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1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.
3.1. Key issues: approaches vs. methods.
3.2. Up to the eighteenth century: The spread of English language teaching in
3.2.1. Ancient Times.
3.2.2. Europe in Early Times. The decline of Latin.
3.3. The nineteenth century: Approaches and Methods on language teaching.
3.3.1. The Grammar-Translation method.
3.3.2. Individual reformers: Marcel, Prendergast and Gouin.
3.3.3. The Reform Movement: Sweet, Viëtor and Passy. The role of phonetics.
3.3.4. The Direct Method. Natural methods from Montaigne to Berlitz.
3.4. The twentieth century: A communicative approach.
3.4.1. The Communicative Language Teaching Approach.
3.4.2. The influence of sociology and psychology on language teaching.
3.4.3. Approaches and theories of language and language learning. Approaches of language and language learning. Influential theories on language learning.
3.4.4. Language teaching methods. The Oral Approach and Situational Language teaching method. The Audiolingual method. Total Physical Response. The Silent Way. Community Language Learning. Suggestopedia.


1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present work aims to provide a detailed account of the evolution of language from its origins,
as an object of study, to a theory of language teaching . As Albert C. Baugh (1993) states, the basis
for an understanding of present-day English and for an enlightened attitude towards questions
affecting the language today is a knowledge of its origins.
A historical and cultural setting links the nature of language to a theory of language teaching and a
tradition in teaching English as a foreign language from ancient roots to present-day trends. In
order to do so, subsequent sections will enable us to become better informed about the different
methods, approaches and language acquisition theories on English teaching as a foreign language at
different periods, where special attention is paid to present-day communicative approaches. For
extensive comments, within the framework of different research fields, new directions on language
teaching are offered to reflect the learner’s need within the current educational system. In a final
section, a conclusion examines the strengths and weaknesses of methods and approaches from a
broad perspective.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

Numerous sources have contributed to provide an overall basis for the development of the unit. A
valuable introduction to the study of language is given by Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature,
Development and Origin (1922); David Crystal, Linguistics (1985); and Baugh and Cable, A
History of the English Language (1993). For a historical overview of the tradition of language
teaching, see Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers, Approaches and Methods in Language
Teaching (1992) and Howatt, A History of English Language Teaching (1984). Among the many
general works that incorporate the teaching of English as a foreign language, see especially and
Wilga M. Rivers, Teaching Foreign-Language Skills (1981) and on theories of language
acquisition, see Krashen, S. D., and T. D. Terrell, The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in
the Classroom (1983). The most complete record of current publications on new directions in
language teaching is published by Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada (AESLA) and its
annual supplements. For a comprehensive overview, see the following collections: Universidad de
Alcalá, La Lingüística Aplicada a finales del Siglo XX. Ensayos y propuestas (2001); Universidad
de Barcelona, Trabajos en Lingüística Aplicada (2001); and Universidad de León, Perspectivas
Recientes sobre el Discurso (2001). Bibliography is fully presented at the end of this work.


It was around the fifth century B.C that in ancient India the early states of language were written
down as a set of rules. This was, in fact, a grammar of Sanskrit whose effects went far beyond the
original intentions of the authors. According to Howatt (1984), a thorough education consists not

only of the acquisition of knowledge, but the phys ical, mental, emotional, moral, and social
development of the individual. Hence, the early Greek aim was to prepare intellectually young
people to take leading roles in the activities of the state and of society, and Romans considered the
teaching of rhetoric and oratory important, with particular attention to the development of character.
In the seventeenth century, Jan Amos Komensky (1592-1670), commonly known as Comenius, is
often said to be the founder of the Didactics of Language; for him, the word “didactics” means “the
art of teaching”. Language study and therefore, language teaching was to be promoted in
subsequent centuries through the fields of philosophy, logic, rhetoric, sociology, and religion,
among others, providing the framework for the main task of linguistic scholars. This was basically
to study and understand the general principles upon which all languages are built and in doing so,
teach them better. Some of those methodological and theoretical principles and ideas are still used
in modern linguistics nowadays.



3.1. Key issues: approaches vs. methods.

The extent and importance of the evolution of language teaching, and therefore, the teaching of
English as a foreign language, make it reasonable to define some key concepts within this issue.
Many theories about the learning and teaching of languages have been proposed from a historical
perspective and many changes in language teaching methods have occurred as well as changes in
the kind of learners’ need. Developments in other fields such as linguistics, psychology,
anthropology, and sociology have been the source of many methods and approaches which searched
continuously the most effective method for students to learn a new language. The study of these
theories is called today applied linguistics.
A central concept to this process was that of method and was defined by Howatt (1984) as “the
notion of a systematic set of teaching practices based on a particular theory of language and
language learning”. The search for innovations to find more efficient and effective ways of teaching
languages preoccupied teachers and applied linguistics throughout the 20th century.
Approaches are language teaching philosophies that might be interpreted and applied in a variety
of different ways in the classroom. Both methods and approaches are linked, in turn, to a set of
design features which describes the underlying nature of language teaching methodology, for
instance, learning objectives, syllabus specifications, types of activities, roles of teachers, learners,
materials, procedures and techniques used. The proliferation of approaches and methods is a
relevant characteristic of contemporary second and foreign language teaching.

