Foreign Language Teaching Methods Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2812 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Communication - Language

Foreign Language Teaching Methods

Globalization and the concept of the "global village," has brought about interesting developments in language teaching. It is currently recognized, for example, that contact with one or more natives from foreign countries during an average lifetime is more likely than not. Furthermore, the information age entails that knowledge from across the globe is integrated in the academic world. This implies that not all academic texts will be in English, and that some foreign language skills are necessary to access texts in certain fields. Finally, businesses generally offer expanded opportunities to those who are willing to relocate to foreign countries. The success of such ventures often depends upon an ability to communicate with the target country's native population. The question is therefore not so much whether foreign languages in a curriculum are important, but rather how they should be taught.

A large amount of debate surrounds the issue, which has also resulted in the evolution of language teaching methods to include several new approaches. One of these is for example the integrated method, by which school children are taught a foreign language not only in the language classroom itself, but also via their other school subjects (Novotna & Hofmannova, 2007) the college introductory level, this is however not likely to be an option. On the other hand, integration is indeed possible in terms of established foreign language instructions methods. When for example teaching Slavic at the college introductory level, a variety of methods are available to the teacher. Integrating these effectively can be a challenge, as students at the college level bring with them a variety of issues, including their purposes for learning the new language (Pufahl, Rhodes, and Christian, 2001). Furthermore, it is important to recognize that some students are more highly developed in language learning skills than others, while different students also have different learning styles. Taking these variables into account, integrating different language teaching methods will have the benefit of catering for a wide variety of student needs; something that a single approach will probably not accomplish.

The discussion that follows assumes the Slavic language proficiency level of students taking the course to be more or less non-existent. A selection of nine different language teaching methods is then discussed briefly to determine which are most appropriate for such a language teaching course, and also how they can be integrated to achieve optimal results. Information for all the teaching approaches discussed is derived from Dr. Jill Kerper Mora (2002).

Total Physical Response

According to Dr. Mora, the Total Physical Response method uses the kinesthetic sensory system to transfer information in the target language. By combining movements and demonstrations with words in the target language, the students are expected to understand the new language before learning to speak it. Information is mainly communicated by means of imperatives. Students are also provided with an individual readiness period, after which they begin to speak when they feel confident enough.

This appears to be an especially good language teaching method for students at the college level. The fact that students can independently choose their time of entry into conversation helps to develop their sense of confidence in using the target language. This is also a level of confidence that students can transfer to other aspects of their college life and indeed their lives in general.

The specific language skills targeted here are listening and speaking. There appears to be little grammatical structure apart from the imperative. This is however a good method to begin the students' language instruction, especially as early success and voluminous learning results in a high success rate and therefore a high level of motivation. The fact that movement is combined with words also makes the instruction interesting and promotes learning.

The Grammar Translation Method

This method is almost the direct opposite of the Total Physical Response method above. The focus is entirely on grammar, with little practice application in the classroom. It is therefore a very good supplement for the Total Physical Response method, where grammar teaching is more or less absent. Grammar is mainly taught by means of reading passages, vocabulary and isolated grammatical rules.

As a method in itself, it does little to motivate students or help them cultivate enthusiasm. These gaps are in turn filled by the Total Physical Response method. The Slavic teacher can then combine Grammar Translation activities that integrate with the rest of the activities to provide students with a holistic experience of language learning. In this way, speaking and listening skills are supplemented with intensive, targeted reading and writing activities from the Grammar Translation method.

The Audio Lingual Method

This method uses pre-prepared as a method of instruction. According to Dr. Mora, this method is based upon the principle of habit formation. The new language is learned as a series of habits, in which grammar is learned inductively rather than by means of direct instruction as in the Grammar Translation method.

All language skills are learned through this method: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Vocabulary is learned in context. Perhaps less exciting than the Total Physical Response method, this method is beneficial in that it directly teaches a wider range of correct speaking sequences, while also focusing on all the language arts. Another limitation is that there is great emphasis on preventing learner error, and that the context of speech tends to be ignored. In an introductory college-level Slavic class, it is then perhaps a good idea to combine the excitement of the Total Physical Response method with the wider range of the Audio Lingual method.

The Communicative Approach

The study of the way in which children learn language is responsible for the Communicative Approach to language learning. Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen created the approach to focus on language acquisition in a naturalistic way rather than in a pre-formatted way, like the Audio Lingual method. The Communicative approach recognizes three stages in learning a language: 1: aural comprehension; 2: early speech production; and 3: speech activities. Like the Total Physical response method, Communicative language teaching begins with a silent period, during which students build their comprehension of speech. This is then followed by a gradual "immersion" in the target language, where students' participation in the language occur when they feel themselves ready.

The focus on grammar is minimal in this approach. It is altogether a less formal approach than the Total Physical Response and Audio Lingual methods. Error correction also does not occur aloud in class, as this is regarded to inhibit the learning process. This method is appropriate for introductory level Slavic students. However, it should be incorporated with more formal approaches in order to ensure that the correct language formats are learned. The focus of this method is on listening and speaking in favor of reading and writing.

The Functional Notional Method

The Functional Notional approach focuses on a very involved and complex analysis of speech situations, and how to use the various elements of language in order to denote meaning. Notions, according to Dr. Mora, refer to elements of meaning in language, such as nouns pronouns, verbs prepositions, and so on. These notions are then used in conjunction with functions, situations and the topic under discussion, in order to make meaning. This approach then uses grammatical elements to integrate with the meaning and function of speech as used in everyday communication.

This approach appears to focus on grammatical aspects to refine speaking. The primary focus is then both speaking and grammar, while writing and listening are in a secondary position. Because of the complexity of this approach, it may be more appropriate to introduce it during the later stages of an introductory language course, when student proficiency is at a medium to high level. Its focus is also much wider than the other approaches that focus more closely on a single format or approach at a time.

The Direct Approach

The Direct Approach is also more appropriate for the later stages of an introductory foreign language course, as this approach is singularly focused on the use of the target language. The native language is never used by either the teacher or the students. Obviously, this kind of approach is largely inappropriate for students at the beginning stages of learning a foreign language, as it may cause a large amount of uncertainty, which again may inhibit the learning process.

Specifically, lessons are presented by means of a dialogue in the target language, accompanied by actions or pictures. A series of questions are based on the dialogue or narrative, which are also answered in the target language.

While there is no direct focus on grammar, this aspect is taught inductively, by means of practice and experience.

Literature is introduced when students have built some proficiency in the language. The purpose of this is pleasure and general comprehension rather than grammatical building. Another interesting aspect of this approach is the fact that culture is considered an important part of language learning. This therefore forms a significant and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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