Friday, January 27, 2006

A Brief History of English Language


The history of English may be divided into three periods: Old English from about 700 to 1100 AD, Middle English from 1100 to 1500 AD, and Modern English from 1500 to the present.
Old English showed considerable differentiation from the other languages of Europe. Old English was clearly Germanic, but it had borrowed many words already from Latin. Along with the words borrowed from Latin, Old English continued to coin its own words and thus remained vibrant in its usage.
From the 9th Century, West Saxon became the dominant dialect. Norse speakers acquired English at this time. They brought Norse words into their English. In addition, the English native words were also adjusted in their pronunciation by the Norse speakers. At this time, the Normans were the dominant class and so French words were accepted in the domains of administration, law, and church. Words such as felony, angel, and duke came into English. One-fifth of words used in art and science in English came from French.>
London became the capital of England in early 11th Century, and its dialect, which was close to the dialect of Essex, became prestigious. Slowly, London English gave up its local peculiarities and assumed the role of a universally accepted dialect with prestige. In the Fourteenth Century, English became the medium of instruction in schools, as the language of the courts of law and the opening of Parliament. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was written in this period, utilizing a variety of London English.
In the Fifteenth Century, many familiar Fourteenth Century words were replaced by many words which were borrowed from French and Latin. Words such as consecrate, firmament, grace, pollute, and sanctity came into English in this process.
Modern English presents a peculiar picture. It has retained the old spelling, even as it developed new pronunciation – modern pronunciation with medieval spelling. Many Latin words were borrowed into English through French. This period also saw development of regularity in vocabulary, in form and usage, grammatical forms, and in syntax.
English language developed a tendency and respect for correctness in the Seventeenth Century. “Accessions to the vocabulary in the 17th Century show the influence of French and Italian, particularly in matters of fashion and the fine arts. The 18th Century showed the influence of more distant countries such as India, and the 19th Century continued that tendency. However, scientific terms are the outstanding contribution of the 19th Century, and this has remained true in the 20th” (Encyclopedia Britannica).
An important characteristic of English has been its receptivity to loan words from other languages. No other language exhibits such an extraordinary receptivity. This has not resulted, however, in the loss of corresponding native words in most cases. Words were often borrowed to refine the meanings which resulted in greater clarity in the expression and creation of ideas.
Moreover, English speakers always enjoyed greater freedom in the use of their language, unlike, for instance, the users of the French language. There has been no legal provision which guided the native speakers of English in the use or non-use of words. Mostly the commonly agreed conventions, rather than deliberate enforcement of rules of usage through academies, marked the development of English and its use.
Modern, current English has over 500,000 words. If we add the scientific terms used in the language, the total would be very high indeed. It has been estimated that only 18.4 percent of these words is native to English. French vocabulary used in English is around 32.4 percent, whereas the words of Latin origin is estimated to be 14.4 percent, words of Greek origin around 12.5 percent, and other languages 23.3 percent. This does not mean that the words of foreign origin are more greatly used in English. It only suggests that more foreign words than the native ones are used to characterize, define, and describe meanings and ideas in English (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Two principal branches of spoken English dialects are recognized by scholars. The British branch of spoken dialects include those spoken in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The North American branch of spoken dialects include those spoken in Canada and the United States. Within each of these categories, there are different dialects, both geographical and social.