3.2. Up to the eighteenth century: The spread of English language teaching in Europe.

3.2.1. Ancient Times.

As we have stated previously, language teaching traces back to ancient civilizations. As Richards &
Rodgers (1992) state, the function of the earliest educational systems was primarily to teach religion
and to promote the traditions of the people. Thus, in the Old Testament, one of the aims and
methods of education among the ancient Jewish traditions was to teach their children a foreign
During the Middle Ages (15th-16th century), the early educational systems of the nations of the
Western world emanated from the Judea-Christian religious traditions, which were combined with
traditions derived from ancient Greece philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. According
to Howatt (1984), Christianity in the Middle Ages became a powerful force in the countries of the
Mediterranean region and other areas in Europe. Many monastic schools, as well as municipal and
cathedral schools, were founded during the centuries of early Christian influence. Teachings, then,
centered on grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, and the chief
storehouse of learning were the monasteries, which maintained archives that preserved many
manuscripts of the preceding classical culture, and during this period universities were established
in several countries, such as Italy, Spain, France and England. Medieval education also took the
form of apprenticeship training in some craft or service. As a rule, however, education was the
privilege of the upper classes, and most members of the lower classes had no opportunity for formal

3.2.2. Europe in Early Modern Times. The decline of Latin.

During the Renaissance period educators emphasized such subjects as history, geography, music,
and physical training, and taught mostly in Latin grammar schools. Montaigne, among others, in the
sixteenth century and Comenius and John Locke in the seventeenth century, promoted alternative
approaches to education, making specific proposals for curriculum reform and for changes in the
way Latin was taught (Howatt 1984), but since Latin had for so long been regarded as the classical
and therefore most ideal form of language, the role of language study in the curriculum reflected the
long-established status of Latin.
Beginning around the 16th century, French, Italian, and English gained in importance as a result of
political changes in Europe, and Latin gradually became displaced as a language of spoken and
written communication.

During the 17th century there was a rapid growth of scientific knowledge, which gave rise to its
inclusion in courses in the universities of the European countries and led to the exchange and spread
of scientific and cultural ideas throughout Europe. Children entering “grammar school” in the
sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries in England were initially given a rigorous
introduction to Latin grammar (Howatt 1984) and were often met with brutal punishment. Latin was
said to develop intellectual abilities, and the study of Latin grammar became an end in itself.

3.3. The nineteenth century: Approaches and methods on language teaching.

3.3.1. The Grammar-Translation Method.

As modern languages began to enter the curriculum of European schools in the eighteenth century,
they were taught using the same basic procedures that were used for teaching Latin. Emphasis was
on learning grammar rules, lists of vocabulary, and sentences for translation which usually had
little relationship to the real world. Speaking the foreign language was not the goal, and oral
practice was limited to students reading aloud the sentences they had translated. This method came
to be known as the grammar-translation method and was the offspring of German scholarship.
The grammar-translation method was the dominant foreign language teaching method in Europe
from the 1840s to the 1940s, and a version of it continues to be widely used in some parts of the
world. As Richards & Rodgers (1992) points out, it is still used nowadays where understanding
literary texts is the primary focus of foreign language study. However, there is no literature that
offers a rationale or justification for it or that attempts to relate it to issues in linguistics,
psychology, or educational theory. Consequently, it has no advocates, as it is a method for which
there is no theory.

The main failures of the method are that it does not sound natural to a native speaker; produces
difficult mistakes to eradicate; tedious experience of memorizing endless lists of unusable grammar
rules and vocabulary; and little stress on accurate pronunciation; and often creates frustration for

3.3.2. Individual reformers: Marcel, Prendergast and Gouin.

In the mid-late nineteenth century, increased opportunities for communication among Europeans
created a demand for oral proficiency in foreign languages. The Grammar Translation method was
challenged by new approaches to language teaching developed by individual language teaching
specialists in several European countries. Some of these specialists, like C. Marcel, T.
Prendergast, and F. Gouin, did not manage, according to Richards & Rodgers (1992), to achieve
any lasting impact, though their ideas are of historical interest. It was difficult to overcome the
attitude that Classical Latin was the most ideal for the way language should be taught. (Howatt
The Frenchman Claude Marcel (1793-1896) emphasized the importance of meaning in learning,
proposing a rational method, and referring to child language learning as a model for language
teaching. The Englishman Thomas Prendergast (1806-1886) created a mastery system on a
structural syllabus to work on basic structural patterns occurring in the language. He was one of the

first to record the observation of children in speaking. The Frenchman François Gouin is perhaps
the best known of these reformers.

