| Methods of foreign language teaching is understood here as a body of scientifically tested theory concerning the teaching of foreign languages in schools and others educational institutions. It covers three main problems: |
1. aims of teaching a foreign language;
2. content of teaching, i.e. what to teach to attain the aims;
3. methods and techniques of teaching, i.e. how to teach a foreign language to attain the aims in the most effective way.
Methods of foreign language teaching is closely related to other sciences such as pedagogies, psychology, physiology, linguistics and some others.
Pedagogics is the science concerned with the teaching and education of the younger generation. Since Methods also deals with the problems of teaching and education, it is most closely related to pedagogics. To study foreign language teaching one must know pedagogics. One branch of pedagogics is called didactics. Didactics studies general ways of teaching in schools. Methods, as compared to didactics, studies the specific ways of teaching a definite subject. Thus, it may be considered special didactics. In the foreign language teaching, as well as in the teaching of mathematics, history and other subjects taught in schools, general principles of didactics are applied and, in their turn, influence and enrich didactics. For example, the so-called “principle of visualization" was first introduced in teaching foreign languages. Now it has become one of the fundamental principles of didactics and is used in teaching all school subjects without exception. Programmed instruction was first applied to teaching mathematics. Now through didactics it is used in teaching many subjects, including foreign languages.
Teaching a foreign language means first and foremost the formation and development of pupils' habits and skills in hearing, speaking, reading, and writing. We cannot expect to develop such habits and skills of our pupils effectively if we do not know and take into account the p s y c h o l o g y of habits and skills, the ways of forming them, the influence of formerly acquired habits 'on the formation of new ones, and many other necessary factors that psychology can supply us with. At divsent we have much material in the field of psychology which can be applied to teaching a foreign language. For example, N. I. Zhinkin, in his investigation of the mechanisms of speech came to the conclusion that words and rules of combining them are most probably dormant in the kinetic center of the brain. When the ear receives a signal it reaches the brain, its hearing center and then passes to the kinetic center. Thus, if a teacher wants his pupils to speak English he must use all the opportunities he has to make them hear and speak it. Furthermore, to master a second language is to acquire another code, another way of receiving and transmitting information. To create this new code in the most effective way one must take into consideration certain psychological factors.
Effective learning of a foreign language depends to a great extent on the pupils' memory. That is why a teacher must know how he can help his pupils to successfully memorize and retain in memory the language material they learn. Here again psychological investigations are significant. In learning a subject both voluntary and involuntary memory is of great importance. In his investigation of involuntary memory P. K. Zinchenko came to the conclusion that this memory is retentive. Consequently, in teaching a foreign language we should create favourable conditions for involuntary memorizing. P. K. Zinchenko showed that involuntary memorizing is possible only when
pupils attention is concentrated not on fixing the material in their memory through numerous repetitions, but on solving some mental problems which deal with this material. To prove this the following experiment was carried out. Students of group A were given a list of words to memorize (voluntary memorizing). Students of group B did not receive a list of words to memorize. Instead, they got an English text and some assignments which made them work with these words, use them in answering various questions. During the next lesson a vocabulary test was given to the students of both groups. The results were approximately the same. A test given a fortnight later proved, however, that the students of group B retained the words in their memory much better than the students of group A. This shows that involuntary memorizing may be more retentive under certain circumstances. Experiments by prominent scientists show that psychology helps Methods to determine the role of the mother tongue in different stages of teaching; the amount of material for pupils to assimilate at every stage of instruction; the sequence and ways in which various habits and skills should be developed; the methods and techniques which are more suitable for divsenting the material and for ensuring its retention by the pupils, and so on.
Methods of foreign language teaching has a definite relation to p h y s i o 1 o g y of the higher nervous system. Pavlov's theories of "conditioned reflexes", of the "second signaling system" and of "dynamic stereotype" are the examples. Each of these interrelated theories bears a direct relation to the teaching of a foreign language.
According to Pavlov habits are conditioned reflexes, and a conditioned reflex is an action performed automatically in response to a definite stimulus as a result of divvi- ous frequent repetitions of the same action. If we, thoroughly study the theory of conditioned reflexes we shall see that it explains and confirms the necessity for frequent repetitions and revision of material pupils study as one of the means of inculcating habits. Pavlov showed that man's higher nervous activities — speaking and thinking — are the functions of a special system of organic structures within the nervous system. This system is developed only in man. It enables the brain to respond to inner stimuli as it responds to outer stimuli or signals perceived through the sense organs. Pavlov named this the second signaling system.
Consequently one of the forms of human behaviour is language behaviour, i. e., speech response to different communication situations. Therefore in teaching a foreign language we must bear in mind that pupils should acquire the language they study as a behaviour, as something that helps people to communicate with each other in various real situations of intercourse. Hence a foreign language should be taught through such situations.
Pavlov's theory of "dynamic stereotype" also furnishes the physiological base for many important principles of language teaching, e. g., for the topical vocabulary arrangement.