The English spoken in the Eastern Seaboard region and adjoining states in the United States have been studied in greater detail than the English spoken in other parts of the United States. Generally speaking, there are three different dialect areas: Northern dialect area consisting of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut; the Midland dialect area consisting of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, northern Maryland, and northern West Virginia is treated as North Midland dialect; and the area consisting of West Virginia, western Virginia, western North Carolina, and northwestern South Carolina is treated as South Midland. The Southern English dialect includes Delmarva, Virginia Piedmont, Northeastern North Carolina, Cape Fear and Peedee Valleys and the South Carolina country (O’ Grady, et al. 1993:445).
It is possible that these three major dialect areas in the eastern United States extend to the west in close conjunction with the history of westward movement in settlement in the U.S. However, as Gleason warned us years ago (Gleason :403), it is only “American folk-linguistics (which) recognizes two major dialect areas, ‘Southern’ and ‘Northern.’ But there is no discernible linguistic division at or near the Mason-Dixon line. ‘Southern’ dialects are exceedingly diverse. The sharpest dialect boundary in the United States runs directly through the South roughly along the Blue Ridge mountains. A ‘Northern dialect’ is as much a fiction as a ‘Southern dialect.’” Despite spoken dialectal differences, the native speakers of English have maintained a great uniformity in formal spoken English which is amazingly uniform and close to written English. An educated native speaker of English makes easy transitions from the colloquial/informal to varieties of formal English in his/her speech.
The teacher of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), who is a native of speaker of English, needs to give up the peculiarities of his/her regional and/or social dialect at the informal level, and to switch over to the standard which is closer to the ordinary, plain written English, in his/her classroom.
As already pointed out, modern English has retained the old spelling even as it has developed new pronunciation. English is rather “notorious” for its alleged frequent lack of correspondence between the spelling and pronunciation of a word. It has been pointed out that “there are 13.7 spellings per sound, but only 3.5 sounds per letter” in English (G. Dewy, 1971, quoted in Crystal 1987:213).
Contrary to general impression, scholars claim that 75% of English is regular. However, “the 400 or so irregular spellings are largely among the most frequently used words in the language, and this promotes a strong impression of irregularity” (Crystal 1987:214).
As Crystal (1987:214) points out, irregularities of English spelling came from several sources into the language. 26 letters are used to represent a larger number of phonemes (significant groups of sounds each of which may be represented by a separate letter for ease and convenience in a language). Borrowed words from French led to respelling of words. The printing process caused further complications. Many early printers were from Holland and they introduced their own spelling norms, and made several convenient abbreviations and additions and deletions to account for the space in a line. Then “there was a fashion to make spelling reflect Latin or Greek etymology.” And modern borrowings from other languages brought with them their own spelling. In spite of all this, English spelling gives us a lot of information about the relationship between words. And this feature is a boon both to the TESOL teacher, and the second/foreign language learner of English. One comes to recognize intuitively the relationship between words, learns to derive the nouns from the verbs and vice versa, and does a lot of other grammatical exercises which make the learning of English much simpler than learning many other languages.
English has a long history of spelling reform movements from the 16th Century. The efforts of Spelling Reform Association in the U.S. (founded in 1876) and Simplified Spelling Society in Britain (founded in 1908), along with the untiring efforts of Bernard Shaw, a great modern playwright, in recent times, are significant milestones in spelling reform movements. But almost all of these ended as futile exercise. However, some spelling changes have been effected in American English through the rules introduced by the great American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758-1843) which distinguish American English from British English. For example, use of -or for -our and -er for -re in words such as honor/honour, and theater/theatre.
We revisit the issue of spelling in a subsequent chapter which deals with orthography.
Of great interest and relevance to the teacher of TESOL are the on-going movements against the unnecessarily complicated use of English and for the replacement of such usage by clearer forms of expression (Crystal 1987:378). Both in Britain and the United States, because of pressure from teachers, authors, writers and communicators, governments have made efforts to redesign forms and reports, etc., in plain English which could be understood with ease.
