Method in English Teaching
The Silent Way is a language teaching method created by Caleb Gattegno that makes extensive use of silence as a teaching technique. It is not usually considered a mainstream method in language education. It was first introduced in Gattegno's book Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools: The Silent Way in 1972. Gattegno was skeptical of the mainstream language education of the time, and conceived of the method as a special case of his general theories of education.
The method emphasises the autonomy of the learner; the teacher's role is to monitor the students' efforts, and the students are encouraged to have an active role in learning the language. Pronunciation is seen as fundamental; beginning students start their study with pronunciation, and much time is spent practising it each lesson. The Silent Way uses a structural syllabus, and structures are constantly reviewed and recycled. The choice of vocabulary is important, with functional and versatile words seen as the best. Translation and rote repetition are avoided and the language is usually practiced in meaningful contexts. Evaluation is carried out by observation, and the teacher may never set a formal test.
The teacher uses silence for multiple purposes in the Silent Way. It is used to focus students' attention, to elicit student responses, and to encourage them to correct their own errors. Even though teachers are often silent, they are still active; they will commonly use techniques such as mouthing words and using hand gestures to help the students with their pronunciation. Teachers will also encourage students to help their peers.
Silent Way teachers use some specialized [eaching materials. One of the hallmarks of the method is the use of Cuisenaire rods, which can be used for anything from introducing simple commands to representing abstract objects such as clocks and floor plans. The method also makes use of color association to help teach pronunciation; there is a sound-color chart which is used to teach the language sounds, colored word charts which are used to teach sentences, and colored Fidel charts which are used to teach spelling.
Gattegno was a rank outsider to language education when Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools was first published in 1972. The book was conspicuously lacking the names of most prominent language educators and linguists of the time, and Gattegno's works were only cited rarely in language education books and journals. He was previously a designer of mathematics and reading programmes, and the use of color charts and colored Cuisenaire rods in the Silent Way grew directly out of this experience.
Gattegno was openly sceptical of the role linguistic theory of the time had in language teaching. He felt that linguistic studies "may be a specialization, [that] carry with them a narrow opening of one's sensitivity and perhaps serve very little towards the broad end in mind". The Silent Way was conceived as a special case of Gattegno's broader educational principles, rather than a method specifically aimed at teaching languages. Gattegno developed these ideas to solve general problems in learning, and he also applied them to his work in the teaching of mathematics and the mother tongue. Broadly, these principles are:
These principles situate the Silent Way in the tradition of discovery learning, that sees learning as a creative problem-solving activity.
Aims and goals
The general goal of the Silent Way is to help beginning-level students gain basic fluency in the target language, with the ultimate aim being near-native language proficiency and good pronunciation. An important part of this ability is being able to use the language for self-expression; students should be able to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs in the target language. In order to help them achieve this, teachers emphasize self-reliance. Students are encouraged to actively explore the language, and to develop their own 'inner criteria' as to what is linguistically acceptable.
The role of the teacher is that of technician or engineer. The teacher's task is to focus the students' attention, and provide exercises to help them develop language facility; however, to ensure their self-reliance, the teacher should only help the students as much as is strictly necessary. As Gattegno says, "The teacher works with the student; the student works on the language." For example, teachers will often give students time to correct their own mistakes before giving them the answer to a question. Teachers also avoid praise or criticism, as it can discourage students from developing self-reliance.
In the Silent Way students are seen as bringing a vast amount of experience and knowledge with them to the classroom; namely, their first language. The teacher capitalizes on this knowledge when introducing new material, always building from the known to the unknown. The students begin their study of the language by studying its sound system. The sounds are associated to different colors using a sound-color chart that is specific to the language being learned. The teacher first introduces sounds that are already present in the students' native language, and then progresses to sounds that are new to them. These sound-color associations are later used to help the students with spelling, reading, and pronunciation.
The Silent Way uses a structural syllabus. The teacher will typically introduce one new language structure at a time, and old structures are continuously reviewed and recycled. These structures are chosen for their propositional meaning, not for their communicative value. The teacher will set up learning situations for the students which focus their attention on each new structure. For example, the teacher might ask students to label a floor plan of a house in order to introduce the concepts of inside and outside. Once the language structures have been presented in this way, learners learn the grammar rules through a process of induction.
