A language is a system of communication by using sounds or conventional symbols. It is through language that we are able to express ourselves and communicate to others. Everyone knows the importance of English Language in today’s world as it is an international language. At present time as the world has turned into a global village, so we cannot deny the importance of English Language. As English is a global language, it enables us to communicate with people belonging to different cultures. Most of the researches in different fields of life e.g. medicine, education, economy, e-commerce and aviation etc are done in English Language. It is also the language used in tourism. These reasons become a source of motivation for people to learn this language. The knowledge of English Language is vital if a person wants to access electronic information available on the internet. In addition, English is also a requirement in most government and private jobs.
The use of English Language provides many prospects in the social and financial world. Greddol (1997) specifies the uses of English Language in different fields of life:
English is the working language of international organizations and conferences.
English is used in the fields of science and technology.
It is used in international banking, economic affairs and commerce.
Advertising for global brands is done in English.
English is the language of audio visual and cultural products.
It is the language of international tourism.
It is the language of higher education.
English is the language of international law.
It is a relay language in interpretation and translation.
It is the language of technology transfer.
It is the language of internet communication.
Importance of English Language in Pakistan
English Language has a lot of importance in Pakistan. It is our official language. It is used in civil administration. It is the language of the constitution and of the legal system. It is also used in media. English is also used in international trade and commerce in Pakistan. It is used in the stock exchange as well. All the information available on the internet is in English. All the modern scientific researches and books available on them are in English.
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English is taught as a compulsory subject from nursery and Kindergarten levels. English is the medium of instruction in the English medium schools of the country. It is also the main cause of failure of students because it is not our first language but it is taught as a compulsory subject. This shows the role and importance of English in Pakistan. It has become important for every student to learn English as its importance is growing day by day. We cannot survive in the economic world without the tool of English language.
Aims of Learning a Language
Coleman (1996) stated most popular reasons for learning modern languages among the students as ‘for future career’, ‘because I like the language’, ‘to travel in different countries’, ‘to have a better understanding of way of the life in a country or countries where it is spoken’, ‘because I would like to live in a country where it is spoken’ etc.
Cook (2002) made a list of the aims for which a second language is learnt:
A method of training new cognitive process
A way-in to mother tongue
An entrée to another culture
A means of communication
Some people learn the second language for their self-development. They think that they will do their self-development by learning a second language and will become a better person.
A method of training new cognitive process
When people learn new language, they learn about themselves and their societies from new perspectives.
A way-in to the mother tongue
If people learn a second language, in fact, they make clear the concept of their first language. We can say that they learn their first language with the help of second language.
An entrée to another culture
People also learn another language because they also want to know about the country where it is spoken. They want to have the knowledge of art, literature, music and culture of that country.
A means of communication
Some people learn another language in order to be able to communicate with the people who speak that language.
The above mentioned goals of learning a second language can be classified into two main groups i.e. internal and external goals (Cook, 1938).
External goals. External goals relate to the learning of language for the use of language outside the classroom. For example, for traveling a country, reading literature, communicating native speakers, to gain education from foreign country, traveling shops, markets etc.
Internal goals. Internal goals refer to the students’ mental and self-development as individuals. They may think from different perspective about themselves and their societies. Through the last century, external goals have been dominating the internal goals.
English Language Teaching (ELT) in Pakistan
English plays a very important role in Pakistan as lingua franca. English is taught in a very strange manner in the country. Students belonging to rural backgrounds and even other students are taught English in schools and colleges but they are still not able to communicate in English comfortably and confidently. One of the reasons behind this is that our educational system is not aware that they should focus on all the four skills of the language. Only the skills of reading and writing are focused, while the skills of listening and speaking are neglected. The students do not get the required input. The students can never speak the language because they do not listen to it. Our teachers teach English language through translation. They translate everything in Urdu. In this way the students are not motivated to learn it.
The teachers speak Urdu in English classes. If the students find anything difficult to understand, the teacher will instantly translate it in Urdu instead of explaining it in English. This is the situation in government sector schools. The condition is different in private schools. This wide gap between government and private schools is not healthy for a developing nation. Private schools are also giving importance to the two neglected skills of listening and speaking. Creativity is promoted and students are motivated to speak in English even outside their classes. It is very important for a teacher to know the process of language learning. It is the duty of the teacher to bring different activities in the class to develop a healthy environment in the class which promotes language learning. Our teachers of the government sector focus on accuracy and the students are supposed to memorize the language. In this way, the students do not feel comfortable to communicate in English.