Gouin’s approach to teaching was based on his observations of children’s use of language. They
recognized the need for speaking proficie ncy rather than reading or writing, and there was an
interest in how children learn languages. Attempts to develop teaching principles from observation
of child language learning were made but these new ideas did not develop into an educational
movement as there was not sufficient organizational structure in the language teaching profession
(i.e., in the form of professional associations, journals, and conferences). However, this would
change toward the end of the nineteenth century, when a more concerted effort arose in which the
interests of reform-minded language teachers, and linguists, coincided.

3.3.3. The Reform Movement: Sweet, Viëtor and Passy. The role of phonetics.

As the names of some of its leading exponents suggest (C. Marcel, T. Prendergast, and F. Gouin),
the Grammar Translation method was challenged, and eventually, with no success due to a lack of
the means for wider dissemination, acceptance and implementation of their new ideas on language
teaching. However, toward the end of the nineteenth century, teachers and linguists began to write
about the need for new approaches to language teaching, and through their pamphlets, books,
speeches, and articles, the foundation for more widespread pedagogical reforms was set up. This
Reform Movement, as it is known, laid the foundations for the development of new ways of
teaching languages within the Direct Method and raised controversies that have continued to the
present day.

From the 1880s, an intellectual leadership gave greater credibility and acceptance to reformist ideas
thanks to linguists like Henry Sweet (1845-1912) in England, Wilhelm Viëtor (1850-1918) in
Germany, and Paul Passy in France. Among the earliest goals of the association, we find the
leading role of phonetics within the teaching of modern languages; Sweet (1899) set forth
principles for the development of teaching methods based on sound methodological principles (an
applied linguistic approach). For Viëtor, whose name is directly associated with a phonetic
method, speech patterns were the fundamental elements of language, stressing the value of training
teachers in the new science of phonetics . In general the reformers believed that grammar had to be
taught inductively, translation avoided, and a language learning based on hearing the language first,
before seeing it in written forms.

These principles provided the theoretical foundations for a principled approach to language
teaching, one based on a scientific approach to the study of language. However, none of these
proposals assumed the status of a method. They reflect the beginnings of the discipline of applied
linguistics. Parallel to the ideas put forward by members of the Reform Movement was an interest
in developing principles for language teaching out of naturalistic principles of language learning,
such as are seen in first language acquisition. According to Rivers (1981), this led to natural
methods and ultimately led to the development of what we know as the Direct Method.

3.3.4. The Direct Method. Natural methods from Montaigne to Berlitz.

As we have stated before, these early reformers, who included Henry Sweet of England, Wilhelm
Viëtor of Germany, and Paul Passy of France, believed that language teaching should be based on
scientific knowledge about language, that it should begin with speaking and expand to other skills,
that words and sentences should be presented in context, that grammar should be taught inductively,
and that translation should, for the most part, be avoided.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, linguists became interested in the problem of the best way to
teach languages. An increasing attention to naturalistic principles of language learning was given
by other reformers, and for this reason they are sometimes called advocates of a “natural” method.
In fact several attempts to make second language learning more like first language learning had
been made throughout the history of language teaching. For instance, if we trace back to the
sixteenth century, we find out that the Frenchman Montaigne described his own experience on
learning Latin for the first years of his life as a process where he was exclusively addressed in Latin
by a German tutor.

These ideas spread, and these natural language learning principles consolidated in what became
known as the Direct Method, the first of the "natural methods”, both in Europe and in the United
States. It was quite successful in private language schools, and difficult to implement in public
secondary school education. Among those who tried to apply natural principles to language classes
in America were L. Sauveur (1826-1907) and Maximiliam Berlitz who promoted the use of
intensive oral interaction in the target language. Saveur’s method became known as the Natural
Method and was seriously considered in language teaching. In his book “An Introduction to the
Teaching of Living Languages without Grammar or Dictionary” (1874), Saveur described how their
students learnt to speak after a month on intensive oral work in class, avoiding the use of the mother
tongue, even for grammar explanations. Berlitz, however, never used the term “natural” and named
his method “the Berlitz method” (1878), and it was known for being taught in private language
schools, high-motivated clients, the use of native-speaking teachers, and no translation under any
circumstances. In spite of his success, this method lacked a basis in applied linguistic theory, and
failed to consider the practical realities of the classroom.

