Review of modern language teaching methods


The article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of teaching foreign languages. A comparativeanalysis of approaches and methods to foreign language teaching is conducted.Conclusions are made on tire effectiveness of the approaches to Organizingthe modem educational process.

The emergence of the concept ‘methods’ of language teaching is the main part of such a phenomenon as a language teaching profession which came into being in the last century. Classical formulation of methodology in language teaching is that it links theory and practice. In this article we’ll try to make brief comparison of different language methods.

During the process of linguists’ study on language teaching, many methods have been proclaimed, such as Grammar-Translation Method, Direct Method, Audio-Iingual Method, Cognitive Approach, Total Physical Response, Communicative Approach and Task-based Language Teaching Approach, etc.. Some schools of methodology regard the teacher as ideal language model and commander of classroom activity (e.g., Audio- Lingual Method, Natural Approach, Total Physical Response) whereas others see the teacher as assistant and classroom colleague to the learners (e.g., Communicative Language Teaching, Cooperative Language Learning).

The grammar-translation method of foreign language teaching is one of the most traditional methods, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was originally used to teach 'dead' languages (and literatures) such as Latin and Greek. It developed into a popular method of teaching modem languages in the late 18th century and early 19th century.The major characteristic of the grammar-translation method is, just as its name suggests, a focus on learning the rules of grammar and their application in translation passages from one language into the other. Vocabulary in the target language is learned through direct translation from the native language. When grammar and vocabulary are well mastered, the English language knowledge will be available quickly and automatically for further translation tasks.The objective of Grammar-Translation Method is to enable students to read foreign language. The main teaching procedure of GTM is: Students are given the reading material and analysis of the grammatical structure from the teacher. The meaning of the vocabulary items are translated word by word and then students get sentences which exemplified these points; at last teacher ask learners to practiced structure and vocabulary and then complete some written exercises.In grammar-translation method, the teacher is the center of the class and the knowledge sources. They are supposed to explain the grammar rules and the vocabulary in the first language of the students. They must ensure that they can answer any grammar or vocabulary questions that the learners might ask.Students in this teaching method are the receptors. The learners’ role is to pay careful attention to the teacher’s explanations and corrections, memorize rules and vocabulary lists, and carefully do the practice tasks the teacher sets.But this method has some disadvantages.Firstly, language is treated at the level of the sentences only, and the students are trained just in the aspect of reading, so if the language learning asks for more abilities then grammar-translation method is unlikely to be sufficient; secondly, since teacher is in the central position, the students cannot exercise their initiative in learning and only to accept the knowledge passively. GTM emphasizes the grammar rules and vocabulary, ignores language and rely on the mother language excessively. These disadvantages will not lead to a good effect in language learning.

According to some foreign teachers, one of the approaches of learning a foreign language is the so-called traditional approach by which we understand the organization of foreign language teaching in order to develop skills of speaking and reading without translation. This approach is still prevailing in the system of teaching English in many countries. According to this method, students pay much attention to reading of texts of different complexity, doing exercises, writing tests and essays. In terms of speech, students listen to conversations, samples, memorize and repeat them.

In connection with the occurring changes in the language, approach to learning language material has changed. Hence, in the frames of the traditional approach to teaching English as a foreign language we can distinguish the so-called "contextual approach" («Context Approach"), which is as follows. So, all the rules of grammar are illustrated by examples drawn from real contexts - both oral and written - of different functional styles. Examples show how a particular linguistic phenomenon is actualized in a variety of contexts, as it is used by native speakers in the respective communication situations. The contexts should be chosen in such a way that the learner himself may come to a conclusion on how and when this form is used [1:76].

Previously, examples were cited from literature or invented artificially. Naturally, educated people in the countries of the target language speak and write today not so as their predecessors spoke and wrote a century or even 50 years ago. It is obvious, that aspeech of a foreigner, learning English according to such patterns of speech, sounds a bit outdated. As it is noted by David Crystal, a foreign accent (in particular, the Russian accent) is felt not in the field of phonetics, but in vocabulary and grammar. Students of English as a foreign language often speak and write as if they constantly cite the works OfEnglishclassics [2: 107].

In the lexicon, according to Michael Lewis and Jimmy Hill, the main emphasis should be placed on the use of lexical combinations that are used in real communication. Thus, it is necessary to avoid the other extreme: excessive use of every day, conversational English, especially in combination with «slang" in official or semiofficial situation [3:23]

A "communicative approach", which appeared after the traditional approach is also very important in teaching English as a foreign language. The need for communication has led to the emergence of the Communicative Language Teaching. The approach grew out of new theories of language and language learning that developed in the 1960s and 1970s in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere. It is probably the approach most widely used today. But it is hard to define because it means different things to different people. CLT is an approach with wide variations. According to this method, the purpose of learning is tomaster communicative skills in all kinds of speech activities for the purpose of communication in real-life situations that are relevant to the students. The development of such an approach, aimed, as it is often pointed out, to the formation of knowledge and skills, includes theoretical basis, the definition of a hierarchy of abilities and skills, forming techniques, monitoring and evaluation. This Coherentsystem of foreign language teaching was adopted by the pedagogical community earlier and still is taken by some part of it.Communicative Language Teaching enables students not only the abilities of reading, listening and speaking, but also communicating. Some of its principles are as follows:

  • The primary function of language is for interaction and communication;
  • Focus on all of the components of communicative competence, not only grammatical or linguistic competence; engaging learners in the pragmatic, functional use Oflanguage for meaningful purposes;
  • Activities in which language involved in meaning-focused communicative tasks will promote learning.

