The grammar-translation method of foreign language teaching was first known as the Prussian
method. It is also known as the classical method or indirect method. Thelabel GTM was coined
by its opponents. It is one of the most traditional methods that were originally used to teach
'dead' languages such as Latin and Greek. It was widespread in Europe and many other
countries from 1840s till 1940s but itislessusedtoday. The grammar translation method used to
be cherished because it made the work of the teacher easy, it was used to teach the classical
languages which were very prestigious at that time, and as time went on numerous shortfalls
associated with this method were realized, prominently among them were:
1 This method involves no or little Learner Motivation and Participation
The GTM approach involves no learner participation and little
teacher-student relationship. Students are required to learn from a
textbook and use the same method throughout their learning.
Because lessons using GTM are not interactive and engaging for
students, they become more likely to lose interest in their subject
and less motivated to learn. Also, the method does not require
students to participate in any activities or communicate with each
other, so they will not learn how to use the language in a real-life
conversation or situation and will only know how to translate one
language to another.Worst effect of this method is on pupil's
motivation. Because he or she cannot succeed therefore leads to
frustration, boredom and indiscipline.
2 It leads to unnatural and inaccurate pronunciation
As children, people generally learn how to speak before they learn how to write and read. In
the GTM approach, this natural learning method is reversed. Students are only taught how to
read and write the language. This can affect how they learn to speak the learned language. The
mere application of grammar and sentence structure cannot adequately prepare them for
realistic conversations or verbal communication, as no emphasis is given to spoken language in
the GTM approach. Translations may also be inaccurate, as it is not always possible to simply
translate one word or phrase accurately to another language for example, the translation of
"computer" in English to Latin is not possible, as there is no Latin word for computer.
3. Exact translation is not possible.
Translation is, indeed, a difficult task and exact translation from one language to another is not
always possible. A language is the result of various customs, traditions, and modes of behavior
of a speech community and these traditions differ from community to community. There are
several lexical items in one language, which have no synonyms or equivalents in another
language. For instance, the meaning of the English word ‘table’ does not fit in such expression
as the ‘table of contents’, ‘table of figures’, ‘multiplication table’, ‘time table’ and ‘table the
resolution’, etc. also, another effect of exact translation manifests when an Akan speaker who
tries to translate “ko ko ahwede3” to English directly ends up translating it as “go
gosugarcane” instead of guinea fowl because “ko” in English means “go” while “ahwede3” in
English means “sugarcane”.
4 Speech is neglected.
The Grammar Translation Method lays emphasis on reading and writing. It neglects speech.
Thus, the students who are taught English through this method fail to express themselves
adequately in spoken English. Even at the undergraduate stage they feel shy of communicating
through English. It has been observed that in a class, which is taught English through this
method, learners listen to the mother tongue more than that to the second/foreign language.
Since language learning involves habit formation such students fail to acquire habit of speaking
English. Thus, they have to pay a heavy price for being taught through this method. For
example, many Ghanaian English learners in the rural areas and some towns are taught English
in selected local languages such as“akan, ewe, dagbani, akuapim and ga” at primary schools
which go a long way to affect their language proficiency. Somebody will ask “is this the reason
why many Ghanaian JHS pupils and some SHS students or some students in the various
tertiary institutions cannot express themselves well in English? Your guess is as good as mine
5The roles of the students are very limited in this setting
Students do not get chance to evaluate teachers and do not equally get opportunity to express
themselves, it limits students to explore as students accept whatever the teacher teaches
consequently their feelings and consents are not known. Also, Teachers do not know how the
students see them. This mostly seen in primary and JHS in Ghanaian schools.
6 the role of the teacher is overly superior and too authoritative
Teachers are seen as authoritative figures because this method gives too much power to
teachers, since the teacher is the authority in the class room, he always instructs students and
this makes classroom interaction one way.
7Students find it very tedious to remember grammar rules
It is very tedious because learners have to memorize endless lists of unusable grammar rules
and vocabulary and attempting to produce perfect translation of stilted or literary prose that is
the language written in its ordinary form
8 It is an unnatural method.
The natural order of learning a language is listening, speaking, reading and writing. That is the
way how the child learns his mother tongue in natural surroundings. But in the Grammar
Translation Method the teaching of the second language starts with the teaching of reading.
Thus, the learning process is reversed. This poses problems because every child learnt how to
speak before he or she learnt how to write of which I do not believe there is anybody who is an
exception to this scenario.
9It does not give pattern practice.
A person can learn a language only when he internalizes its patterns to the extent that they
form his habit. But the Grammar Translation Method does not provide any such practice to the
learner of a language. It rather attempts to teach language through rules and not by use.
Researchers in linguistics have proved that to speak any language, whether native or foreign,
entirely by rule is quite impossible. Language learning means acquiring certain skills, which can
be learned through practice and not by just memorizing rules. The persons who have learned a
foreign or second language through this method find it difficult to give up the habit of first
thinking in their mother tongue and then translating their ideas into the second language. They,
therefore, fail to get proficiency in the second language approximating that in the first
language. The method, therefore, suffers from certain weaknesses for which there is no remedy
10 this method failed to give any theory and literature which supports it
It is a method for which there is no theory,there is no literature that offers a rationale or
justification for it or that attempts to relate it to issues in linguistics, psychology, or educational