Gattegno saw the choice of which vocabulary to teach as vital to the language learning process. He advised teachers to concentrate on the most functional and versatile words, to help students build a functional vocabulary.
Translation and rote repetition are avoided, and instead emphasis is placed on conveying meaning through students' perceptions, and through practicing the language in meaningful contexts. In the floor plan example, the plan itself negates the need for translation, and the teacher is able to give the students a lot of meaningful practice simply by pointing to different parts of the house. The four skills of active listening, speaking, reading, and writing are worked on from the beginning stages, although students only learn to read something after they have learned to say it.
Evaluation in the Silent Way is carried out primarily by observation. The teacher may never give a formal test, but he is constantly assessing students by observing their actions. This allows him to respond straight away to any problems the students might have. The teacher may also gain feedback through students' errors; errors are seen as natural and necessary for learning, and can be a useful guide as to what structures need more practice. Finally, the teacher may gain feedback by asking the students at the end of the lesson. When evaluating the students, teachers expect them to learn at different rates, and students are not penalized for learning more slowly than their classmates. Teachers look for steady progress in the language, not perfection.
Just as the name implies, silence is a key tool of the teacher in the Silent Way. From the beginning levels, students do 90 percent or more of the talking. Being silent moves the focus of the classroom from the teacher to the students, and can encourage cooperation among them. It also frees the teacher to observe the class. Silence can be used to help students correct their own errors. Teachers can remain silent when a student makes a mistake to give them time to self-correct; they can also help students with their pronunciation by mouthing words without vocalizing, and by using certain hand gestures. When teachers do speak, they tend to say things only once so that students learn to focus their attention on them.A Silent Way classroom also makes extensive use of peer correction. Students are encouraged to help their classmates when they have trouble with any particular feature of the language. This help should be made in a cooperative fashion, not a competitive one. One of the teacher's tasks is to monitor these interactions, so that they are helpful and do not interfere with students' learning.
The Silent Way makes use of some specialized teaching materials: colored Cuisenaire rods, the sound-color chart, word charts, and Fidel charts. The Cuisenaire rods are wooden, and come in ten different lengths, but identical cross-section; each length has its own assigned color. The rods are used in a wide variety of situations in the classroom. At the beginning stages they can be used to practice colors and numbers, and later they can be used in more complex grammar. For example, to teach prepositions the teacher could use the statement "The blue rod is between the green one and the yellow one". They can also be used more abstractly, perhaps to represent a clock or the floor plan of a house.
The sound-color chart consists of blocks of color, with one color representing one sound in the language being learned. The teacher uses this chart to help teach pronunciation; as well as pointing to colors to help students with the different sounds, she can also tap particular colors very hard to help students learn word stress. Later in the learning process, students can point to the chart themselves. The chart can help students perceive sounds that may not occur in their first language, and it also allows students to practice making these sounds without relying on mechanical repetition. It also provides an easily verifiable record of which sounds the students and which they have not, which can help their autonomy.
The word charts contain the functional vocabulary of the target language, and use the same color scheme as the sound-color chart. Each letter is colored in a way that indicates its pronunciation. The teacher can point to the chart to highlight the pronunciation of different words in sentences that the students are learning. There are twelve word charts in English, containing a total of around five hundred words. The Fidel charts also use the same color-coding, and list the various ways that sounds can be spelled. For example, in English, the entry for the sound /ey/ contains the spellings ay, ea, ei, eigh, etc., all written in the same color. These can be used to help students associate sounds with their spelling.
The audio-lingual method, Army Method, or New Key, is a style of teaching used in teaching foreign languages. It is based on behaviorist theory, which professes that certain traits of living things, and in this case humans, could be trained through a system of reinforcement—correct use of a trait would receive positive feedback while incorrect use of that trait would receive negative feedback.
This approach to language learning was similar to another, earlier method called the direct method. Like the direct method, the audio-lingual method advised that students be taught a language directly, without using the students' native language to explain new words or grammar in the target language. However, unlike the direct method, the audio-lingual method didn’t focus on teaching vocabulary. Rather, the teacher drilled students in the use of grammar.