In Europe, one of the best known representatives of language teaching was Gouin who, in 1880
attempted to build a methodology around observation of child language learning when publishing
L'art d'enseigner et d'étudier les langues. He developed this technique after a long struggle trying to
learn to speak and understand German through formal grammar-based methods. However, their
total failure and his turning to observations of how children learn a second language is one of the
most impressive personal testimonials in the recorded annals of language learning.

According to Richards & Rodgers (1992), although the Direct Method enjoyed popularity in
Europe, not everyone had embraced it enthusiastically. In the 1920s and 1930s, the British applied
linguist Henry Sweet and other linguists recognized its limitations. They argued for the
development of sound methodological principles as the basis for teaching techniques. These

linguists systematized the principles stated earlier by the Reform Movement and so laid the
foundations for what developed into the British approach to teaching English as a foreign language.
This would led to Audiolingualism in the United States and the Oral Approach or Situational
Language Teaching in Britain. These models are the aim of next sections.

3.4. The twentieth century: A communicative approach.

In this section we offer an overview of English language teaching since 1900, and specially of the
teaching of English as a foreign or second language. Since language is a part of society, and a part
of ourselves, we find a relationship between linguistics and other fields of study that shed light on
the old patterns and new directions in language teaching. During the twentieth century, different
methods have resulted from different approaches to language and language learning, and also to the
influence of fields such as sociology and psychology on the study of language. Let us now turn to
the major approaches, teaching methods and theories on language acquisition that are in use today
and examine them according to how they reflect their methodology.

3.4.1. The Communicative Language Teaching Approach.

Communicative Language Teaching has its origins in two sources. First, the changes in the British
and American linguistic theory in the mid-late sixties and secondly, changes in the educational
realities in Europe. Therefore teaching traditions until then, such as Situational Language Teaching
in Britain and Audiolingualism in the United States started to be questioned by applied linguists
who saw the need to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere
mastery of structures.

Meanwhile, the role of the European Common Market and the Council of Europe had a significant
impact on the development of Communicative language teaching since there was an increasing need
to teach adults the major languages for a better educational cooperation. In 1971 a system in which
learning tasks are broken down into “units” is launched into the market by a British linguist, D.A.
Wilkins. It attempts to demonstrate the systems of meanings that a language learner needs to
understand and express within two types: notional categories (time, sequence, quantity or
frequency) and categories of communicative function (requests, offers, complaints). The rapid
application of these ideas by textbook writers and its acceptance by teaching specialists gave
prominence to what became the Communicative Approach or simply Communicative Language

Beginning in the mid-1960s, there has been a variety of theoretical challenges to the audio-lingual
method. Scholars such as Halliday, Hymes, Labov and the American linguist Noam Chomsky
challenged previous assumptions about language structure and language learning, taking the
position that language is creative (not memorized by repetition and imitation) and rule governed
(not based on habits). For Hymes (1972), the goal of language teaching is to develop a

“communicative competence”, that is, the knowledge and ability a learner needs to be
communicatively competent in a speech community. Halliday (1970) elaborated a functional theory
of the functions of language, and Canale and Swain (1980) identified four dimensions of
communicative competence: grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic competence.
Chomsky leveled some criticisms at structural linguistic theory in his book Syntactic Structures
(1957). He demonstrated that the fundamental characteristics of language –creativity and
uniqueness of individual sentences- were not part of the structural theories of language.

This communicative view is considered an approach rather than a method which provides a
humanistic approach to teaching where interactive processes of communication receive priority. Its
rapid adoption and implementation resulted from a strong support of leading British applied
linguists and language specialist, as well as institutions, such as the British Council. However, some
of the claims are still being looked at more critically as this approach raises important issues for
teacher training, materials development, and testing and evaluation (Richards & Rodgers 1992).

3.4.2. The influence of sociology and psychology on language teaching.

Since language is not an isolated phenomenon, we are committed to relate it to other aspects of
society, behavior and experience through the development of a theory between linguistics and other
fields of study, such as sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, philosophical linguistics, biological
linguistics, and mathematical linguistics. Among all the interdisciplinary subjects, two of them have
strongly contributed to the development of the study of language teaching, thus, sociology and
psychology. The former, sociolinguistics studies the ways in which language interacts with society
in relation to race, nationality, regional, social and political groups, and the interactions of
individuals within groups. The latter, psycholinguistics , focuses on how language is influenced by
memory, attention, recall and constraints on perception, and the extent to which language has a
central role to play in the understanding of human development.

