History of Language Teaching Methods

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
Final version published as: 

The Concise Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, and future print or online versions of The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, edited by Carol A. Chapelle. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Date created: 
2018-07-28
Keywords: 
Grammar-translation method
Direct method
Audio-lingual method
Communicative language teaching
Abstract: 

The earliest European written accounts of language teaching methods are from the 5th century AD, referring specifically to Latin. For centuries the language of the Romans was the primary foreign code throughout much of Europe, functioning as the language of scholarship, trade, and government. The founding of universities in the latter Middle Ages led to developing the Grammar-Translation Method, based on the centuries’ long tradition of reading Latin and Greek learned texts. In the 15th century, Europeans began shifting from Latin to using the continent’s modern languages more widely. By the 19th century, the Direct Method was developed, modeled on first language acquisition and addressing the greater need for speaking skills in e.g. French, German, and English. In the early 20th century, research largely in educational psychology led to developing the Audio-lingual Method in the 1940s. Believing language use was an issue of stimulus and response, teaching methods emphasized repetition and dialogue memorization. A decade later, Chomsky’s landmark research on cognitive aspects of language acquisition recognized that children do not acquire an inventory of linguistic stimuli and responses. Instead, deep processing in the brain enables them to generate sentences they have never heard before. This led to modernizing the Direct Method by incorporating cognitive dimensions of language learning. Since the 1970s, language is further recognized as a social phenomenon that inherently entails expressing, interpreting, and negotiating meaning. To foster such competence, the current approach of Communicative Language Teaching emphasizes having learners do meaningful activities involving the exchange of new information.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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