Applied to language instruction, and often within the context of the language lab, this means that the instructor would present the correct model of a sentence and the students would have to repeat it. The teacher would then continue by presenting new words for the students to sample in the same structure. In audio-lingualism, there is no explicit grammar instruction—everything is simply memorized in form. The idea is for the students to practice the particular construct until they can use it spontaneously. In this manner, the lessons are built on static drills in which the students have little or no control on their own output; the teacher is expecting a particular response and not providing that will result in a student receiving negative feedback. This type of activity, for the foundation of language learning, is in direct opposition with communicative language teaching.
Charles Fries, the director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, the first of its kind in the United States, believed that learning structure, or grammar was the starting point for the student. In other words, it was the students’ job to orally recite the basic sentence patterns and grammatical structures. The students were only given “enough vocabulary to make such drills possible.” (Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986). Fries later included principles for behavioural psychology, as developed by B.F. Skinner, into this method.
Drills and pattern practice are typical of the Audiolingual method. (Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986) These include
Repetition : where the student repeats an utterance as soon as he hears it
Inflection : Where one word in a sentence appears in another form when repeated
Replacement : Where one word is replaced by another
Restatement : The student re-phrases an utterance
Inflection : Teacher : I ate the sandwich. Student : I ate the sandwiches.
Replacement : Teacher : He bought the car for half-price. Student : He bought it for half-price.
Restatement : Teacher : Tell me not to smoke so often. Student : Don't smoke so often!
The following example illustrates how more than one sort of drill can be incorporated into one practice session :
The Audio-lingual method is the product of three historical circumstances. For its views on language, audiolingualism drew on the work of American linguists such as Leonard Bloomfield. The prime concern of American Linguistics at the early decades of the 20th century had been to document all the indigenous languages spoken in the USA. However, because of the dearth of trained native teachers who would provide a theoretical description of the native languages, linguists had to rely on observation. For the same reason, a strong focus on oral language was developed. At the same time, behaviourist psychologists such as B.F. Skinner were forming the belief that all behaviour (including language) was learnt through repetition and positive or negative reinforcement. The third factor that enabled the birth of the Audio-lingual method was the outbreak of World War II, which created the need to post large number of American servicemen all over the world. It was therefore necessary to provide these soldiers with at least basic verbal communication skills. Unsurprisingly, the new method relied on the prevailing scientific methods of the time, observation and repetition, which were also admirably suited to teaching en masse. Because of the influence of the military, early versions of the audio-lingualism came to be known as the “army method.”
As mentioned, lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output, but attention is also paid to correct pronunciation. Although correct grammar is expected in usage, no explicit grammatical instruction is given. Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom. Modern day implementations are more lax on this last requirement.
Fall from popularity
In the late 1950s, the theoretical underpinnings of the method were questioned by linguists such as Noam Chomsky, who pointed out the limitations of structural linguistics. The relevance of behaviorist psychology to language learning was also questioned, most famously by Chomsky's review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior in 1959. The audio-lingual method was thus deprived of its scientific credibility and it was only a matter of time before the effectiveness of the method itself was questioned.
Manifestations in Popular Culture
The fact that audio-lingualism continues to manifest itself in the classroom is reflected in popular culture. Films often depict one of the most well-known aspects of audio-lingualism : the repetition drill. In South Park Episode #172, Cartman applies the repetition drill while teaching a class of high school students. In Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, an LP record of a French lesson instructs a pair of obliging children to 'repeat' short phrases in French and then in English.
The direct method of teaching foreign languages, sometimes called the natural method, refrains from using the learners' native language and uses only the target language. It was established in Germany and France around 1900. Characteristic features of the direct method are
The key Aspects of this method are:
I. Introduction of new word, number, alphabet character, sentence or concept (referred to as an Element) :
NOTE: Teacher should be aware of "high frequency words and verbs" and prioritize teaching for this. (i.e. Teach key verbs such as "To Go" and "To Be" before unusual verbs like "To Trim" or "To Sail"; likewise, teach Apple and Orange before Prune and Cranberry.)
II. Syntax, the correct location of new Element in sentence:
III. Progress, from new Element to new Element (within same lesson):
IV. Progress, from Lesson to Lesson:
V. Advanced Concepts:
It should be noted that an integral aspect of the Direct Method is varying the setting of teaching; try different scenarios using the same Element. This makes the lessons more "real world," as it will bring some confusing distractions to the student and employ organic variables common in the culture and locale of language use.