President Carter issued an Executive Order in March 1978 requiring regulations to be written in plain English. This order was revoked by President Reagan in 1981. There has, however, been continued objection from legal professions based on “the risk of ambiguity inherent in the use of every day language” which, they claim, makes it unsuitable for precision.
Dayananda (1986:13) presents the following as the characteristics of Plain English:
1. good. (Cited from Crystal 1987:379).
The English taught, spoken, and written in the Third World countries is often not plain, simple, and straightforward. As in the Indian sub-continent, it is derived, more often than not, from the English style spoken and written a century ago, in some instances. We certainly need to emphasize grammatical correctness in learning English, but it is equally important to cultivate in our learners a sensitivity and skill to use natural, simple, and straightforward English. Indian newspapers in English and the radio news broadcasts should take the initiative in simplifying the usage.
Teaching English as a tool for communicating the story of Jesus has a long history. Missionaries have vehemently differed from one another about its usefulness as a tool for this purpose. Even as English contains excellent Christian literature, it also is home for secular literature. Secular Humanism found its way in many lands through the learning of English language and literature. Its “ennobling” characteristic as a tool and purveyor of culture, the scientific knowledge it opens up for those who learn it, the ease with which one could transact business using it, all have more or less overshadowed the deep Christian foundation upon which the language, literature and culture is built.
Aided by the influence of secularism, many Christian teachers of English have more or less abandoned the Christian program while teaching English. Ethics and morals portrayed in literature were interpreted not as emerging from the Christian base but from universal humanism. English is still pregnant with Christian metaphors, idioms and set phrases, which cannot be wholly understood and used without a grasp of the underlying Christian message.
Perhaps because of the reason last mentioned, most nations have embarked upon a process of textbook contextualization when it comes to teaching English. The original pieces of writing by the native speakers of English are sought to be replaced by the writings of the nationals who are masters of English prose and poetry. In their creative writing, metaphors, idioms, and set phrases from the national languages, which imply local culture and religion, are more freely used. Translations from the local tales are more frequently substituted for tales from Europe. In addition, government-inspired documents on ideology become part of the textbook. Nations (and individuals) want to appropriate English as a language minus the culture and religion it represents and communicates.
Even as the goals of English teaching and learning are being continually redefined, you should remember that English would not be taught solely by the native speakers of English in many nations. Some countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and several African nations have provided for the teaching of English mainly through their nationals. Some countries like Japan and China open their doors to more number of native speakers of English to teach English.
When English is introduced in the school curriculum as a language to be learned in addition to a national language or languages, it is inevitable that governments and institutions would look for training their own nationals to meet the demand.
Missionaries in the past responded to this by training nationals in the art of teaching English as a foreign or second language, while noting all the time the inadequate skills attained in pronunciation and naturalness of usage. The missionaries and others involved in teaching English have recognized that a perfect duplication of the native speakers’ language is neither possible nor desirable. We discuss this issue in a later chapter.
Even as many adult students in short term English courses may not care for the literary benefits of learning English, many more do not feel satisfied with just learning the language and using it only for practical ends. They do, indeed, seek to understand, enjoy and appreciate what English literature offers them. School curriculum always blends learning English language with learning and enjoying English (and American) literature. We shall discuss the aspects of using literature for TESOL in a later chapter.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Material Production


