The Grammar –Translation Method By: Dr. Khalid Al-Nafisah Dr. Abdallah Ismail
A historical perspective• It has been estimated that 60 percent of the world population is multilingual. Latin was the world’s most used language, today, English.
• Latin was taught prescriptively. (Explain in reference to prescriptive grammar).
• As modern vernacular languages began to replace Latin, they were taught using the same basic procedures that were used for teaching Latin. By the nineteenth century, this approach based on the study of Latin had become the standard way of studying foreign languages in schools. A typical textbook in the mid-nineteenth century consisted of chapters or lessons organized around grammar points. Each grammar point was listed, rules on its use were explained, and it was illustrated by example sentences. Thus, textbooks are codified into frozen rules of morphology and syntax to be explained, and eventually memorized.
Objectives• The ultimate objective to be able to read, understand and appreciate written target literature.• Through the study of the grammar of the target language, the students will be more familiar with the grammar of their mother tongue. This familiarity will help them speak and write their native language better.• It was thought that foreign language learning would help students grow intellectually. Language learning is a mental exercise, learning a foreign language is a good mental exercise for students. Learning of the target language and the mother tongue empower students mentally (it was recognized that students would probably never use the target language, but the mental exercise of learning it would be beneficial anyway.)
1. The method dominated language teaching from the 1840s to the 1940s (and is still being used in some of today’s classrooms).2. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a language in order to read its literature or in order to benefit from the mental discipline and intellectual development that result from foreign language study.3. It approaches the language first through detailed analysis of its grammar rules, followed by application of this knowledge to the task of translating sentences and texts into and out of the target language.
4. The first language is maintained as the reference system in the acquisition of the second language/ foreign language.5. Reading and writing are the major focus; little or no systematic attention is paid to speaking and listening (oral language).6. Vocabulary selection is based solely on the reading texts used, and words are taught through bilingual word lists, dictionary study, and memorization (some aspects are still valid in today’s teaching although the objective is different).
7. The grammar rules are presented and illustrated, vocabulary items are presented with their translation equivalents.8. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. It is this emphasis on the sentence that is a distinctive feature of the method. Emphasis on the sentence rather than on the text (as earlier approaches) was an attempt to make language learning easier.9. Accuracy is emphasized over fluency. This was a prerequisite for passing the increasing number of formal written examinations.
10. Grammar is taught deductively. Presentation and study of grammar rules followed by examples and exercises. Grammar rules were sequenced along the syllabus in an attempt to teach grammar in an organized and systematic way.11. The students’ native language was the medium of instruction. It was used to explain new grammar and vocabulary items and to enable comparisons to be made between the students’ mother tongue and the target language.
Procedures (the experience) Activity 1 Reading Comprehension• The class begins with a reading passage from the foreign language literature.• Each student is called upon to read a few lines from the passage, then they translate into their mother tongue the few lines they have just read. The teacher helps them with suitable translations in case the lack the required vocabulary.
• After finishing reading and translating the passage, the teacher asks them in their mother tongue if they have any questions. Questions and answers are communicated using the mother tongue!!!!
• The teacher asks students to write down answers to the comprehension questions at the end of the passage. The questions are in English and answers should be in English as well. (the written mode is dealt with in English while the spoken mode = questions are dealt with in the mother tongue. (see step 3 ). Questions on the passage include three types of questions. The first is " right here" or direct questions. These are the simplest type whose answer is stated directly in the passage. The second is the inference questions whose answers are not explicitly stated in the passage, students have to make inferences based on their understanding of the passage. The third type is the application questions that require students to relate the passage to their own experiences.
• After answering the questions, the teacher asks students one by one to read the question and their answer to that question. If the answer is not correct, the teacher selects another student to supply the correct answer, or the teacher himself gives the "right answer".
Activity II: Vocabulary• Students turn to a list of words taken from the passage, and are asked to give the mother tongue equivalent for each one of them. This is conducted as a whole class activity. If no one knows the equivalent of a certain word, the teacher provides it.• Students are given another list of words from the passage and are asked to provide the opposites of these words (antonyms).• The same procedure is repeated with words that look the same in English and Arabic (cognates). Students are asked to search the passage for examples of cognates and to translate them into their mother tongue.
Activity III : Grammar• The teacher reads a list of two-word verbs (phrasal verbs). He begins with phrasal verbs that are familiar to them, then moves to new phrasal verbs in the passage.• students are asked to translate them into their mother tongue.• Then, they are given the rule of a direct object with two- word verbs (separable vs. inseparable phrasal verbs).• after reading over the rule and examples, students are asked to tell which of the following two-word verbs are separable and which inseparable= all these verbs are taken from the passage.• they are asked to fill in the blanks with one of these phrasal verbs.
Activity V: Writing• Students are asked to write a composition in the target language applying the information in the passage to some similar topic.
Activity IV: Miscellaneous• At the end of the chapter, there is a list of words that appeared in the passage. The list is divided into two parts: the first contains separate words and the second includes idioms. These words and idioms are translated into the students mother tongue. Students are asked to memorize them and to write sentence in English using each word.• Students are asked to write out the translation of the reading passage into their mother tongue.• State the grammatical rule and apply it to examples of their own.• Take a quiz on the grammar and the vocabulary of this chapter.
Summary of the principles of the Grammar – translation method• The objective of the method is to be able to read and understand written target language literature.• The culture of the target language is confined to the literature and the fine arts• Literary language is superior to spoken language.• An important goal is for students to be able to translate each language into the other.( Those are the successful language learners)• The ability to communicate in the target language is not a goal of foreign language instruction.• Emphasis on reading and writing, rather than listening and speaking.• Grammar and vocabulary are the basic language elements emphasized, pronunciation is neglected. Form is emphasized over function.• The teacher is the authority in the class. It is important that students get the correct answer from the teacher (model).• Learning is facilitated through attention to similarities between the target language and the mother tongue.• Deductive teaching of grammar.• Language learning provides a good mental exercise.
Techniques• Translation of literary passages.• Reading comprehension questions• Antonyms/ synonyms• Cognates• Deductive application of grammatical rules• Fill in the blanks• Memorization (of grammar and vocabulary)• Use words in sentences• Composition writing
Assignment1. Prepare a detailed lesson plan according to the Grammar – Translation Method be ready to teach it to your fellow colleagues in the next meeting. Use intermediate textbooks for making your lesson plan.2. Write down your critique of the method indicating weaknesses and strengths and how to maximize benefit from the method in our schools.