The introduction of communicative-oriented approach into practice of foreign language teaching has led to an intensive exchange of information, ideas and opinions in various fields of science and technology, to high achievements in the field of culture. Exchange of experts in many fields has increased.

According to one version, in the framework of this method students are taught during communication, performing specific communication tasks. At the same time explanation of the teacher or usual practical exercises are minimized (the so-called "Strong Communicative Approach"). According to another version, students do regular exercises and activities, accompanied by explanations of the teacher, but the main focus of the training is aimed at formation of speaking and listening skills (the so-called "Weak Communicative Approach" [4:67].Communicative Language Teaching is a teacher centered method, in which teachers act as needs analyst and task designers, while students play a role of negotiator and the object of learning.

Obviously, the choice of a particular method is largely determined by the stage of training and the level of training of the subjects of the educational process. So, for starters it is considered possible to use a modern interpretation of the direct method («The Natural Approach"), according to which such techniques and adapted language are used in the classroom that learners are taught to him, just as a child learns their native language.

According to another view (DrJ. Asher), learners ofthis level in the classroom have to listen carefully to the teacher's instruction, to understand through gestures or visual teaching aids, what is it about, and follow these instructions. These classes may take quite a long time, but gradually the teacher’s instructions are becoming more complicated and include several sentences or grammatically complex constructions. It is believed that this kind of communication is primitive. In this approach («Total Physical Response") the learner is not required to give oral utterances as long as he does not want to or is not ready to do so.

The earlier use of a foreign language as a means of communication is assumed in the embodiment of "Community Language Learning". Using this method allows to keep the conversation on almost any topic of interestwith minimal agitation and anxiety, so characteristic for adults, learning a foreign language. In such a lesson recording equipment! s very important.

Students in the classroom sit face to face, and the teacher is behind them. If one of the students wants to say something, he calls up his teacher and whispers him his intention and the content of his statement in their native language. The teacher also translates in a whisper this phrase in the target language. The student whispers several times this phrase, ensuring its adequate sound. After a while, when the phrase sounds quite correctly, the student says it aloud. At the same time a phrase is recorded, for example, on a tape recorder.

The same pattern is repeated when it is necessary to continue the conversation. So,slowly and gradually, all the "discussion» is constructed and simultaneously recorded. After small intervals, pauses are made in the discussion and the explanation of linguistic phenomena, encountered in the dialogue, namely - grammatical rules and structures oflexical units, etc.are preceded.

For learners with higher level communicative-oriented approach can be manifested in the form of "Task-Based Learning", i.e. training on the basis of the work cycle, which are close to the needs of everyday life and the necessary skills. Communication problems are solved during preparation, execution, and comprehensive solutions of such tasks. Outwardly, this approach resembles the design methodology, however, the problems to be solved at the same time, are much easier - for example, the organization of children's holiday, etc. [5:58]In a task-based lesson the teacher doesn't pre-determine what language will be studied, the lesson is based around the completion of a central task and the language studied is determined by what happens as the students complete it. The lesson follows certain stages, which can be summarized by Willis. J (1996) as: PRE-TASK—>TASK CYCLE^LANGUAGE FOCUS.

  • Pre-task

The teacher introduces the topic and gives the students clear instructions on what they will have to do at the task stage and might help the students to recall some language that may be useful for the task.

  • Task Cycle

Task: The students complete a task in pairs or groups using the language resources that they have as the teacher monitors and offers encouragement. The students then plan how they will tell the rest of the class what they did and how it went, and they then report back to the class orally or in writhing, and /or compare notes on what has happened.

  • Language Focus

In this stage, the students examine and discuss specific features of any listening or reading text which they have looked at for the task or the teacher may conduct some form of practice of specific language features which the task has provoked.

Task-based teaching method has some clear advantages. Firstly, In TBLT, students are free of language control. The whole process is enjoyable and motivating. In all three stages they must use all their language resources rather than just practicing one pre-selected item. Secondly, students’ needs direct what will be covered in the lesson rather than a decision made by the teacher or the textbook. Lastly, TBLT enables students a lot of time to communicate. It seems more student-centered by comparison with other teaching methods.

The foregoing review of foreign English language teaching methods is not complete and comprehensive. It is now widely used such approaches to learning as design and socio-cultural methods, competence approach. However, the knowledge and application of modern trends in the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language can make a practical teacher work more interesting and diverse.From the comparison above we could find out that all teaching methods have advantages and disadvantages. As the oldest way of teaching, Grammar Translation Method seems out of date gradually in many aspects. In modem ELT era, student-centered style is more favored by both teachers and learners. Along with social development, it is absolutely necessary to Ieam English for International communication. Therefore Communicative Language Teaching and Task-based Language Teaching are becoming more attractive all over the world; and TBLT, as a new method, has been attached greater importance to. Considering the real conditions of our country, TBLT is an effective way to improve learners’ level of English and may have a bigger influence in the future if well adjusted.

With the development of language teaching study, there must be more new theories about teaching methodology, and adopting a most suitable method in real teaching is whensoever the basic obligation of teachers.



  1. Carter R.. Hughes R.. McCarthy M., 2000; Villiers C.S., 2006; Willis D, 2003Scrivener J. Learning Teacliing. A Guidebook for English Language teachers.2-nd.ed. - Macmillan Education. 2005. - 431 p.
  2. Crystal D. The English Language.2-d edition. 2002.
  3. Lewis M. and Hill J. The English Verb: an Exploration of Structure and Meaning. Language Teaching Publications. 1996.
  4. Morgan J.. Rinvolucri M.. Vocabulary: Resource for Teachers. - Oxford University Press. 2004.
  5. Parrott M.. Grammar for English Language Teachers. - Cambridge University Press. 2000.
Year: 2017
Category: Philosophy