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On the Grammar Translation Method...

This is a post of comments by students and my responses. Please read and enjoy! RD

Donovan Smith said...

Not sure if this is where I am supposed to make my post, because I don't see any others, but I'll post anyway.

In chapter two, I found it interesting to learn that child language learning is based on motor activity, or coordinating language with action. After hearing this, it made sense to me that Asher's language theory would utilize this for adult learners as well, since children are the best language learners.
July 8, 2008 9:25 PM

Donovan, what you are talking about is TPR. And it would seem that ‘what works for children’ should work for adults. But you should take care not to simplify this assertion. This is not true in many cases of learning. If so, the universities of the world would look more like Barney (the purple dinosaur). The other danger is to lump children as a single large category. Children who are aged 0-2 are different from children who are 3-4 and those of 5 can be different to those of 6. Even then, the ages can shift. Children develop fast and at different speeds. The type of learning you apply to each age group must really be well thought through. RD

KARINA said...
The text states that the GTM has no theory to justify its use. According to the authors, modern methods have or should have an explicit approach, design, and theory. Even though GTM does not meet the standards that modern methods are held to, I realize that it is important to learn about it. Aspects of the this method are still practical for learning a second language.
July 8, 2008 9:55 PM

How so Karina? Give an example where you see GTM being practical. I am not disagreeing with you, I just want to see you support your assertion. RD

Karen said...
I agree with Karina's opinion. Grammar and vocabulary are the building block of a language. Language without grammar would be meaningless. Though we don't notice, we use it in everyday communication. If GTM is combined with the function that learners can utilize grammar in language use in practical ways such as doing discovery or noticing activities,
it will be more interesting and effective.
July 8, 2008 11:28 PM

Karen, no one would argue that grammar cannot be separated from language. But there are many who argue what IS grammar? Is grammar a set of explicit rules that can be isolated and taught? Can one be good at knowing grammar but not using grammar? Can we expand the notion of grammar to include correct speech in the correct situation? All of these things we will dicuss in the near future. RD

bobi said...
I find it particularly interesting the book opens with a statement saying that the current issues in language teaching existed throughout the history of language teaching, it kind of sucks that for centuries we've debated and tried to solve these issues and yet here we are, still asking the same questions.

Although it's stated that GTM has no theory to justify it, the rational behind it is that, if you write a word a couple hundred times, you're bound to memorize it and the same goes for grammar rules. I feel that GTM is great for beginning a foreign language, especially the first stages, then it would be much more effective to combine the rest of the approaches and methods like the Direct Method.
July 9, 2008 1:14 AM

Yes, it does sort of suck that it seems that we haven’t progressed. But this is a matter of human learning and how we understand how the brain learns and how behavior is formed and all these things are the conceptual ‘holy grails’ that the experts wrestle with.

GTM is not only about memory. It’s about mental gymnastics. It’s about one’s skill in formulas and logarithms and linear logic.

You mention ‘the first stages’, but GTM offers no insight into this. GTM never came up with a systematic structural plan that one could start with. There’s no beginning, no intermediate and no advanced in its use. Of course, intuitivley GTM teachers find easier texts for the beginning and so on, but the method does ont by itself offer any insight into this. RD

eric said...
Louis Khan once said that everything that will have been built has already been built-- a simple yet profound observation. If such a keystone figure in architecture can speak that way about its philosophies, its designs & expressions, surely one can say the same about the design and methodological approaches in our own field. The building blocks are there... there already exist a stream of reference points stretching from GTM to Natural/Direct Method... Audiolinguilism & Oral Approach, to something yet undiscovered. It's only the dis-assembling and reassembling of the various models (with personal touches) that give them new form, a different name, for a different era. And that's great. My question is: why is academia so caught up in finding the "new" "perfect" method?... something revolutionary, when it seems we should just be architects, focusing on the students, designing the appropriate lesson for the appropriate class with proven material/models? I know the argument is that some of these models don't work, and/or don't work all the time. According to our book, "60% of the world population is multilingual." Gee whiz, they've obviously learned it somehow. I guess something worked. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. --Eric
July 9, 2008 1:56 AM

I know Louis Khan, but that quote of his escapes me. “There is nothing new under the sun.” a quote from Solomon beats Khan by thousands of years-and makes the shared notion more valid.

