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In Defense of the Grammar Translation Method

I am going to take this opportunity to defend the Grammar-Translation method. The Grammar
Translation Method gets a really bad rap in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) world. But I find it to be
invaluable to my ESOL (ESL, EFL)
 teaching situation and it should not be ruled out as a helpful teaching method in the ESOL
(ESL, EFL) classroom. I have been using Participatory Language Teaching as an inspiration for
much of my daily lesson plans which frowns upon the use of the Grammar Translation Method.
However, I cannot get away from the usefulness of the Grammar-Translation method for some
situations. I don't use the Grammar Translation Method in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) classroom as a
primary learning tool, but as a way to facilitate the learning process for the students with low
level of English proficiency.

The Grammar-Translation method was once very popular but has since been replaced with
methods that purportedly obtain better results. In my ESOL (ESL, EFL) classroom, for the first
part of the lesson the students read a short story in the target language and then translate it
sentence by sentence into their native language. Along with the reading "new words are
presented in a list (I accompany each word with a picture) with definitions in the" target
language (Richard-Amato p.16).

Many of you who will teach children in a public school overseas will find yourself in a mixed level
classroom of English language learners who all speak the same native language and you do not
but for a couple hundred words of foreigner speak (if you are lucky). Often times you will be
assigned a co-teacher who is a native speaker of that countries language. These co-teachers
may or may not show up for your ESOL (ESL, EFL) class, and may or may not have sufficient
proficiency in English to help you. At this point the Grammar Translation Method may be your
only way to communicate to the students.

Teaching Methods: Grammar Translation
Method is Useful in the ESOL (ESL, EFL)
Classroom

In Defense of the Grammar Translation Method

It is a difficult situation where you are essentially teaching two ESOL (ESL, EFL) classes
simultaneously; one an advanced level and the other a beginner level. Many times the only way
for me to communicate the
 directions for an activity or to explain new vocabulary to the lower level ESOL (ESL, EFL)
students is to have the advanced ESOL (ESL, EFL) students translate the target language
material into their native language so that the low proficiency students can understand and
participate in the lesson. The Grammar Translation Method is sometimes the only way to handle
this type of teaching situation. While this may not be the best way to increase the English
proficiency of the advanced level students, it ensures that the low level students are able to
participate in class and be a part of the learning process.

*If you enjoyed this interesting and informative article on the Grammar Translation Method,
please view my other ESOL (ESL, EFL) articles by clicking my name "Tesl Goddess" .
Grammar translation
In applied linguistics, the grammar translation method is a foreign language teaching
method derived from the classical (sometimes called traditional) method of teaching
Greek and Latin. The method requires students to translate whole texts word for word
and memorize numerous grammatical rules and exceptions as well as enormous
vocabulary lists. The goal of this method is to be able to read and translate literary
masterpieces and classics.

   History and philosophy
Throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the education system was formed
primarily around a concept called faculty psychology. In brief, this theory dictated that
the body and mind were separate and the mind consisted of three parts: the will,
emotion, and intellect. It was believed that the intellect could be sharpened enough to
eventually control the will and emotions. The way to do this was through learning
classical literature of the Greeks and Romans, as well as mathematics. Additionally, an
adult with such an education was considered mentally prepared for the world and its
challenges. In the 19th century, modern languages and literatures began to appear in
schools. It was believed that teaching modern languages was not useful for the
development of mental discipline and thus they were left out of the curriculum. As a
result, textbooks were essentially copied for the modern language classroom. In
America, the basic foundations of this method were used in most high school and
college foreign language classrooms and were eventually replaced by the audio-lingual
method among others.

Method
Classes were conducted in the native language. A chapter in a distinctive textbook of
this method would begin with a massive bilingual vocabulary list. Grammar points
would come directly from the texts and be presented contextually in the textbook, to be
explained elaborately by the instructor. Grammar thus provided the rules for assembling
words into sentences. Tedious translation and grammar drills would be used to exercise
and strengthen the knowledge without much attention to content. Sentences would be
deconstructed and translated. Eventually, entire texts would be translated from the target
language into the native language and tests would often ask students to replicate
classical texts in the target language. Very little attention was placed on pronunciation
or any communicative aspects of the language. The skill exercised was reading, and
then only in the context of translation.