Question: What is known by knowing a language?
Ans.: If one knows the lexical items and patterns or the structure of the language, one can be said to have the knowledge of the language. The beginning is to be made with some lexical items. Without knowing some of the words of a language one cannot even begin to use it for communication. But words in any language would be numerous. English has over half a million. A distinction is made between ‘content words’ (lexical items) and ‘structure words’ (grammatical items). ‘Content words’ carry a definite identifiable meaning even when used in isolation such as ‘fruit’, ‘eat’ and ‘green’, etc. The list of such words is long and ‘open-ended’. It is always capable of growing by receiving new entries. For instance, ‘cosmonaut’ and ‘helipad’ have been recently added to the vocabulary of English. In the some way, ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ from Russian language and ‘samosa’ from Hindi have been included in the latest edition of Hornby’s Advanced Learners Dictionary. On the other hand, structure words are used only in relation to other words in a structure, e.g. ‘of’, ‘and’, ‘some’, etc. The list of such words is a ‘close’ set. No new entries are being added to the list. In learning the words of a language, one is required to learn almost al the ‘structural words’ even for the most ordinary kind of communication. The question, therefore, would be which words and structures should be selected and included in the material, we produce for the teaching of English at certain level.
This will depend on what we want to use the language for. Within the same language there are different varieties, which differ widely from each other. We know that English used in America is different from that used in Britain. Varieties of the same language differing in geographical distribution are called ‘dialect’. It is being claimed that English as being used in India is different from other varieties to claim an independent status for itself as Indian English. Inhabitants of the same region use different forms of the same language depending upon circumstances. The variety of language conditioned by circumstances or domain is called ‘register’. Thus, there may be a doctor’s register of English and engineer’s register, a business’s register, a lawyer’s register, and also a bureaucrat’s register.
The selection of register is important but there is part of the language which is common to all register and is used for all kinds of communication. This constitutes what is termed as the ‘General Service Core’ of the language and this should be offered as ‘the first slice of the language cake. But even a full slice will be too much for anyone to manage at a time. This requires a selection of items, which would need to be graded to be incorporated into constituents to be learnt in some kind of order of difficulty or teach-ability.
Attempts have been made to arrive at some objective criteria for the selection and grading of items for the teaching of English. Far more work has been done in connection with the selection and grading of vocabulary than of structures. During 20’s and 30’s of the 20th century, a number of linguists, Thornlike, Michael West and Richards try to prepare the list of the minimum of vocabulary that one should possess. The first criterion is that the frequency in use. Frequency counts of words would include samples from all the register of the language as this would make the evidence more comprehensive and reliable. A word with a wider range must be preferred to an item with a narrower range.
Then there are words which carry multiple meanings. They have great utility. For instances, one associates multiple meanings with the word ‘table’: a piece of furniture, time-table, multiplication table, table of contents, etc. In a frequency count, one has to indicate which meaning of a word is more frequently used than another. A word having a wider semantic range must be preferred to one having a narrower semantic range.
Another useful criterion is that of productivity. Some words provide scope for the formation of many new words, e.g. ‘man’: ‘to man’, ‘salesman’, ‘statesman’, manful, manfully, one-up-man-ship. English forms new words by adding prefixes and suffixes to word stems and once the process of word formation or derivation is known, the learner can add many more new words to the stock.
Finally there may be practical consideration of teach-ability. The learner needs a core vocabulary of words which are intimately connected with this environment and which can be taught more easily in the classroom using practical technique. Such words should get priority for inclusion in materials that are produced for teaching a language.
It is generally held that the learner of English needs a core vocabulary of approximately 2500 general service words to be able to fulfill all his communicational needs. This list would include, of course, nearly all the structure words of English --- articles, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, demonstratives, relatives, question words and auxiliaries --- about 150 or so. Such a list was prepared by Michael West using the criteria mentioned above. It was meant to be used mainly by the framers of syllabuses, writers of text book and teachers of English. West’s general service list of 2000 words remains authoritative and useful even today, but it needs to be revised and up-dated. Keeping in view the milieu of the Indian learner of English, now many more words are being coined, derived from word stems and borrowed from other languages. The lexicon of English has, therefore, expanded considerably during the last 50 years. Computerization has assigned new meanings to some of the words, which are already in use. Recent researchers in various disciplines have brought into existence a large number of vocabulary items which did not exist earlier. There are many more things being talked about and written about today than 20 years earlier. Therefore, one needs a core vocabulary of approximately 3000 words to meet one’s minimum requirements.
A distinction is to be made between active (productive vocabulary) and passive (recognition vocabulary). Obviously the passive vocabulary of any individual will be more extensive than the active. Therefore a normal learner of English (every learner of English) should aims at achieving active vocabulary of 3000 words and passive vocabulary of approximately 5000 items.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Structures (Selection and Gradation of Structures)