Main researchers on the field of sociolinguistics are the American linguists Edwar Sapir and
Leonard Bloomfield within a tradition on Structuralism although they follow different lines. These
grammarians claimed that every language consists of a series of unique structures and that the
construction of sentences follows certain regular patterns. However, Sapir points out how linguistics
and anthropology reflects the social aspect of language when dealing with race, culture and
language, whereas Bloomfield’s contribution is more scientific, clearly influenced by psychology

In the field of psychology, behaviorism has had a great effect on language teaching as various
scientists in the early to mid-1900s did experiments with animals, trying to understand how animals
behaved under certain stimulus. Theorists as Ivan Pavlov and Skinner, believed that languages
were made up of a series of habits, and that if learners could develop all these habits, they would
speak the language well. Also, they believed that a contrastive analysis of languages would be
invaluable in teaching languages, and from these theories arose the audio -lingual method,
examined in the following sections.

Another interdisciplinary overlap, as Crystal (1985) states is psycholinguistics. It is a distinct area
of interest developed in the early sixties and in its early form covered from acoustic phonetics to
language pathology. Most of its researchers have been influenced by the development of generative
theory where the most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by
children. Linguists such as R. Ellis or Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell’s contribution show an
approach focusing on teaching communicative abilities and emphasizing the primacy of meaning
when second language acquisition is on study. Chomsky’s view of linguistics is another important
contribution to the study of the human mind, as a branch of cognitive psychology, apart from
showing the weaknesses of structural grammar. Regarding the teaching of languages, the
psychological approach is related to questions such as when and how children develop their ability
to ask questions syntactically, or when they learn the inflectional systems of their language.

3.4.3. Approaches and theories of language and language learning. Approaches of language and language learning.

We saw in the preceding sections the relationship between method and approach. Within the study
of language different methods resulted from different approaches as responses to a variety of
historical issues and circumstances. Since ancient times, linguists and language specialists sought to
improve the quality of language teaching, elaborating principles and theories that came into force
from the nineteenth century on. Linguists such as Palmer, Skinner, Chomsky, and Krashen among
others, have contributed to this development of present-day approaches which developed in current

Following Richards & Rodgers (1992), theories about the nature of language and of language
le arning are the source of principles in language teaching. Within a theory of language, at least
three different theoretical views provide current approaches and methods in language teaching.

The first, the structural view, is the most traditional of the three. Within its theory, language is a
system of structurally related elements for the coding of meaning, and is defined in terms of
phonological and grammatical units, grammatical operations and lexical items. Some methods
have embodied this particular view of language over the years. Thus Audiolingualism, and
contemporary methods as Total Physical Response and the Silent Way, share this view of language.
Supporters of this view are linguists such as Edwar Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield within a tradition
on Structuralism although they follow different lines, thus anthropological and linguistic

From the second, the functional view, language is seen as a vehicle for the expression of functional
meaning. A main tenet within this view is the notion of communication within a theory that
emphasizes the semantic and communicative dimension rather than merely the grammatical
characteristics of language. Content is also organized by categories of meaning and function rather
than by elements of structure and grammar.

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The third, the interactional view, sees language as a vehicle for the realization of interpersonal
relations and for the performance of social transactions between individuals. Its main tenet is the
creation and maintenance of social relations focusing on the patterns of moves, acts, negotiation,
and interaction found in conversational exchanges.

In the words of Rivers (1981), the eclectic approach must be included on language teaching theory
due to its prominence on our present educational system. For her, some teachers experiment with
novel techniques for more successful teaching, retaining what they know from experience to be
effective. This approach is supported by an honorable ancestry, thus Henry Sweet and Harold
Palmer. Its main tenets seek the balanced development of all four skills at all stages, while retaining
an emphasis on the early development of aural-oral skills. Their methods are also adapted to the
changing objectives of the day and to the types of students who pass through their classes.
Moreover, to be successful, an eclectic teacher needs to be imaginative, energetic and willing to
experiment. This approach is being currently applied to language teaching as part of our present
educational system, LOGSE, based on communicative methods. Influential theories on language learning.

The four theories of language provide a theoretical framework to any particular teaching method
from a structural, functional, interactional and eclectic point of view. However, we must bear in
mind that they are incomplete in themselves and need to be complemented by theories of language
learning. It is to this dimension that we now turn.

A theory of language learning needs a psycholinguistic and cognitive approach to learning

processes, such as habit formation, induction, inferencing, hypothesis testing, and generalization.
Most of its researchers have been influenced by the development of generative theory where the
most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by children. The most
prominent figures in this field are, among others, Stephen Krashen, Tracy D. Terrell and Noam

Stephen D. Krashen developed a second language acquisition research as a source for learning
theories. He distinguishes two concepts here, acquisition and learning , where acquisition is seen as
the basic process involved in developing language proficiency. For him, it is the unconscious
development of the target language system as a result of using the language for real communication.
Learning would be related to the conscious representation of grammatical knowledge and non
spontaneous processes. He developed the Monitor Model on which the Natural method was built.

