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In this lesson we discuss several popular and effective methods, approaches, and teaching techniques that can help your students learn a new language.

Grammar-Translation Method

‘Estoy, estas, esta’ drones the class.

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‘Excellent. And again,’ replies the instructor. Seem familiar? This is the way language used to be taught, with dozens of students repeating conjugations, checking dictionaries, making translations, and getting incredibly bored in the process. Not only was this method boring, it was terribly ineffective. Today there are numerous ways language can be taught, and each approach has its own merits.This example is a perfect illustration of the Grammar-Translation Method of language learning.

It relies on heavy translation and memorization through repetition, and lessons are taught almost completely in the students’ primary language. Grammar is of the utmost importance, and text translation aids grammatical comprehension. Though this method does little to improve students’ ability to speak in their new (or target) language, they often gain a great understanding of its rules of grammar and spelling.

Direct Method

The Direct Method is almost the exact opposite of the Grammar-Translation Method. In the Direct Method, students and teachers speak in only the target language. Any reference to words in the students’ first language or speaking at all in the primary language is highly discouraged. Instead, students learn new words through explanations in their target language. While learning grammar is important in the Direct Method, it’s not emphasized or corrected in the middle of conversation. Because the focus is on speaking, the student feels comfortable speaking the language and gets a feel for the flow of conversation in their target language.

Correct pronunciation in order to be understood when speaking is of high importance in this approach.

Audiolingual Method

The Audiolingual Method teaches students a language through listening to and understanding various conversations conducted in the target language. Students first listen to a recorded dialogue and then dissect the conversation in order to understand exactly what was said and the grammar rules that were used during the conversation.

Instruction in this method is often done in both languages, though the teacher usually uses the primary language to correct any errors made by the students.

The Silent Way

The Silent Way was first developed by Dr. Caleb Gattegno and is designed so that the students learn the basics of a language and make associations based solely on their target language. The method gets its name through the actions of the teacher.

The teacher remains completely silent, while students call out the motions or actions the teacher is performing, all in their target language.Variations of this method involve games and various tools. For example, teachers often place the phonetic spellings of words and syllables on a large board and point to them in order to encourage proper pronunciation and association. Rods, sticks, and other props further allow the teacher to perform or symbolize complex tasks that students must identify in their target language. Though complicated, the method is a great way to make students active participants in the language-learning process.

Total Immersion Method

In the Total Immersion Method, students are completely immersed in their target language. Not only this, but they are also expected to speak and learn in their target language everywhere. This is best accomplished in schools devoted entirely to language immersion. In schools such as these, students are taught math, science, geography, and other courses entirely in their target language.The pace of immersion varies depending on the school.

In some immersive classrooms, students are introduced to their new language by hearing it spoken slowly for the first hour, day, or week. Other schools sacrifice this early understanding, instead speaking rapidly to students with full knowledge that students will likely struggle to understand everything. The intention is to give students a feel for regular conversation and the cadence and tempo of their target language.

Lesson Summary

These five language-learning techniques are just a few examples of the myriad of ways in which languages are taught. They vary from traditional forms, such as Grammar-Translation Method, to the avant-garde, such as the Silent Way. Each one has its own strengths and goals – for example, the Direct Method focuses on students learning how to speak in their target language before all else, while approaches like the Audiolingual Method focus on teaching the structure of the language.

Total Immersion, on the other hand, simply wants to teach a student everything in their target language. The best way, as always, is whichever way your students learn the most.

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