The Series Method of language acquisition was perhaps the first step away from grammar translation in language teaching. This method of teaching language was developed by Francois Gouin (1831-1896).
This post will provide a brief background that led to the Series Method as well as some examples of the actual techniques used in the method.
Gouin was a French lecturer of Latin. He decided to attempt to study at the University of Berlin but realized he needed to learn German in order to continue his studies. Being a natural lover of languages, Gouin figured a brief stop in Hamburg would be enough to learn the basics of the German language.
Gouin attempted to learn German using the grammar translation approach. He memorized thousands of words in an incredibly short period of time. Though he could decipher written text, Gouin was not able to speak or listen to German at all. His goal was not only understanding text but to understand and participate in lectures in German. After a year of studying the grammar and even translating advance text into his own language, Gouin went home discouraged.
Upon returning to France, Gouin found that his 2-year-old nephew, who could not talk when Gouin left, was now a 3 year old talkative child. Gouin became convince that children hold the secret to language acquisition and he began to observe children to see how they learned language.
The conclusions that Gouiin reached from his observations was that children use language to represent their thoughts. At the time, this insight was revolutionary. This insight was later used to develop the Series method.
The Series Method is a “series” of connected sentences that are easy to understand and requires little knowledge of grammar. Below is a partial example.
I walk toward the door. I draw near to the door. I draw nearer to the door. I get to the door. I stop at the door
This is focused on different ways to speak about using the door. The entire series on door is fifteen sentences in all. Through these various uses of the word door students are exposed to a wide range of grammatical uses. The success of this method was the simplicity and ease of memorization
Gouin ideas about language were ahead of their time. Despite the awkwardness of his approach Gouin’s method had a brief moment of success only to be overshadow by Berlitz’s Direct Method.