Criticism
The method by definition has a very limited scope of objectives. Because speaking or
any kind of spontaneous creative output was missing from the curriculum, students
would often fail at speaking or even letter writing in the target language. A noteworthy
quote describing the effect of this method comes from Bahlsen, who was a student of
Plötz, a major proponent of this method in the 19th century. In commenting about
writing letters or speaking he said he would be overcome with "a veritable forest of
paragraphs, and an impenetrable thicket of grammatical rules." Later, theorists such as
Vietor, Passy, Berlitz, and Jespersen began to talk about what a new kind of foreign
language instruction needed, shedding light on what the grammar translation was
missing. They supported teaching the language, not about the language, and teaching in
the target language, emphasizing speech as well as text. Through grammar translation,
students lacked an active role in the classroom, often correcting their own work and
strictly following the textbook.

The Grammar Translation Method
The Grammar Translation Method is the oldest method of teaching in India. It is as old
as the international of English in the country. A number of methods and techniques have
been evolved for the teaching of English and also other foreign languages in the recent
past, yet this method is still in use in many part of India. It maintains the mother tongue
of the learner as the reference particularly in the process of learning the second/foreign
languages. The main principles on which the Grammar Translation Method is based are
the following:

   1. Translation interprets the words and phrases of the foreign languages in the best
      possible manner.
   2. The phraseology and the idiom of the target language can best be assimilated in
      the process of interpretation.
   3. The structures of the foreign languages are best learned when compared and
      contrast with those of mother tongue.

In this method, while teaching the text book the teacher translates every word, phrase
from English into the mother tongue of learners. Further, students are required to
translate sentences from their mother tongue into English. These exercises in translation
are based on various items covering the grammar of the target language. The method
emphasizes the study of grammar through deduction that is through the study of the
rules of grammar. A contrastive study of the target language with the mother tongue
gives an insight into the structure not only of the foreign language but also of the
mother tongue.

Advantages:

   1. The phraseology of the target language is quickly explained. Translation is the
      easiest way of explaining meanings or words and phrases from one language
      into another. Any other method of explaining vocabulary items in the second
      language is found time consuming. A lot of time is wasted if the meanings of
      lexical items are explained through definitions and illustrations in the second
      language. Further, learners acquire some short of accuracy in understanding
      synonyms in the source language and the target language.
   2. Teacher’s labor is saved. Since the textbooks are taught through the medium of
      the mother tongue, the teacher may ask comprehension questions on the text
      taught in the mother tongue. Pupils will not have much difficulty in responding
      to questions on the mother tongue. So, the teacher can easily assess whether the
      students have learned what he has taught them. Communication between the
      teacher and the learner does not cause linguistic problems. Even teachers who
      are not fluent in English can teach English through this method. That is perhaps
the reason why this method has been practiced so widely and has survived so
      long.

Disadvantages:

   1. 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.
   2. 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.
   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/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. English prepositions are also
      difficult to translate. Consider sentences such as ‘We see with our eyes’,
      ‘Bombay is far from Delhi’, ‘He died of cholera’, He succeeded through hard
      work’. In these sentences ‘with’, ‘from’, ‘of’, ‘through’ can be translated into
      the Hindi preposition ‘se’ and vice versa. Each language has its own structure,
      idiom and usage, which do not have their exact counterparts in another
      language. Thus, translation should be considered an index of one’s proficiency
      in a language.
   4. It 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.
Conclusion
The grammar translation method stayed in schools until the 1960s, when a complete
foreign language pedagogy evaluation was taking place. In the meantime, teachers
experimented with approaches like the direct method in post-war and Depression era
classrooms, but without much structure to follow. The trusty grammar translation
method set the pace for many classrooms for many decades.

