Methods of Teaching English: Part I

In this post, we will begin a discussion on various methods of teaching language, primarily English. In this post, in particular, we will look at the Grammar-Translation Method, the Direct Method, and Audiolingualism.

Grammar-Translation Method

One of the oldest methods for teaching people a new language is the Grammar-Translation method. It is derived from the belief that students can acquire a language through rigorous training in translating the language and learning the grammatical rules of it.

This belief or approach to language acquisition led to a practical set of techniques. Among some of the common techniques of the Grammar-Translation method include.

  1. Reading text in the new language.
  2. Translating the text into the students’ language
  3. Learning grammatical rules of the new language
  4. Memorizing vocabulary

This is an excellent method for learning to read in another language. You simply learn the vocabulary, grammatical rules, and you are ready to go. For those who study ancient languages such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in biblical studies, this is the approach used for acquiring knowledge of the language.

One of the biggest concerns with this method was the indifference to speaking. Students who learn with the Grammar-Translation method often do not acquire verbal communication skills. This leaves them with a theoretical knowledge of the language with an understanding of practical use.

Direct Method

The Direct method is a reaction to the Grammar-Translation method. The Direct method de-emphasized translation and focused instead on the teachers and students speaking together. Grammatical rules were related to real-life objects and the target language was the only language used in the classroom. Below is a list of common techniques associated with the Direct method.

  • Reading aloud
  • Self-correction
  • Dictation
  • Question and answers

This method allowed for the development of verbal skills while still allowing for understanding grammatical rules. The Direct method is also practical as it relates well to language use in the real world. However, there are problems with this method. The Direct method emphasizes pronunciation, which requires a native speaker. Another concern was that mostly strong teachers can use this method in the classroom. Lastly, the avoidance of the native language makes it difficult to communicate at times.

The Direct method, over time, has morphed into what is now called Audiolingualism. This method is derived from the approaches related to behaviorism. This method relied heavily on operant conditioning and stimulus-response-reinforcement. The same techniques mentioned above were employed with the added caveat of positive reinforcement. Drills were used to help students to practice the language.


There are many more methods used in language teaching beyond the ones mentioned in this post. All methods are used primarily to help students to acquire mastery of a new language. The method employed depends on the needs of the students as well as the abilities and talents of the teacher.

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