The direct method was an answer to the dissatisfaction with the older grammar translation method, which teaches students grammar and vocabulary through direct translations and thus focuses on the written language.
There was an attempt to set up conditions that imitate mother tongue acquisition, which is why the beginnings of these attempts were called the natural method. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Sauveur and Franke proposed that language teaching should be undertaken within the target-language system, which was the first stimulus for the rise of the direct method.
The audio-lingual method was developed in an attempt to address some of the perceived weaknesses of the direct method.
In applied linguistics, the grammar translation method is a foreign language teaching method derived from the classical (sometimes called traditional) method of teaching Greek and Latin. The method requires students to translate whole texts word for word and memorize numerous grammatical rules and exceptions as well as enormous vocabulary lists. The goal of this method is to be able to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics.
History and philosophy
Throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the education system was formed primarily around aconcept called faculty psychology. In brief, this theory dictated that the body and mind were separate and the mind consisted of three parts: the will, emotion, and intellect. It was believed that the intellect could be sharpened enough to eventually control the will and emotions. The way to do this was through learning classical literature of the Greeks and Romans, as well as mathematics. Additionally, an adult with such an education was considered mentally prepared for the world and its challenges. In the 19th century, modern languages and literature began to appear in schools. It was believed that teaching modern languages was not useful for the development of mental discipline and thus they were left out of the curriculum. As a result, textbooks were essentially copied for the modern language classroom. In the United States of America, the basic foundations of this method were used in most high school and college foreign language classrooms and were eventually replaced by the audio-lingual method among others.
Classes were conducted in the native language. A chapter in a distinctive textbook of this method would begin with a massive bilingual vocabulary list. Grammar points would come directly from the texts and be presented contextually in the textbook, to be explained elaborately by the instructor. Grammar thus provided the rules for assembling words into sentences. Tedious translation and grammar drills would be used to exercise and strengthen the knowledge without much attention to content. Sentences would be deconstructed and translated. Eventually, entire texts would be translated from the target language into the native language and tests would often ask students to replicate classical texts in the target language. Very little attention was placed on pronunciation or any communicative aspects of the language. The skill exercised was reading, and then only in the context of translation.
The method by definition has a very limited scope of objectives. Because speaking or any kind of spontaneous creative output was missing from the curriculum, students would often fail at speaking or even letter writing in the target language. A noteworthy quote describing the effect of this method comes from Bahlsen, who was a student of Plötz, a major proponent of this method in the 19th century. In commenting about writing letters or speaking he said he would be overcome with "a veritable forest of paragraphs, and an impenetrable thicket of grammatical rules." Later, theorists such as Vietor, Passy, Berlitz, and Jespersen began to talk about what a new kind of foreign language instruction needed, shedding light on what the grammar translation was missing. They supported teaching the language, not about the language, and teaching in the target language, emphasizing speech as well as text. Through grammar translation, students lacked an active role in the classroom, often correcting their own work and strictly following the textbook.
The Grammar Translation Method
A number of methods and techniques have evolved for the teaching of English and also other foreign languages in the recent past, yet this method is still in use in many part of India. It maintains the mother tongue of the learner as the reference particularly in the process of learning the second/foreign languages. The main principles on which the Grammar Translation Method is based are the following:
In this method, while teaching the text book the teacher translates every word and phrase from English into the learners mother tongue. Further, students are required to translate sentences from their mother tongue into English. These exercises in translation are based on various items covering the grammar of the target language. The method emphasizes the study of grammar through deduction that is through the study of the rules of grammar. A contrastive study of the target language with the mother tongue gives an insight into the structure not only of the foreign language but also of the mother tongue.
The grammar translation method has two main advantages.
Along with its advantages, the grammar translation method comes with many disadvantages.
The grammar translation method stayed in schools until the 1960s, when a complete foreign language pedagogy evaluation was taking place. In the meantime, teachers experimented with approaches like the direct method in post-war and Depression era classrooms, but without much structure to follow. The trusty grammar translation method set the pace for many classrooms for many decades.