Structures (Selection and Gradation of Structures)

Is there a minimum core of structures, (comparable to the minimum vocabulary) which we can prescribe for the learners to meet his communicational needs?
First, it should be clear that a structure of English is not a sentence of English. All the sentences of English can be presented through a limited number of types or patterns. Each pattern can yield an infinite number of sentences. The formula represents the types and the sentences the token. A structure is thus an abstract thing; a theoretical representation of real thing while the sentence is the actual thing.
A question now arrives: Does the learner learn the abstract structures or he learns the abstract sentences? Whether it involves imitation – memory - habit formation or interference – generalization – rule formation. In other words, is language learning of condition behavior or cognition? No one would maintain that we learn the language sentence by sentence. It must be presumed that we learn the patterns and subsequently we learn how to produce sentences on these patterns by substituting different items (words) in the elements combining together. But since the pattern is an abstraction it cannot be arrived at once. The pattern can be introduced only through sentences by illustrating it. Once a pattern was learnt, it could be used to produce an innumerate number of sentences. Therefore, sentence patterns have to be graded in order of difficulty or complexity in the teaching material that is to be produced for the learners of the language.
For one thing, certain items have idiosyncratic features. In English we can say:
- I feel that you should go.
But we cannot have a sentence like:
- I want that you should go.
(You should say: ‘I want you to go’)
The learner would have to learn separately the structures or patterns using the words ‘want’ and ‘feel’. Such difficulty supposes a problem in arriving at a list of graded structures. Nevertheless, attempts have been made to draw up a list of selected and graded structures. Schools in India have for a long time being making use of ‘structurally graded syllabuses’ as part of the structural approach to the teaching of English. The criteria of frequency range, productivity and teach-ability used for selecting and grading vocabulary are relevant in the selection and grading of structures as well.

As already mentioned, language learning cannot be divorced from situation. It is possible for the learner to learn words and structures correctly but used them in the wrong context. Appropriateness is as important as correctness. It is the teachers’ responsibility and duty of proprietors to indicate this situation and contexts in which they be used. The situations and contexts should be selected and graded as items in language. Of course, the situations that can be created in the classroom are limited. In comparison to real life situations they are artificial and unconvincing. Nevertheless, they do enable the learner to see the relationship between situations and language.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Bilingual Method

The Bilingual Method

Objectives of the method are as follows:
1. to make the learners of a second/foreign language fluent and accurate in the spoken word.
2. to make the learners accurate in the written word.
3. to prepare the learners in such a manner that he may be able to achieve through bilingualism.

When a child learns the mother tongue, he forms the concept and grasps the situation and learns the meaning of words simultaneously. The advocates of the Bilingual Method believe that it is a waste of time to recreate the situation while teaching a foreign language. Their argument is that teaching-learning process is facilitated if only the mother tongue equivalents are given to the learner without duplicating the situation. The Bilingual Method, therefore, makes use of the mother tongue in this restricted manner. It differs from the Grammar Translation Method in two ways:

1. In the Bilingual Method it is the teacher who always makes use of the mother tongue to explain meanings and not the students.
2. The learner is sufficiently subjected to sentence pattern drills, which are not provided in the Grammar Translation Method. Moreover, in the Bilingual Method reading and writing are introduced early in the course of language teaching and there is an integration of the speaking and writing skills.

Advantages of the Bilingual Method:
Some of the advantages claimed for the Bilingual Method are the following:
1. The teacher is saved the botheration of maneuvering situations in order to convey the meanings in English only instead he gives the meaning in the mother tongue of the student.
2. The time thus saved is utilized in giving pattern practice to the learner.
3. Even an average teacher of English can teach through this method without any elaborate preparation.
4. The Bilingual Method promotes both fluency and accuracy. It promotes theory as it lays emphasis on speech and pattern practice. It promotes accuracy as the meanings of new words are given in the mother tongue of the learner.
5. It does not require any teaching aids and is suited to all kinds of school-rural and urban.
6. Unlike the Direct Method, which ignores the linguistic habits already acquired by the learner in the process of learning the first language, the Bilingual Method makes use of them.