Monty Python made fun of the grammar translation method in their film Life of Brian.


gram·mar-trans·la·tion meth·od

  ˈgræm ər trænsˈleɪ ʃən,-trænz-Show Spelled[gram-er-trans-ley-shuh n,
-tranz-] Show IPA
–noun

a traditional technique of foreign-language teaching based on explicit
instruction in the grammatical analysis of the target language and
translation of sentences from the native language into the target
language and vice versa.
Sampling of the Suggestopedia and the Grammar Translation Teaching Methods with
                                               The Condor Who Fell In Love




                           Daily Instructional Lesson Plan Worcester County Public Schools
                           Content Area(s)/Course/Grade:               Unit:
                           Spanish (or ESL with the language roles     Suggestopedia
                           reversed)
                           Lesson Topic:                               Date:
                           The Condor Who Fell In Love                 July 19, 2005
                           Teacher:                                    School:
                           Hayley Minner                               SDMS
 Student Outcome(s):
Students will be able to:
    Recognize the differences between Spanish and English text.
    Develop their Spanish listening skills during a read aloud.
    Focus their minds on the task at hand.
    Demonstrate comprehension through interactions and participation, using both the native and primary
       languages.
 Context for Learning
This lesson was developed for a beginning level Spanish class or for other students with no Spanish
background. In an ESL classroom, I would use this method to teach English by reversing the role of the two