Siddiqui (2002) stated that the significant position of English in subcontinent it due to its colonial past. During that period, this language promoted due to its privileged status and it was the official language. Learning English language was a key to get a job and enjoy the privileges from the government. But some fundamentalists Muslims refused to acquire this language because they wanted to hold strongly their own language i.e. Urdu. They believed that acquiring English language will be the sign of their salvation. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan took initiative considering the importance of learning English language. He started some educational movements throughout the subcontinent which brought a revolution in the economic status of Muslims.
After the independence of Pakistan, Urdu was declared as the national language of Pakistan. Urdu language was able to be treated as lingua-franca- a language of communication. Urdu was such language that could be spoken by the people of different provinces in Pakistan. With the passage of time, regional languages went on losing their importance and Urdu language overcame them but English remained the official language of Pakistan even then. Many policies were offered at government level to replace Urdu with English as official language but it retained its position.
In mainstream schools, English language was to be taught from class five but now it is taught as compulsory subject from class one. The demand of English is very high in Pakistan. People like to send their children in English medium schools. The number of students in English medium schools is very large. The government had offered a policy of teaching English to everyone but this policy is not giving us a desired outcomes.
We do not have qualified teachers to do the job properly. There are many factors which can show the state of English language teaching in Pakistan. These include,
Over crowded classes
Everyone up to the Bachelor level has to study English as a compulsory subject. Many students do not like this compulsion because the students who come from the rural back ground are not motivated towards learning English. Their parents cannot help them because they are mostly uneducated. They are not clear in learning the purpose of learning English language. They think that only good student scan learn English language. Some people have realized the basic purpose of learning English language in modern age. They have realized that the English is the key to any success and to get a good job.
In majority of our schools, English is taught with a well known and classic method i.e. Grammar Translation Method (GTM). Teachers who teach English are not well trained. In government sector schools, English is taught by B.Ed degree hold teachers who have studied English at B.Ed level as optional subject. They teach English to their students as they have been taught by their own teachers. At college level, English language is taught by the teachers who have done Masters in English literature. In Pakistan, teaching English language is considered as teaching literature. These teachers become failure when the matter of written and oral discourse comes.
The syllabus is emphasized on just two skills i.e. reading and writing skills while very little importance is given to the listening and speaking skill. Our text books are full of stories, poems, plays, essays etc. because the curriculum designers have mostly the literature based background. So their preference is also literature based. The content of our books is also very large. The teachers are always at pressure by the principles and the parents of the students. So the preference of the teachers is the completion of the course by some easy way without giving emphasize on concept making. Teachers are not guided well that how to teach a text book.
The assessment system of English language in Pakistan is very weak. The exams are mostly rote-memorization based. In exams, same questions are repeated again and again. The guide books are available in market to give the students the summaries and answers of the questions.
The supervisory staff is unaware of the latest methods of teaching English language. They aim just to get high marks to their students for the popularity of their school and college.
Economic problems and lack of facilities is also a major problem in the process of teaching and learning of English language in Pakistan. Due to the lack of funds, there are not audio visual aids, language laboratories etc in Pakistan. Teachers are also not trained for using them.
Over crowded classes
In the government sector schools, Classes are overcrowded. The environment in the class is not learners’ friendly.
Methods of English Language Teaching
According to Asher and James (1982), Methods are the combination of techniques that are used and plasticized by the teachers in the classrooms in order to teach their students and approaches are the philosophies of teachers about language teaching that can be applied in the classrooms by using different techniques of language teaching. For example, if a teacher has an approach that language is the communication and learning a language is in fact learning the meanings, functions and uses of language. So the techniques will be based on the communicative language teaching and task based methods.
According to Freeman (2000), Methods which are taught to the teachers make a base and give them thinking about the applicable techniques and principles according to the situation where they stand. They are clear about their attraction towards certain methods and also think that why have they repelled certain method. The knowledge of method is very necessary because their knowledge is base of teaching.
History of Language Teaching
Today, English is the world’s most widely studied foreign language. Five hundred years ago, Latin was the most dominant language to be studied because it was the language of business, commerce and education in the western world. In the sixteenth century, however, French, Italian and English gain in importance as a result of political change in Europe and Latin gradually became displaced as a language of spoken and written communication.
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Latin became a dead language. It was being started to read in the books as classic language. Children started to enter in the ‘grammar school’ in sixteenth and eighteenth centuries to learn grammar rules of Latin. To learn Latin language became a “mental gymnastic”. In the eighteenth century, when modern languages began to enter in the curriculum of the European countries, these languages were taught by the same methods as Latin language was taught. Grammatical rules were memorized. Written practices were done. The passages were translated from the second language to the first language and vice versa.