1. A possible disadvantage of the method is that if the teacher is not imaginative enough, this method may degenerate into the Grammar Translation Method with all the attendant drawbacks.
2. Secondly, whereas, the Bilingual Method is useful at the secondary stage, the Direct Method is more useful than the Bilingual Method at the primary stage.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Direct Method

The Direct Method

The Direct Method was the outcome of a reaction against the Grammar Translation Method. It was based on the assumption that the learner of a foreign language should think directly in the target language. According to this method, English is taught through English. The learner learns the target language through discussion, conversation and reading in the second language. It does not take recourse to translation and foreign grammar. The first verses are taught while pointing to objects or pictures or by performing actions. According to H.G. Palmer, The Direct Method has the following:
1. Translation in every shape or form is banished from the classroom including the use of the mother tongue and that of the bilingual dictionary.
2. Grammar, when it is taught, is taught inductively.
3. Oral teaching precedes any form of reading and writing.
4. The use of disconnected sentences is replaced by the use of connected texts.
5. Pronunciation is taught systematically in accordance with the principles of phonetics and phonology of the target language.
6. The meanings of words and forms are taught by means of object or natural context.
7. The vocabulary and structure of the language are inculcated to a large extent by the teacher and answered by students.

The Direct Method aims at establishing the direct bond between thought and expressions and between experience and language. It is based on the assumption that the learner should experience the new language in the same way as he experienced his mother tongue. In the Grammar Translation Method, the foreign concept or idea is first translated into the mother tongue and then understood. But in the Direct Method the intervention of the mother tongue is done away with the learner understands what he reads or hears in the second or foreign language without thinking of the mother tongue equivalence. Likewise, he speaks or writes the foreign language without the need of translating his thought or idea from the mother tongue into the second/foreign language. He acquires, what Champion calls that instinctive, unerring language sense which we all possess in variant degree in the mother tongue, and which superseding all rules, grammar and dictionaries, resting at bottom on the direct association between experience and expression, is the only sure guide in the use of language.

1. Oral Training
The direct Method emphasizes the value of oral training in learning a foreign language. The pupil is given sufficient practice in listening to the language and then speaking it. It also lays emphasis on the knowledge of phonetics so that the learner may be able to acquire intelligible pronunciation. Oral training helps in establishing direct association between the words of the foreign language and the ideas for which they stand.

2. Inhibition of the Mother Tongue
Another way of securing bond between experience and expression is to inhibit the use of the mother tongue. Pupils are taught new words by actually showing them the objects for which they stand or performing actions or by suitable illustration in context. This enables them to think in English and respond directly in English.

3. Sentence is the Unit of Speech
Therefore, the teaching of a language starts with the teaching of sentence patterns rather than individual words. This enables the learner to internalize the structure of the target language. New vocabulary items are introduced gradually based on the principle of selection and gradation. They are taught through material association, explanation or use in suitable context.

4. Inductive Teaching of Grammar
In the direct method, grammar of the target language is not taught for its own sake. It is a means to an end. Its aim is to enable the learner to correct errors in his speech and writing. Grammar is taught inductively. It may be pertinent to point out here that in the Direct Method also lessons are prepared by the teacher or the author of textbooks according to some grammatical plan. The quantum of exposure to the language enables the learner to form his own hypothesis and rules of the language.

1. It is a natural method.
It teaches the second/foreign language in the same way as one learns one’s mother tongue. The language is taught through demonstration and conversation in context. Pupils, therefore, acquire fluency in speech. They are quick at understanding spoken English. They can converse in English with felicity and ease.

2. No gap between active and passive vocabulary.
This method does not differentiate between active and passive vocabularies. According to this method whatever is required for understanding through English is also required for expressing through it. If English is taught through the mother tongue, the gulf between the active and passive vocabularies is widened. The learner acquires more of passive vocabulary because he concentrates on understanding English rather than expressing through it.

3. This method is based on sound principles of education.
It believes in introducing the particular before general, concrete before abstract and practice before theory.

1. There are educationists, who hold the view that the Direct Method does not take into account all aspects of language teaching. Dr. Michael West considers that the best thing about this method is that it links the foreign word with idea that it represents. Hence, instead of being called a Direct Method it should be called a Direct Principle.
2. Not Comprehensive
Language learning involves acquisition of skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. The Direct Method concentrates on listening and speaking but not reading and writing. That is why many of those who have learned English through the Direct Method feel that they do not get adequate command over written language.