Another theorist, Tracy D. Terrell is closely related to Krashen, since they both wrote a book
named The Natural Approach (1983), and their theories emphasize the nature of the human and
physical context in which language learning takes place. Their learning theory is supported by three
main principles. Firstly, they claim that comprehension precedes production (commonly known as
‘input’); secondly, they state that production may emerge in stages and students are not forced to

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speak before they are ready; and thirdly the fact that the course syllabus consists of communicative
goals, thus classroom activities are organized, by topic, not grammar (Krashen & Terrell 1983).

Chomsky’s view of linguistics is another important contribution to the study of the human mind, as
a branch of cognitive psychology. Apart from showing the weaknesses of structural grammar,
Chomsky demonstrated that creativity and individual sentences’ formation were fundamental
characteristics of language, not part of the structural theories of language. His approach provides a
humanistic view of teaching where priority is given to interactive processes of communication.

We also find other less influential theories reflected on methods, thus the Counseling-Learning
and Silent Way method which focus on the conditions to be held for successful learning without
specifying the learning processes. James Asher’s Total Physical Response (1977) centers on both
processes and conditions aspects of learning. Thus coordinating language production with body
movement and physical actions is believed to provide the conditions for success in language

Charles A. Curran’s approach, the Counseling-Learning (1972), focused mainly on creating the
conditions necessary for successful learning, such as a good atmosphere of the classroom, where
intimacy and security are a crucial factor together for students when producing language. The
Silent Way method, developed by Caleb Gattegno , is also built on a conscious control of learning
to heighten learning potential. We also observe some fringe methodologies sharing certain theories
of language and theories of language learning. For instance, the linking of structuralism and
behaviorism which produced Audiolingualism.

3.4.4. Language teaching methods. The Oral Approach and Situational Language teaching method.

This approach dates back to the 1920s and 1930s and develops a more scientific foundation for an
oral approach than the one evidenced in the Direct Method. Its most prominent figures are the
British applied linguists Harold Palmer and A.S. Hornby, who developed the basis for a principled
approach to methodology in language teaching. The terms Oral Approach or Situational Language
Teaching are not commonly used today, but the impact of the Oral Approach has been long lasting,
and it has shaped the design of many widely used textbooks and courses, including many still being
used today.

Therefore it is important to understand the principles and practices of this oral approach which
resulted from a systematic study of the lexical and grammatical content of a language course. This
approach involved principles of selection, organization and presentation of the material based on
applied linguistic theory and practice. Thus, the role of vocabulary was seen as an essential
component of reading proficiency, and parallel to this syllabus design was a focus on the
grammatical content, viewed by Palmer as the underlying sentence patterns of the spoken
language. This classification of English sentence patterns was incorporated into the first dictionary

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for students of English as a foreign language, and some grammatical guides which became a
standard reference source for textbook writers.

The Oral Approach was the accepted British approach to English language teaching by the 1950s,
but in the sixties, another active proposal from Australia and termed situational, entered this
approach developing an influential set of teaching materials based on the notion of “situation”,
linking structures to situations. Its main leader was George Pittman, and its main characteristics
were as follows: material is taught orally before it is presented in written form; introduced and
practiced situationally; and reading and writing are introduced only when sufficient lexical and
grammatical basis is established. The skills are approached through structure.

This third principle became a key feature characterized as a type of British “structuralism”, in which
speech was regarded as the basis of language, and structure was viewed as being at the heart of
speaking ability. In the words of Richards & Roberts (1992), this theory that knowledge of
structures must be linked to situations has been supported by British linguists, giving a prominent
place to meaning, context, and situation. Prominent figures such as M.A.K. Halliday and Palmer
emphasized the close relationship between the structure of language and the context and situations
in which language is used. The Audiolingual method.

The origins of this method trace back to the entry of the United States into World War II since the
government aimed to teach foreign languages to avoid Americans becoming isolated from scientific
advances in other countries. The National Defense Education Act (1958) provided funds for the
study and analysis of modern languages based on the earlier experience of the army programs such
as the so-called ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program). This program was established for
military personnel in 1942 in American universities, and its main objective was for students to
attain conversational proficiency in different foreign languages through significant drills.

This fact had a significant effect on language teaching in America, and in fact, new approaches on
language teaching were soon developed, and toward the end of the 1950s a new approach emerged
under the name of Audiolingualism (term coined by Professor Nelson Brooks in 1964. It is based in
structural linguistics (structuralism) and behavioristic psychology (Skinner’s behaviorism).
Therefore, it is primarily an oral approach to language teaching and there is little provision for
grammatical explanation or talking about the language.