That being said, this ‘rediscovery’ of the methods out there does take the same kinds of analysis you mentioned. Academia is not really caught up with the latest or perfect method, it’s consumerism’s middlemen. The modern hawker’s of snake oil and hair tonic. Your job is to teach well in the midst of the carnival. RD

Anonymous said...
I remember doing the monotonous, and sometimes, tedious activities based on GTM, but often found after the class to have learned quite a bit of the language (though the speaking/listening was lacking). Eric posted how all the “new” methods are simply the disassembling and reassembling of different methods and I agree. The book writes, over the history of language teaching and learning, the expectations of “learning” or “understanding” a language have changed significantly. Of course GTM was used initially as a method of language teaching because that was what had been used (and had proven successful) in the study of Latin. But what is important to remember in this case is that Latin “was said to development intellectual abilities”, not to be an active, intercommunication language. It was a language taught so the student could read literature and so forth. Spanish, German, English, etc on the other hand are active, living languages that require more than repetitive grammar rules, study of conjugations, and translation- it requires oral practice, authentic writing, real-life situations, etc. I agree with both Karen and Karina that GTM is a solid “building block”, but language learning cannot be based off of this alone. Methods are being constantly “discovered” because information on learning acquisition is constantly evolving. Like any field, methods are always thrown out and brought back in for improvement according to demands. It makes sense that they would do the same for language learning.
July 9, 2008 7:20 AM

Emily, you said:
“I agree with both Karen and Karina that GTM is a solid “building block”, but language learning cannot be based off of this alone. Methods are being constantly “discovered” because information on learning acquisition is constantly evolving. Like any field, methods are always thrown out and brought back in for improvement according to demands. It makes sense that they would do the same for language learning.”

Are you saying that adjusting to the evolving situation is what needs to happen is what is beyond GTM for language learning? If so, then what are your criteria for inclusion or exclusion of a method or a part of a method? How will you know what is beneficial for your students? RD

Danielle said...
For many reasons, I always felt like most of my fellow students throughout school thought foreign language class was suuucch a drag and didn't want anything to do with it outside of the hour-a-day class. With centuries being devoted to theories of language and learning, we see that each theory was aimed at certain goals (GTM for "intellectual reasons," Direct Method for authentic learning, and the Coleman Report that placed the emphasis of language on being a successful reader). However, after years and years of endless searches and attempts to find that one Method, I think the most important goal of any Method of language learning is to make language a subject that isn't an obligation to students' days, but an experiene that can be taken far outside of the classroom and into our world of diversity and multilinguilism. If we can base a method on showing students the numerous rewards that come with learning language, wouldn't everyone want to learn? If student's can see that learning an L2 is beneficial and teachers can make learning authentic and exciting, it is then up to each classroom's characteristics and goals to determine what other Methods we, as teachers, need to implement-but we should never be looking for this one unreachable method-we will be searching forever! Let's get kids excited about learning and things will fall into place! I don't know, I guess I'm just an optimist :)
July 9, 2008 8:13 AM

Danielle, what is the power of obligation in the context you gave about students’ days? You are right in that if you can show how beneficial a thing is, it can persuade people to strive for it. The more beneficial it is, the more willing people are to undergo hardships towards its attainment. Your comment is about motivation. What motivates students? Fear? Grades? Future rewards? These extrinsic motivations can be powerful. Making class exciting? Now THAT is a challenge. How can anybody, even a professional entertainer dazzle a classroom? RD

New-New said...
“Bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception.” and learning a foreign language is a matter of concern throughout history. Learning a foreign language is not a modern phenomena, for example, in the past 500 years, the learning is Latin is considered a must. The author only refers to the Europeans learning a foreign language. What about Asia? Were Asians required to learn a foreign language? And if they were, how far back can we trace learning a foreign language in Asia?
July 9, 2008 8:22 AM

New-New, you are right in that the author does not pay attention to the vast histories of Asia. If we just look at Ancient China, 221 BC is an important date for the Chinese language. The Chinese language can be read by almost all of mainland Chinese because the writing system was standardized. A tremendous unifying force. If you look at the Korean peninsula, King Sejong developed an amazing writing system for Hangul. There’s so much to talk about. Why do Koreans and the Japanese Chinese characters in their writing systems? RD