A comparison between the Direct Method and the Grammar Translation Method must take into account the following points:

i. The Direct Method:
1. avoids close association between the second or foreign language and the mother tongue.
2. lays emphasis on speech.
3. follows the child’s natural way of learning a language.
4. teaches the language by ‘use’ and not by ‘rule’.
5. does not favour the teaching of formal grammar at the early stage.

ii. The Grammar Translation Method:
1. maintains close association between the foreign language and the mother tongue.
2. lays emphasis on speech.
3. follows the adult’s natural way of learning a language.
4. teaches the language by ‘rule’ and not by ‘use.
5. teaches formal grammar from the very beginning.


Friday, January 13, 2006

The Grammar Translation Method

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:
(i) Translation interprets the words and phrases of the foreign languages in the best possible manner.
(ii) The phraseology and the idiom of the target language can best be assimilated in the process of interpretation.
(iii) The structures of the foreign languages are best learnt 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.

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 labour 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 learnt what he has taught them. Communication between the teacher and the learnersdoes 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.

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 behaviour 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 learnt through practice and not by just memorizing rules. The persons who have learnt a foreign or second language through this method find it difficult to give up the habit of first thinking in their mother tongue and than 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


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Methods of Language Teaching


What is a method?
The word ‘method’ means different things to different people. Some educationists consider only the classroom technique as method whereas others interpret as a selection and gradation of material to be taught. According to Mackey ‘a method determines what and how much is taught (selection), the order in which it is taught (gradation), how the meaning and form are conveyed (presentation) and what is done to make the use of language (repetition). Thus a method deals with selection, gradation, presentation and repetition of items to be taught.


The Structural Approach


The arrangement of words in English is very important. The meaning of an utterance changes with a change in the word order. For instance:
There is a sentence ‘You are there’. Consider two other sentences made of two words but put in different order ‘Are you there?’ and ‘There you are’. The three sentences, although built of the same vocabulary items give different meaning because of a different way in which the words are arranged. These different arrangement or patterns of words are called ‘structures’. Structures may consist of full utterances or they may fall on a part of a large pattern. F.D. French has defined a sentence pattern in these words: The word-pattern means a model from which many things of the same kind, and shade can be made like house or shoes which look the same. A sentence pattern is, therefore, a model for sentences, which have the same shade although made up of different words. For instance, there is a sentence in English: ‘I wrote a letter’. The formula of this sentence is SVO (Subject – Verb – Object). We can frame innumerate sentence on this pattern.
Researcher in the field of language teaching in the UK and USA have established that it is more important for the learner of the language to get mastery over the structures more than on vocabulary. So far we have concentrated more on the teaching of vocabulary than that of structures. A lot of work has been done on the selection and gradation of vocabulary but little work has been done on the selection and gradation of structures. It is as important to learn how to put words together as it is to know their meaning. Unless the learners become familiar with the pattern of English, he will not be able to use vocabulary. Hornby has made a study of Sentence Patterns or Structures in English. He has found that there are approximately 275 structures in English and the learners of the language must master all of them. It should be remembered that the structure approach of language teaching is not a matter of language teaching but only an approach, which tells us what to teach while a method tells us how to teach. The method that is employed is called the Oral Method or the Audio-Lingual Method.
The structure approach is based on the following principles:
1. The important of a speech as the necessary means of fixing firmly all the ground works.
2. The important of forming language habits particularly the habit of arranging words in English sentence patterns to replace the sentence patterns of the learners own language.
3. The pupils’ own activities rather than the activity of the teacher.