The audio-lingual method aims at teaching the language skills in the order of listening, speaking,
reading, and writing, and is based on using drills for the formation of good language habits. Thus
students are given a stimulus, which they respond to. If their response is correct, it is rewarded, so
the habit will be formed; if it is incorrect, it is corrected, so that it will be suppressed. As Rivers
(1981) states, material is presented in spoken form, and the emphasis in the early years is on the
language as it is spoken in everyday situations.

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It was a methodological innovation which combined structural linguistic theory, contrastive
analysis, aural-oral procedures, and behaviorist psychology. Therefore linguists such as Leonard
Bloomfield, developed training programs within an anthropological and linguistic tradition. The
best known of these programs was the “informant method”, based on a strict timetable (ten hours a
day during six days a week), fifteen hours drill with native speakers and almost thirty hours of
private study over nearly three six-week sessions. Statistics show that excellent results were often
achieved in small classes of mature and highly motivated students. Total Physical Response.

Total Physical Response is linked to several traditions, such as psychology, learning theory, and
humanistic pedagogy. This method is built around the combination of speech and action and was
developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology. For him, including movements within the
linguistic production reduces learner stress, creating a positive mood which facilitates learning.
This emphasis on comprehension and the use of physical actions to teach a foreign language is not
new. In the nineteenth century, Gouin acknowledged a situationally based teaching strategy in
which action verbs served as a basis for practicing new language items.

This method owes much to structuralist or grammar-based views of language as most of vocabulary
items and grammatical structures are learned through an instructor. Asher still sees a stimulus-
response view as reminiscences of the views of behavioral psychologists, directed to right-brain
learning. The main goal is to teach oral proficiency at a beginning level through the use of action-
based drills in the imperative form.

This method is updated with references to more recent psychological theories and supported by
prominent theorists as Krashen because of its emphasis on the role of comprehension in second
language acquisition. However, Asher himself, points out the need for this method to be used in
association with other methods to be fully successful. The Silent Way.

Caleb Gattegno introduced this classroom technique wherein the teacher remains silent while pupils
output the language through simulated experiences using tokens and picture charts as central
elements. For instance, a color-coded phonics (sound) chart called a fidel, with both vowel and
consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus
permitting the pupil to output continually the target language in a sequence of phonemes.

Brightly coloured rods are integrated into this method for pupils to learn spatial relationships,
prepositions, colors, gender and number concepts, and to create multiple artificial settings through
their physical placement.

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This method works effectively to promote small group discussion. Students are encouraged to
produce as much language as possible and to self-correct their pronunciation errors through manual
gesticulation on the part of the instructor. The greatest strength of this method lies in its ability to
draw students out orally, while the teacher listens. This inner criteria allow learners to monitor and
self-correct their own production. It is here where this method differs notably from other ways of
language learning. Community Language Learning.

As the name indicates, this method follows a “humanistic” approach which was supported by
Charles A. Curran, a specialist in counseling and a professor of psychology at Chicago University.
His method is known as Counseling-Learning, and it redefines the roles of the teacher (counselor)
and learners (the clients) in the language classroom.

He developed a holistic approach to language learning, since human learning is both cognitive and
affective. For him, learning takes place in a communicative situation where teachers and learners
are involved in an interaction. One of its main tenets is for the student to develop his relationship
with the teacher.

This process is divided into five stages and compared to the ontogenetic development of the child.
Thus, feelings of security are established; achievement of independence from the teacher; the
learner starts speaking independently; a sense of criticism is developed; and finally, the learner
improves style and knowledge of linguistic appropriateness.

Curran wrote little about his theory which was to be developed by his student, La Forge . He built a
theory on “basic sound and grammatical patterns” which started with criteria for sound features, the
sentence, and abstract models of language in order to construct a basic grammar of the foreign

Since these humanistic technique of counseling students engage the whole person, including the
emotions and feelings (affective part) as well as linguistic knowledge and behavioral skills, this
method has been linked to bilingual and adult education programs. Suggestopedia.

In the 1980s and 1990s, an extremely esoteric method was developed by a Bulgarian psychiatrist-
educator called Georgi Lozanov. The most outstanding features of this mystical method are,
according to Rivers (1981), its arcane terminology and neologisms, and secondly, the arrangement
of the classroom to create an optimal atmosphere to learning, by means of decoration, furniture, the
authoritative behavior of the teacher and specially, through the use of music. Therapy theories are
the reason of using music in the classroom as Lozanov calls upon in his use to relax learners as well
as to structure, pace, and punctuate the presentation of linguistic material.

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Lozanov acknowledges following a tradition on yoga and Soviet psychology, borrowing techniques
for altering states of consciousness and concentration, and the use of rhythmic breathing. In fact,
teachers are trained in a special way to read dialogues, using voice quality, intonation, and timing.
Lozanov also claims that his method works equally well whether or not students spend time on
outside study and promises success to the academically gifted and ungifted alike.

