammar – Translation
       Dr. Khalid Al-Nafisah
        Dr. Abdallah Ismail
    A historical perspective

• It has been estimated that 60 percent
  of the world population is multilingual.
  Latin was the world’s most used
  language, today, English.
• Latin was taught prescriptively.
  (Explain in reference to prescriptive
• As modern vernacular languages began to
  replace Latin, they were taught using the same
  basic procedures that were used for teaching
  Latin. By the nineteenth century, this approach
  based on the study of Latin had become the
  standard way of studying foreign languages in
  schools. A typical textbook in the mid-nineteenth
  century consisted of chapters or lessons
  organized around grammar points. Each
  grammar point was listed, rules on its use were
  explained, and it was illustrated by example
  sentences. Thus, textbooks are codified into
  frozen rules of morphology and syntax to be
  explained, and eventually memorized.
• The ultimate objective to be able to read, understand
  and appreciate written target literature.
• Through the study of the grammar of the target
  language, the students will be more familiar with the
  grammar of their mother tongue. This familiarity will
  help them speak and write their native language
• It was thought that foreign language learning would
  help students grow intellectually. Language learning
  is a mental exercise, learning a foreign language is a
  good mental exercise for students. Learning of the
  target language and the mother tongue empower
  students mentally (it was recognized that students
  would probably never use the target language, but
  the mental exercise of learning it would be beneficial
1. The method dominated language teaching
   from the 1840s to the 1940s (and is still being
   used in some of today’s classrooms).
2. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a
   language in order to read its literature or in
   order to benefit from the mental discipline and
   intellectual development that result from
   foreign language study.
3. It approaches the language first through
   detailed analysis of its grammar rules, followed
   by application of this knowledge to the task of
   translating sentences and texts into and out of
   the target language.
4. The first language is maintained as the
   reference system in the acquisition of the
   second language/ foreign language.
5. Reading and writing are the major focus; little
   or no systematic attention is paid to speaking
   and listening (oral language).
6. Vocabulary selection is based solely on the
   reading texts used, and words are taught
   through bilingual word lists, dictionary study,
   and memorization (some aspects are still valid
   in today’s teaching although the objective is
7. The grammar rules are presented and
   illustrated, vocabulary items are presented with
   their translation equivalents.
8. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching and
   language practice. It is this emphasis on the
   sentence that is a distinctive feature of the
   method. Emphasis on the sentence rather than
   on the text (as earlier approaches) was an
   attempt to make language learning easier.
9. Accuracy is emphasized over fluency. This
   was a prerequisite for passing the increasing
   number of formal written examinations.
10. Grammar is taught deductively. Presentation
    and study of grammar rules followed by
    examples and exercises. Grammar rules were
    sequenced along the syllabus in an attempt to
    teach grammar in an organized and systematic
11. The students’ native language was the
    medium of instruction. It was used to explain
    new grammar and vocabulary items and to
    enable comparisons to be made between the
    students’ mother tongue and the target
               (the experience)
                  Activity 1
            Reading Comprehension

• The class begins with a reading passage from
  the foreign language literature.
• Each student is called upon to read a few lines
  from the passage, then they translate into their
  mother tongue the few lines they have just read.
  The teacher helps them with suitable
  translations in case the lack the required
•   After finishing reading and translating the
    passage, the teacher asks them in their
    mother tongue if they have any
    questions. Questions and answers are
    communicated        using    the    mother
•   The teacher asks students to write down answers to
    the comprehension questions at the end of the
    passage. The questions are in English and answers
    should be in English as well. (the written mode is dealt
    with in English while the spoken mode = questions are
    dealt with in the mother tongue. (see step 3 ).
    Questions on the passage include three types of
    questions. The first is " right here" or direct questions.
    These are the simplest type whose answer is stated
    directly in the passage. The second is the inference
    questions whose answers are not explicitly stated in
    the passage, students have to make inferences based
    on their understanding of the passage. The third type
    is the application questions that require students to
    relate the passage to their own experiences.
•   After answering the questions, the
    teacher asks students one by one to
    read the question and their answer to
    that question. If the answer is not correct,
    the teacher selects another student to
    supply the correct answer, or the teacher
    himself gives the "right answer".
              Activity II: Vocabulary

• Students turn to a list of words taken from the passage,
  and are asked to give the mother tongue equivalent for
  each one of them. This is conducted as a whole class
  activity. If no one knows the equivalent of a certain word,
  the teacher provides it.
• Students are given another list of words from the
  passage and are asked to provide the opposites of these
  words (antonyms).
• The same procedure is repeated with words that look the
  same in English and Arabic (cognates). Students are
  asked to search the passage for examples of cognates
  and to translate them into their mother tongue.
              Activity III : Grammar

• The teacher reads a list of two-word verbs (phrasal
  verbs). He begins with phrasal verbs that are familiar to
  them, then moves to new phrasal verbs in the passage.
• students are asked to translate them into their mother
• Then, they are given the rule of a direct object with two-
  word verbs (separable vs. inseparable phrasal verbs).
• after reading over the rule and examples, students are
  asked to tell which of the following two-word verbs are
  separable and which inseparable= all these verbs are
  taken from the passage.
• they are asked to fill in the blanks with one of these
  phrasal verbs.
            Activity V: Writing

• Students are asked to write a composition
  in the target language applying the
  information in the passage to some similar
           Activity IV: Miscellaneous

• At the end of the chapter, there is a list of words that
  appeared in the passage. The list is divided into two
  parts: the first contains separate words and the second
  includes idioms. These words and idioms are translated
  into the students' mother tongue. Students are asked to
  memorize them and to write sentence in English using
  each word.
• Students are asked to write out the translation of the
  reading passage into their mother tongue.
• State the grammatical rule and apply it to examples of
  their own.
• Take a quiz on the grammar and the vocabulary of this
                          Summary of the principles
                    of the Grammar – translation method

•   The objective of the method is to be able to read and understand written target
    language literature.
•   The culture of the target language is confined to the literature and the fine arts
•   Literary language is superior to spoken language.
•   An important goal is for students to be able to translate each language into the other.(
    Those are the successful language learners)
•   The ability to communicate in the target language is not a goal of foreign language
•   Emphasis on reading and writing, rather than listening and speaking.
•   Grammar and vocabulary are the basic language elements emphasized,
    pronunciation is neglected. Form is emphasized over function.
•   The teacher is the authority in the class. It is important that students get the correct
    answer from the teacher (model).
•   Learning is facilitated through attention to similarities between the target language
    and the mother tongue.
•   Deductive teaching of grammar.
•   Language learning provides a good mental exercise.
•   Translation of literary passages.
•   Reading comprehension questions
•   Antonyms/ synonyms
•   Cognates
•   Deductive application of grammatical rules
•   Fill in the blanks
•   Memorization (of grammar and vocabulary)
•   Use words in sentences
•   Composition writing

1. Prepare a detailed lesson plan according to
   the Grammar – Translation Method be ready to
   teach it to your fellow colleagues in the next
   meeting. Use intermediate textbooks for
   making your lesson plan.

2. Write down your critique of the method
   indicating weaknesses and strengths and how
   to maximize benefit from the method in our