The structure approach just lays emphasis on drills. Since language is primarily speak, learning a language means ability to speak the language. The structures, therefore, are drilled orally first before the learner can read or write them. Moreover, since language learning is a matter of habit formation, it requires repetition so that the language habits that are cultivated during the learning process may be retained. A class, which is taught a language through the structural approach, is more lively than other classes in which only teacher speaks and the students remain mere listener.
The selection of structures to be taught depends on the average ability of the students, the allocation of time and the availability of equipments. The following principles should be born in mind while selecting structures:
1. Usefulness: while selecting and grading structures we should adopt frequency and utility. The structures, which are more frequent in use, should be introduced first.
2. Productivity: Some structures are productive; other structures can be built on them. For instance, we have two sentence patterns:
(i) Mr. John is here
(ii) Here is Mr. John.
The former pattern is productive because we can frame many sentence on the same pattern like: ‘He is there’, or ‘She is there’, etc. We can frame many such sentences from the latter pattern.
3. Simplicity: The simplicity of structure depends on the form and meaning. The structure ‘I am playing cricket’ is far simpler in form and meaning than ‘The patient had died before the doctor came’. The simpler structure should be preferred to the complicated one.
4. Teach-ability: Some structures can be taught more easily than others. For example, the structure ‘I am writing’ can be taught easily because the action, which it denotes can be demonstrated in a realistic situation. To teach this structure the teacher will say:
(i) I played at 4 yesterday.
(ii) I played at 4 the day before yesterday.
(iii) I will play at 4 tomorrow.
(iv) I play at 4 everyday.

Structures are to be graded in the order of difficulty. Simple structures should precede the more difficult ones. The following are some of the patterns that should be taught at early stages:
1. Two-part patterns
He / goes.
2. Three-part patterns
He / plays / cricket.
3. Four-part patterns
She / gave / me / a book.
4. Patterns beginning with ‘there’
There are twenty students in this class.
5. Patterns beginning with ‘a question verb’.
Is she coming?
Will he go?
Has he brought the book?
6. Patterns beginning with ‘wh’ type question
How are you?
What does he do?
7. Patterns of Command and Request
Sit down
Please come here, etc.

Of the seven types of patterns mentioned above, the three part patterns and the pattern beginning with ‘there’ occur very frequently. Each pattern embodies an important point of grammar and only one meaning of one word is taught at a time. Moreover, the structures are graded in such a manner that a structure follows the preceding one naturally. During the learning of the structures the child automatically learn grammar also (learns grammar, word order and the use of words or usage). Thus he avoids common error in grammar and composition. This approach lays emphasis on the four skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Rapid speech patterns are taught with the help of printed material. Children, therefore, start speaking English before they read or write it. The British Council plays a prominent role in popularizing this approach for the teaching of English in India. Subsequently the NCERT (National Council of Education Research and Training) introduces the structural syllabuses, and prepares books or teaching materials in elaborating with the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL), Hydrabad. The books prepared by the NCERT have been adopted by the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and also by the various boards of education in various states of India. At present English is being taught according to the structural approach in the majority of schools in the country.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Class-Room Procedures for Teaching English or any Other Languages in Communicative Approach


In most traditional classroom, the entire class is involved. But in communicative language teaching a class should be divided for individual work, pair work, small group work, and whole class work.
The advantages of pair work and small group work are the following:
1. Pupils catch more language practice. They have to speak English more than they do if the work is done around the class.
2. Pupils are active participants. Discussion and communication are not limited to only bright student.
3. Pupils feel secured. They feel less anxiety when they are working in pair or small group than when they are ‘on show’.

1. The pair work or group work is generally noisy but it is maintained that noisy is purposeful and pupils themselves are not disturbed by the noise.
2. The teacher cannot watch the performance of all the students/pairs/group and it is difficult for him to rectify (to correct or to put something right) the mistakes committed by them.
3. The teacher does not have sufficient control over what the students do. To overcome this difficulty he should give clear instructions to pupils about when to start, what to do and when to stop. He may also move about in the classroom in order to monitor the strength and weaknesses of the learners. If required he may also participate in the classroom activity as co-communicator.

Unanswered Question
According to Richards and Rodgers, the following questions about the communicative approach are still debated.
1. Can the Communicative Approach be applied to all levels in a language-teaching program?
2. Is the Communicative Approach equally suited to ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) situations?
3. Does the Communicative Approach require grammar-based syllabuses to be abandoned or merely revised?





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