In the 1920s and 1930s H.E.Palmer, A.S.Hornby and other British linguists developed an approach to methodology that involved systematic principles of selection (the procedures by which lexical and grammatical content was chosen), gradation (principles by which the organization and sequencing of content were determined), and presentation (techniques used for presentation and practice of items in a course). Their general principles were referred to as the oral approach to language teaching. The characteristic feature of the approach was that new language points were introduced and practised situationally.
Later the terms Structural Situational Approach and Situational Language Teaching came into common usage.
Like the Direct Method, Situational Language Teaching (SLT) adopts an inductive approach to the teaching of grammar. The meaning of words or structures is not to be given through translation in either the native tongue or the target language but is to be induced from the way the form is used in the situation. H.Palmer believed that "if we give the meaning of a new word, either by translation into the home language or by an equivalent in the same language, as soon as we introduced it, we weaken the impression which the word makes on the mind".
Explanation is therefore discouraged, and the learner is expected to deduce the meaning of a particular structure or vocabulary item from the situation in which it is presented.
In 1939 the university of Michigan developed the first English Language Institute in the United States. It specialized in the training of teachers of English as a foreign language and in teaching English as a second or foreign language.
The approach to FLT became known as the Audio-Lingual Method. According to this method FL was taught by systematic attention to pronunciation and by intensive oral drilling of its basic sentence patterns.
The language teaching theoreticians and methodologists who developed Audio-lingualism (Charles Fries, William Moulton) believed that the use of the student's native language should be forbidden at early levels .
Translation as a teaching device may be used where students need or benefit from it. It was one of the principles of Communicative Language Teaching the origins of which are to be found in the changes in the British language teaching tradition dating from the late 1960s.
Looking back from the vantage point of 1990s we can see that the Direct Method, Audio-Lingual and Communicative Methods have their rationale and supporters, yet they are not equally efficient for all learners, and for all teachers, and for all situations.
The methodology must be flexible and electric, based on a careful selection of facets of various methods and their integration into a cohesive, coherent procedure. Of central importance are positive attitudes of learners and teachers; they should permeate all stages of teaching/learning process, make every learning hour a stimulating, motivating experience leading to pleasure and success in language acquisition.
The teachers pivotal responsibility is to imbue students with confidence and self-esteem, emotional security and a well-integrated personality that will make them life-long learners.
The emerging “paradigm shift” in teaching strategies needs new generalizations which will lead to improved attitudes, and better results in teaching/learning process, which will be beneficial both for learners and teachers alike.
It is difficult to predict whether the Communicative Method will last any longer than its predecessors but it cant be denied that the work of the innovators constitutes a challenge to convention thinking about language teaching, which is unfortunately “stubbornly” adhered by many classroom teachers and teacher-practitioners.
What is current methodology? Do we have to abandon all we have learned of the Audio-Lingual method, the Direct Method (DM), and start anew? Thus far, the suggestions for change have been gentle, but we have not been left with a vacuum to be filed. Judging from techniques and trends of the past few years, we can see that current thinking methodology seems to be in the direction of: relaxation of some extreme restrictions of A-LM and DM; development of techniques requiring a more active use of the students mental detail.
Let us examine these two trends in some detail.
Teachers have found that a close adherence to the listening-speaking-reading-writing order has not always been effective and brought the desired results.
On the other hand a lack of such adherence has not proved harmful. They has also called into question the theory that speech is primary and reading and writing are secondary manifestations. Such theoretical and experimental rethinking has resulted in the current trend toward teaching and testing the various language skills in more integrated way. The close procedure provides an interesting and thought-provoking exercise, which trains the students to look carefully at all structural clues and to range around within a semantic field for related concerts. It is a good preparation for careful reading and a useful overall written test.
The teachers no longer feel the need to defer or widely separate reading and writing lessons from listening and speaking activities.
Similarly the prohibition against using the students native language has been considerably relaxed. It is just more efficient to give explanations and instructions in the native language because it affords more time for really meaningful practice in English.
Notable among current trends is the more practical recognition of the varying needs of learners. If, for instance, a learner needs a reading knowledge of English above all else, then reading must have priority, and the learner must learn this skill through specific guided practice in reading.
Another question is whether the teacher should polish learners structure so as to exclude a change of making a mistake. That “prohibition” of errors way largely due to the fear that mistakes would contribute to the creation of a bad habit. Now that the “habit theory” of language acquisition has been challenged and creative aspects of language learning emphasised, the teacher is freed from this fear. Students creative involvement is more important to the learning process than the mere avoiding of errors (this doesnt mean that the teacher should not correct the student and provide necessary drill when appropriate).
Teachers for some time have felt a need of moving from A-LM (with its rigid structure pattern) to a less controlled situation in which the student can communicate his own ideas. Classroom activities may be grouped into four categories:
Examples of completely manipulative activity would be:
a) a drill in which the students merely repeat sentences after the teacher;
b) a simple substitution drill ( by showing a picture or explaining a scene from the students experience). The latter exercise could be made into a predominantly manipulative drill, that is it would include a small element of communication).
In a more advanced class the students retell a story the teacher has given them. Finally, an example of pure communication would be a free conversation among the members of the class, such as a role-playing, conference, etc.)
Cognitive Code-Learning Theory (CC-LT) or the Trend toward Cognitive Activity
The trend toward a more active use of the students' mental powers probably represents the most important effort of the cognitive theory of language acquisition. Advocates of the A-LM often advised the teacher to keep students "active" - since, they said, when a student is active he is learning. They advised him to have all his students saying things aloud in English during as much of the class period as possible. This was the chief reason for doing so much choral work. In this way the greatest number of
students could be actively participating - "using the language" as it was called .
Language learning is viewed as rule acquisition, not habit formation. Instruction is often individualized: learners are responsible for their own learning. Reading and writing are once again as important as listening and speaking; errors are viewed as inevitable.
But the utility of such "active" use of the language has been challenged by proponents of CC-LT. They point out that the mere mechanical repetition of language forms is in reality passive rather than active learning, for it is primarily - sometimes almost entirely - a physical, mechanical sort of activity. It does not begin to engage the student's full mental powers. CC-LT, as a FLT method, is based on the following principal assumptions:
1. language is a system of signs, governed by its own rules;
2. CC-LT implies recognition of form, perception of