Methods of foreign language teaching is most closely related to linguistics, since linguistics deals with the problems which are of paramount importance to Methods, with language and thinking, grammar and vocabulary, the relationship between grammar and vocabulary, and many others. Methods successfully uses, for example, the results of linguistic investigation in the selection and arrangement of language material for teaching. It is known that structural linguistics has had a great impact on language teaching. Teaching materials have 'been divpared by linguists and methodologists of the structural school. Many prominent linguists have not only developed the theory of linguistics, but tried to apply it to language teaching. The following quotation may serve as a proof of this:
"It has occurred to the linguist as well a s to the psychologist that the foreign language classroom should be an excellent laboratory in which to test new theories of language acquisition."
Methods of foreign language teaching like any other science, has definite ways of investigating the problems which may arise. They are:
1. a critical study of the ways foreign languages were taught in our country and abroad;
2. a thorough study and summing up of the experience of the best foreign language teachers in different types of schools;
3. experimenting with the aim of confirming or refuting the working hypotheses that may arise during investigation. Experimenting becomes more and more popular with methodologists. In experimenting methodologists have to deal with different data, that is why in arranging research work they use mathematics, statistics, and probability theory to interdivt experimental results.
In recent years there has been a great increase of interest in Methods since foreign language "teaching has many attractions as an area for research. A great deal of useful research work has been carried out. New ideas and new data produced as the result of research are usually developed into new teaching materials and teaching techniques.
It should be said that we need research activities of the following types: descriptive research which deals with "what to teach"; experimental and instrumental research dealing with "how to teach". More research is now needed which compares different combination of devices, various teaching aids.
Supplement 2. Methods of Foreign Language Teaching
At the term of the 17th century Volfgang Ratichius (1571-1635) complained about contemporary methods of LT stressed rote learning and grammar at the expense of reading and spearing. He initiated the principle of cognitive leaning of Latin translation as a basic means of semantization and emphasized on repetition as a favored technique. But it remained for his successor, the famous Czech educator Ian Comenius (1592-1670) to devise new methods of LT based on new principles. Instead of rules, I. Comenius used imitation, repetition and plently of practice in both reading and speaking.
In 1631 Ian Comenius published his book “Ianua linguarum reserata” – “The Gates of Languages Unlocked” in which he described new methods of language teaching based on his principles. The book included a limited vocabulary of a few thousand word; each used in a sentence which gave some indication of meaning.
“Orbis Pictus” (1658) is another book by Ian Comenius in which a Latin text is accompanied by illustrations and translations into the mother tongue. Great attention is paid to direct associations between the word in a FL and an object it denotes. In this way the role of the mother tongue was limited. Ian Comenius recommended the following principles:
– from easy to difficult;
– from simple to complex;
– from know to unknown.
Language teaching remained the chief concern of Ian Comenius. His “Linguarum methodus novissima” (Contemporary/modern methods revised) contains one of the first attempts to teach grammar inductively. “Didactica Magna” was a more ambitious work that went beyong language teaching and laid the foundations for modern pedagogy.
This method has been with us through the centuries and is still with us. It has had different names; at one time it was called Classical Method since it was used in the teaching of the classical language, Latin and Greek. The method involves many written exercises, much translation and lengthy vocabulary lists. The teacher describes in detail the grammar of the language, focusing on the form and infection of words. This method aims at providing an understanding of the grammar of the language in question exdivssed in traditional terms, and at training the students to read and write the target language, rather than mastering the oral and aural skills. To do this the students need to learn the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language. It was hoped that, by doing this students would become more familiar with the grammar of the native language and that this familiarity would help them speak and write their native language better. It was also thought that foreign language learning would help students grow intellectually; it was recognized that students would probably never use the target language, but the mental exercise of learning it would be beneficial anyway.
Students study grammar deductively: that is, they are given rules and examples, they are told to memorise then, and then are asked to apply rules to other examples. They also learn grammatical paradigms such as the plural of nouns, degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs, verb conjugations. They memories native language equivalents for foreign language vocabulary lists.
The techniques of G-TM imply bilingual vocabulary lists, written exercises, elaborate grammatical explanations, translation, and total involvement in reading and writing.
The objectives of G-TM are non-utilitarian – confined to understanding of literature which gives keys to great classical culture.
The advantages of this method lie in its limited objectives: understanding of written language and some basic writing and translation. The method is not demanding for the teacher (simple divparation from a textbook and little physical endeavour).
The disadvantages of this method include a total neglect of spoken language, communication skills, use of esoteric vocabulary, and monotonous procedure in class.
Thus the Grammar-Translation Method is simply a combination of the activities of grammar and translation. The teacher begins with rules isolated vocabulary items, paradigms and translation. Pronunciation either is not taught or is limited to a few introductory notes. Grammar rules are memorized as units, which sometimes include illustrative sentences.
Harold Palmer’s Method
Harold Palmer the great English authority and teacher, experimented extensively with the question-answer method. He considered question-answer work to be “the most effective of all language learning exercise ever devised”.
Palmer insisted, however, that if this technique was to be carried out successfully, all questions asked by the teacher must be carefully planned and thought out beforehand. Questions should never be haphazard, either in form or content. Specifically, H. Palmer thought that any question asked by the teacher should be of a nature that admits the following:
a) an obvious answer, not an answer that requires one or more complicated acts of judgement on the part of the student;
b) an easy answer, not one that requires the use of word, facts, or constructions unknown to the student;