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Grammar translation method

  • 1. In Defense of the Grammar Translation Method I am going to take this opportunity to defend the Grammar-Translation method. The Grammar Translation Method gets a really bad rap in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) world. But I find it to be invaluable to my ESOL (ESL, EFL) teaching situation and it should not be ruled out as a helpful teaching method in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) classroom. I have been using Participatory Language Teaching as an inspiration for much of my daily lesson plans which frowns upon the use of the Grammar Translation Method. However, I cannot get away from the usefulness of the Grammar-Translation method for some situations. I don't use the Grammar Translation Method in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) classroom as a primary learning tool, but as a way to facilitate the learning process for the students with low level of English proficiency. The Grammar-Translation method was once very popular but has since been replaced with methods that purportedly obtain better results. In my ESOL (ESL, EFL) classroom, for the first part of the lesson the students read a short story in the target language and then translate it sentence by sentence into their native language. Along with the reading "new words are presented in a list (I accompany each word with a picture) with definitions in the" target language (Richard-Amato p.16). Many of you who will teach children in a public school overseas will find yourself in a mixed level classroom of English language learners who all speak the same native language and you do not but for a couple hundred words of foreigner speak (if you are lucky). Often times you will be assigned a co-teacher who is a native speaker of that countries language. These co-teachers may or may not show up for your ESOL (ESL, EFL) class, and may or may not have sufficient proficiency in English to help you. At this point the Grammar Translation Method may be your only way to communicate to the students. Teaching Methods: Grammar Translation Method is Useful in the ESOL (ESL, EFL) Classroom In Defense of the Grammar Translation Method It is a difficult situation where you are essentially teaching two ESOL (ESL, EFL) classes simultaneously; one an advanced level and the other a beginner level. Many times the only way for me to communicate the directions for an activity or to explain new vocabulary to the lower level ESOL (ESL, EFL) students is to have the advanced ESOL (ESL, EFL) students translate the target language material into their native language so that the low proficiency students can understand and participate in the lesson. The Grammar Translation Method is sometimes the only way to handle this type of teaching situation. While this may not be the best way to increase the English proficiency of the advanced level students, it ensures that the low level students are able to participate in class and be a part of the learning process. *If you enjoyed this interesting and informative article on the Grammar Translation Method, please view my other ESOL (ESL, EFL) articles by clicking my name "Tesl Goddess" .
  • 2. Grammar translation In applied linguistics, the grammar translation method is a foreign language teaching method derived from the classical (sometimes called traditional) method of teaching Greek and Latin. The method requires students to translate whole texts word for word and memorize numerous grammatical rules and exceptions as well as enormous vocabulary lists. The goal of this method is to be able to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics. History and philosophy Throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the education system was formed primarily around a concept called faculty psychology. In brief, this theory dictated that the body and mind were separate and the mind consisted of three parts: the will, emotion, and intellect. It was believed that the intellect could be sharpened enough to eventually control the will and emotions. The way to do this was through learning classical literature of the Greeks and Romans, as well as mathematics. Additionally, an adult with such an education was considered mentally prepared for the world and its challenges. In the 19th century, modern languages and literatures began to appear in schools. It was believed that teaching modern languages was not useful for the development of mental discipline and thus they were left out of the curriculum. As a result, textbooks were essentially copied for the modern language classroom. In America, the basic foundations of this method were used in most high school and college foreign language classrooms and were eventually replaced by the audio-lingual method among others. Method Classes were conducted in the native language. A chapter in a distinctive textbook of this method would begin with a massive bilingual vocabulary list. Grammar points would come directly from the texts and be presented contextually in the textbook, to be explained elaborately by the instructor. Grammar thus provided the rules for assembling words into sentences. Tedious translation and grammar drills would be used to exercise and strengthen the knowledge without much attention to content. Sentences would be deconstructed and translated. Eventually, entire texts would be translated from the target language into the native language and tests would often ask students to replicate classical texts in the target language. Very little attention was placed on pronunciation or any communicative aspects of the language. The skill exercised was reading, and then only in the context of translation. Criticism The method by definition has a very limited scope of objectives. Because speaking or any kind of spontaneous creative output was missing from the curriculum, students would often fail at speaking or even letter writing in the target language. A noteworthy quote describing the effect of this method comes from Bahlsen, who was a student of Plötz, a major proponent of this method in the 19th century. In commenting about writing letters or speaking he said he would be overcome with "a veritable forest of paragraphs, and an impenetrable thicket of grammatical rules." Later, theorists such as
  • 3. Vietor, Passy, Berlitz, and Jespersen began to talk about what a new kind of foreign language instruction needed, shedding light on what the grammar translation was missing. They supported teaching the language, not about the language, and teaching in the target language, emphasizing speech as well as text. Through grammar translation, students lacked an active role in the classroom, often correcting their own work and strictly following the textbook. The Grammar Translation Method The Grammar Translation Method is the oldest method of teaching in India. It is as old as the international of English in the country. A number of methods and techniques have been evolved for the teaching of English and also other foreign languages in the recent past, yet this method is still in use in many part of India. It maintains the mother tongue of the learner as the reference particularly in the process of learning the second/foreign languages. The main principles on which the Grammar Translation Method is based are the following: 1. Translation interprets the words and phrases of the foreign languages in the best possible manner. 2. The phraseology and the idiom of the target language can best be assimilated in the process of interpretation. 