Yeseong said...
As Bobi mentioned, realizing the innovations and new approaches to methodology in language learning/teaching that will continue to emerge over time overwhelms us.
I remember that one of my professors stated that language teaching is a field where fads and heroes have come and gone in a manner fairly consistent with the kinds of changes that occur in youth culture. I sensed that 'one' reson for the frequent changes that have been taking place until recently is the fact that very 'few' language teachers have even the vaguest sense of history about their profession and are unclear concerning the historical bases of the many methodological options they currently have at their disposal.
I believe knowledge based on this book gives us some healthy perspective in evaluating new approaches.
Last but not least, I dare you guys (future EFL/ESL teachers) to think about the solution of abundunce of current and future approaches. I would put ADAPT; DO NOT ADOPT. I beleve a teacher is certainly in a better posion to follow this advice if he/she is familiar with the history and the state of the art of our profession.
July 9, 2008 8:42 AM

Yeseong, your professor has insight. Lack of historical knowledge is one reason. The lack of understanding the approaches behind their design and a lack of understanding how that design drives what actually happens is a big problem too. I am glad you are cautioning us to be careful with the methods out there. At the same time, we need to developing a criteria helps us govern these future decisions. How do you determine whether a method is suitable or not? RD

Aaron said...
I found it interesting how the text mentions that toward the mid 19th century, "several factors" led to questioning and rejection of the Grammar Translation Method. However, it isn't mentioned what these factors are and the text goes on to mention that Europeans "created a demand for oral proficiency in foreign languages" yet does not go into detail on what created this demand. I'm sure there is much to be learned about the social, political, and economic contexts that set the stage for an interest in oral proficiency versus literary prowess. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see how this compares to other countries / continents.
July 9, 2008 9:06 AM

Aaron, the writer might have left us with our imaginations, but you know better. Of course, you can now state what those factors are now right? What are they?

Also, look to my comments to New-New’s post regarding other countries and continents.

Henry the Magnificent said...
I agree with Eric in that I think there's TOO MUCH of an effort being made trying to find THE method of teaching a foreign language. Since everyone was tossing in a quote, here's mine: "The end justifies the means." (Machiavelli) Instead of confining a student to a certain method, let them decide what works for them. I liked Bassano's idea (from Elaine's assigned reading) of letting students have a choice of activities. If they feel like they are weaker in certain areas, let them focus on those; the only time I would force everyone to participate is for summative assessements and/or activities that demand skill in every facet (e.g. scripting then acting in a skit, and also evaluating the performances of others). In other words, I'd give feedback along the way, but as long as a student is competent at the end of the course, I don't care if he went through the class doing mostly dictation, or drooling on his desk.
July 9, 2008 9:30 AM

Since you are quoting, let me quote you: “Instead of confining a student to a certain method, let them decide what works for them.” Ahh!...dangerous poison. What would you 17 decide for the content and implementation for this course?

To be fair to you, you are right in that giving students some autonomy in learning is needful. However, the burden of teaching falls squarely on the shoulders of the teacher. I am not an advocate of a teacher-centered classroom, but going to the other extreme is a sure-fire way of losing credibility and control.

Regarding the drooling student, I think you should consider how the drooling student’s drooling would affect the other student’s learning experiences. You need to protect the rest of the students from the smelly, gross, distracting behavior that is a student’s drooling freely in class. RD

Wes said...
Being totally new to teaching and the concepts that apply to it. I found the section that clarifies the difference between approach, design, and procedure to be very informing and useful. Clearly there is an independent language pertaining to the realm of teaching English as foreign or second language that exists. Chapter two laid out its concepts for me very well.
July 9, 2008 9:30 AM

So…Wesley…ummm…you like the book? Seriously, I am glad you are getting the concepts of A/D/P. Can you elaborate a bit more?
How is it informative, how is it useful? RD

Amy said...
After the lecture today, I realized that the GTM, or branches of GTM are still being used in schools as of today. For example, the schools in Taiwan are well known for this method. The students memorize a bunch of bilingual vocab lists, tons of reading and translation and practically no speaking at all. Other than those after school programs I believe that Chinese is being spoken while the students are trying to learn the target language. For those of you who have gone to Taiwan, have you noticed that most of the students do not speak English that well, but they know a lot of English vocab?
July 12, 2008 5:37 PM

Nice observation of Taiwan, Amy. It looks like you understand the basics of GTM. Is it serving any purpose? In your opinion and observations, do you approve of this? What is being learned and what is being taught? What would you suggest for changes if any? RD