In the own words of Lozanov (1978), Suggestopedia prepares students for success by means of
yoga, hypnosis, biofeeback or experimental science. Its main features such as scholarly citations,
terminological jargon, and experimental data have received both support and criticisms. However,
Suggestopedia is acknowledged to appear effective and harmonize with other successful techniques
in language teaching methodology.


What’s now, what’s next? The future is always uncertain when anticipating methodological
directions in second language teaching, although applied linguistic journals assume the carrying on
and refinement of current trends within a communicative approach. They are linked to present
concerns on education, and they reflect current trends of language curriculum development at the
level of cognitive strategies, literature, grammar, phonetics or technological innovative methods.
The Internet Age anticipates the development of teaching and learning in instructional settings by
means of an on-line collaboration system, perhaps via on-line computer networks or other
technological resources.

A critical question for language educators is about "what content" and "how much content" best
supports language learning. The goal is to best match learner needs and interests and to promote
optimal development of second language competence. The natural content for language educators is
literature and language itself, and we are beginning to see a resurgence of interest in literature and
in discourse and genre analysis , schema theory, pragmatics, and functional grammar propose an
interest in functionally based approaches to language teaching.

Also, "Learning to Learn" is the key theme in an instructional focus on language learning
strategies. Such strategies include, at the most basic level, memory tricks, and at higher levels,
cognitive and metacognitive strategies for learning, thinking, planning, and self-monitoring.
Research findings suggest that strategies can indeed be taught to language learners, that learners
will apply these strategies in language learning tasks. Simple and yet highly effective strategies,
such as those that help learners remember and access new second language vocabulary items, will
attract considerable instructional interest.

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On revising the literature on language teaching theories, it is possible to get a sense of the wide
range of proposals from the 1700’s to the present, with their weaknesses and strengths, from
grammar-based methods to more natural approaches. There is still present a constant preoccupation
for teachers and linguists to find more efficient and effective ways of teaching languages. This
proliferation of approaches and methods is a relevant characteristic of contemporary second and
foreign language teaching, and is only understood when the learner’s need is approached from an
educational perspective. These approaches have been called natural, psychological, phonetic, new,
reform, and direct, among others.

In the middle -methods period, a variety of methods were proclaimed as successors to the then
prevailing Situational Language Teaching and Audio-Lingual methods. These alternatives were
promoted under such titles as Silent Way, Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning, and
Total Physical Response. In the 1980s, these methods in turn came to be overshadowed by more
interactive views of language teaching, which collectively came to be known as Communicative
Language Teaching. These CLT approaches include The Natural Approach and Community
Language Learning.
Special attention has also been paid to the role of the teacher as a commander of classroom activity
(e.g., Audio-Lingual Method, Natural Approach, Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response) whereas
others see the teacher as background facilitator and classroom colleague to the learners (e.g.,
Communicative Language Teaching, Cooperative Language Learning).

Language learning theories have approached second language learning on adults and children
around first language acquisition model. Schools such as Total Physical Response and Natural
Approach claim that second language learning must be developed in the same way as first language
acquisition although this is not the only model of language learning we have. However, the Silent
Way and Suggestopedia schools claim that adult classroom learning must be developed in a
different way children do, due to different cognitive and psychological features.

Bibliography, in a final section, will provide a source for readers to detail differences and
similarities among the many different approaches and methods that have been proposed

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Introduction to the study of language

- Jespersen, O. 1922. Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin . London: Allen and Unwin.
- Crystal, D. 1985. Linguistics. Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books.
- Baugh, A. & Cable, T. 1993. A History of the English Language. Prentice-Hall Editions.

On origins and evolution of language teaching

- Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. 1992. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (2nd ed.).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Howatt, A. (1984). A history of English Language teaching . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

On approaches to language teaching and the teaching of English as a foreign language

- Rivers, W. 1981. Teaching Foreign-Language Skills. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Krashen, S. D., and Terrell, T. D. 1983. The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the
Classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.

New directions in language teaching

- Revistas de la Asociación Española de Lingüística Aplicada (AESLA): De la Cruz, Isabel;
Santamaría, Carmen; Tejedor, Cristina y Valero, Carmen. 2001. La Lingüística Aplicada a finales
del Siglo XX. Ensayos y propuestas. Universidad de Alcalá.
- Celaya, Mª Luz; Fernández-Villanueva, Marta; Naves, Teresa; Strunk, Oliver y Tragant, Elsa.
2001. Trabajos en Lingüística Aplicada . Universidad de Barcelona.
- Moreno, Ana I. & Colwell, Vera. 2001. Perspectivas Recientes sobre el Discurso. Universidad de

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