3. The structures of the foreign languages are best learned when compared and contrast with those of mother tongue. In this method, while teaching the text book the teacher translates every word, phrase from English into the mother tongue of learners. Further, students are required to translate sentences from their mother tongue into English. These exercises in translation are based on various items covering the grammar of the target language. The method emphasizes the study of grammar through deduction that is through the study of the rules of grammar. A contrastive study of the target language with the mother tongue gives an insight into the structure not only of the foreign language but also of the mother tongue. Advantages: 1. The phraseology of the target language is quickly explained. Translation is the easiest way of explaining meanings or words and phrases from one language into another. Any other method of explaining vocabulary items in the second language is found time consuming. A lot of time is wasted if the meanings of lexical items are explained through definitions and illustrations in the second language. Further, learners acquire some short of accuracy in understanding synonyms in the source language and the target language. 2. Teacher’s labor is saved. Since the textbooks are taught through the medium of the mother tongue, the teacher may ask comprehension questions on the text taught in the mother tongue. Pupils will not have much difficulty in responding to questions on the mother tongue. So, the teacher can easily assess whether the students have learned what he has taught them. Communication between the teacher and the learner does not cause linguistic problems. Even teachers who are not fluent in English can teach English through this method. That is perhaps
  • 4. the reason why this method has been practiced so widely and has survived so long. Disadvantages: 1. 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. 2. 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. 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/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. English prepositions are also difficult to translate. Consider sentences such as ‘We see with our eyes’, ‘Bombay is far from Delhi’, ‘He died of cholera’, He succeeded through hard work’. In these sentences ‘with’, ‘from’, ‘of’, ‘through’ can be translated into the Hindi preposition ‘se’ and vice versa. Each language has its own structure, idiom and usage, which do not have their exact counterparts in another language. Thus, translation should be considered an index of one’s proficiency in a language. 4. It 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.
  • 5. Conclusion The grammar translation method stayed in schools until the 1960s, when a complete foreign language pedagogy evaluation was taking place. In the meantime, teachers experimented with approaches like the direct method in post-war and Depression era classrooms, but without much structure to follow. The trusty grammar translation method set the pace for many classrooms for many decades. Monty Python made fun of the grammar translation method in their film Life of Brian. gram·mar-trans·la·tion meth·od   ˈgræm ər trænsˈleɪ ʃən,-trænz-Show Spelled[gram-er-trans-ley-shuh n, -tranz-] Show IPA –noun a traditional technique of foreign-language teaching based on explicit instruction in the grammatical analysis of the target language and translation of sentences from the native language into the target language and vice versa.
  • 6. Sampling of the Suggestopedia and the Grammar Translation Teaching Methods with The Condor Who Fell In Love Daily Instructional Lesson Plan Worcester County Public Schools Content Area(s)/Course/Grade: Unit: Spanish (or ESL with the language roles Suggestopedia reversed) Lesson Topic: Date: The Condor Who Fell In Love July 19, 2005 Teacher: School: Hayley Minner SDMS Student Outcome(s): Students will be able to:  Recognize the differences between Spanish and English text.  Develop their Spanish listening skills during a read aloud.  Focus their minds on the task at hand.  Demonstrate comprehension through interactions and participation, using both the native and primary languages. Context for Learning This lesson was developed for a beginning level Spanish class or for other students with no Spanish background. In an ESL classroom, I would use this method to teach English by reversing the role of the two
  • 7. languages. The classroom environment should be enjoyable but relaxing; with comfortable chairs and with relia that complements the text. Prior to this lesson, students were given Spanish names and chose professions, in order to take on a different persona (if given time, students would choose names and professions as an opening activity). Instructional Delivery Opening Activities/Motivation: Gather students in a circle and encourage them to relax while listening to classical music. The teacher will give them the text, in both Spanish and English, to refer to during the readings. Inform students to clear their minds and follow along while the teacher reads in the target language, referring to the primary language for comprehension when necessary. Procedures: 1. Do not begin reading until the classical music has played for a couple of minutes and the students are relaxed. 2. Begin reading the text in the target language. 3. Read passage one. 4. Change the music. Allow students to listen to the music for a couple of minutes before beginning to read the next passage. 5. Read passage two. 6. Change the music. Allow students to listen to the music for a couple of minutes before beginning to read the next passage (time permitting). 7. Read passage three (time permitting). 8. Allow students to listen and enjoy the music for a few more minutes. 9. Do not discuss the readings at this time!
  • 8. Assessment/Evaluation (Formative/Summative) Informal assessment through teacher observation. After the lesson, students’ comprehension would be assessed through their participation and interaction in the planning and presenting of their “skit.” Closure: After reading the three passages, inform the students that their homework for tonight is to read the text once more before bed and then again in the morning before getting up. **************************************************************************************************************** Daily Instructional Lesson Plan Worcester County Public Schools Content Area(s)/Course/Grade: Unit: Spanish (or ESL class with language Grammar Translation emphasis reversed) Lesson Topic: Date: The Condor Who Fell In Love July 19, 2005 Teacher: School: Hayley Minner SDMS
  • 9. Student Outcome(s): Students will be able to:  Identify various Spanish and English vocabulary words.  Translate Spanish text in to English using bilingual dictionaries. Context for Learning This lesson was developed for a beginning level Spanish class or for other students with no Spanish background. This grammar translation lesson would also be suitable for an ESL class of Spanish students after reversing the language roles, putting emphasis on using the Spanish to learn the English. Students have been studying basic Spanish and have most currently finished learning Spanish verbs in the preterite tense (if time allowed, a mini-grammar-lesson on the preterite tense would have preceded the lesson). Students are somewhat familiar with the text, The Condor Who Fell In Love. Instructional Delivery Opening Activities/Motivation: Students will be given a list of vocabulary terms in English and Spanish to read over and memorize. An extremely brief oral “check” for pronunciation would follow although the grammar translation approach does not focus on oral fluency development.
  • 10. Procedures: 1. Give students a copy of Spanish text from The Condor Who Fell In Love. 2. Have students read the Spanish version to themselves. 3. Have students translate the passage in to English using their prior knowledge and a bilingual dictionary if necessary (students should be given parts of the passage so that they are able to fill in blanks or small sections to avoid direct translation of large text). 4. Select students may read their translation, if time permits. Assessment/Evaluation (Formative/Summative) Students will be assessed according to their ability to correctly translate the text from one language to another. A quiz, the following day, will assess students’ memorization of vocabulary terms. Informal observations by the teacher will also be used to evaluate the students. Closure: Inform students that they are expected to complete a second page of grammar translations for homework.