By the late 19th century, there was a general push for making strong changes to how language was taught. There was a resurgence in linguistics and phonetics that serve as major influences on language teaching. This post will share some of the major reform factors of this time period.
International Phonetic Association
In the 1880’s, the International Phonetic Association was founded. Not only did this organization developed the International Phonetic Alphabet. They also laid down several influential principles of language teaching. For example, the IPA believed that the focus of learning a language should be on the spoken language. This is another indication of the shift away from reading and writing.
The focus on spoken language also led to recommending the use of proper pronunciation and the use of conversation in the classroom. There was still a prescriptive emphasis in developing “proper” speaking skills as though there is one standard for how to talk. This emphasis on verbal accuracy may have come from the stress of accuracy in the Grammar-Translation Method.
The IPA also encouraged the teaching of grammar inductively. This means to teach grammatical concepts through the use of examples or applications of the rules. From these examples, students would extract the rule for themselves. This is a much more engaging way to teach details such as rules in comparison to the standard deductive approach in which the rule is given followed by applications of it.
Other Reform Principles
There are several other significant reforms. One key idea was the need to teach language in a matter that was simple to complex in design. One has to wonder how language could have been taught with teaching from simple to more complex content. However, this principle may have been simply stating something that had been taken for granted.
Another reform idea was a focus on reading the language before seeing it in writing. This is in contrast to the focus on text by the Grammar-Translation method. Lastly, learning should happen in context. A focus on context became a major topic of controversy in education in general in the 20th century.
One last major reform that brought an end to the Grammar-Translation Method was the belief that translation should be avoided. Translation was at the heart of language teaching up until this point. Such a stance as this may have been highly shocking for its time as it was a pushing against a tradition that dated back to the 16th century.
Change is a part of life. The reforms brought about in language teaching at the end of the 19th century were for the purpose of improving language teaching. The primary desire was not to throw away what had been done before. Rather, the goal was to further help in the improvement of language teaching.
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