By the nineteenth century, this method was considered as a standard method of teaching language. The textbooks were divided into chapters. Each chapter contained a certain grammatical rule and rule was practices with a lot of written exercises (Richards, and Rodgers, 1986).
Grammar Translation Method
Grammar translation method was first known in the United States as Prussian Method. Grammar translation method dominated European and foreign language teaching from 1840 to 1940.
Characteristics of grammar translation method
According to the Richards and Rodgers (1986), the principle characteristics of Grammar Translation Method are:
In Grammar Translation Method, the goal of learning a second or foreign language is mainly to be enabling to read the literature of that language and is to get benefit from intellectual development that results from foreign and second language study. Grammar Translation Method enables to learn detailed grammatical rules of target language and enables to translate into and out of the target language.
In Grammar Translation Method, reading and writing skills are focused while listening and speaking skills are totally ignored.
In Grammar Translation Method, the memorization of grammatical rules of foreign language and of the vocabulary items is focused. Vocabulary items are limited to the text that they are taught. Vocabulary items are memorized with the help of their meanings in the native language.
In Grammar Translation Method, sentenced is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. The learners are enabled to do detailed analysis of a sentence through this method. The learners are enabled to translate a sentence into and out of the target language.
In Grammar Translation Method, accuracy is emphasized rather than fluency. The basic purpose of this method used to be able to pass the written examinations.
In Grammar Translation Method, grammar is taught deductively i.e. by presenting and practicing the detailed grammatical rules of target language. A syllabus of grammatical rules if followed in which rules are systematically put in to a sequence starting from the simple rules to the complex rules.
In Grammar Translation Method, students are directed and instructions are given in the student’s native language so that they may easily understand the instructions. The students’ native language is used to explain new items and to enable them to compare two languages i.e. native language of the learners and foreign language.
Main techniques associated with grammar translation method
There are some major techniques that are adopted in the teaching of second or foreign language through Grammar Translation Method.
Translation of a literary passage. Students translate a reading passage into and out of the target language. In checking of the translation, the focus of the teacher is on vocabulary and grammatical structures. The translation may be written or spoken or both. Students should not translate idioms but must understand their meanings.
Reading Comprehension Questions. A passage for reading and understanding is given to the students and they have to answer the questions given at the end of the passage in the target language. The questions are put into a sequence. The first group of questions is related with the information drawn from the passage, second group of questions require students to make inferences based on their understanding of the passage. The third group of questions requires students to relate the passage with their own experiences.
Antonym and synonyms. Students are given a list of words and a passage. The students have to find out the antonyms of those words in the passage. Similarly, the students can also be given a list of words and can be asked to find out the synonyms of the given words from the passage.
Deductive application of rules. Grammar rules are presented before the students with the all possible information that can be given to the students relating to the grammatical rules. The rules are also explained with examples. Once students understand a rule, they are asked to apply it for some different examples.
Fill in the blanks. The students are given a series of sentences with some missing words. The students have to fill in the blanks with some suitable grammar items such a preposition and verbs with different tenses.
Memorization. The students are given a list of vocabulary to memorize them with their meaning in the native language. Students are also required to memorize the grammatical rules.
Use words in sentences. In order to check the understanding of the meaning and sue of vocabulary, the students are asked to use the list of typical words in their own sentences.
Composition. The teacher gives a topic to the students to write about that topic in the target language. The topic is based on some aspect of the reading passage of the lesson.
Advantages of grammar translation method
Nazir (2002) narrated as “The structure of a foreign language is best learnt when compare and contrasted with that of the mother tongue.”
According to Ishtiaq (2005), the Grammar Translation Method is based on a system and is in a sequence because in this method all the grammatical rules are arranged into a sequence for the convenience of the students. This sequence starts from the simple rules and eventually leads to the complex rules. When a book is written by an author on grammatical rules keeping in view the sequence, he writes one lesson that is completely based on one rule of grammar. Each lesson is divided into certain rules and these rules dominate the lesson.
Larson (1986) narrated importance of Grammar Translation Method as “in Grammar Translation Method, students are made to learn new words. Therefore, this method helps in improving vocabulary. Reading and writing are the two primary skills that are developed most so as to enable the students to read the literature in target language. Grammar is taught deductively and it makes use of students’ mother language.”
Disadvantages of grammar translation method
Neilson (2003) stated that in Grammar Translation Method, oral skills i.e. speaking and listening skills are totally neglected while the whole attention is given to just reading and writing skills. Through this method, the students become able to read the literature of the target language by translating it into their native language but cannot communicate into the target language and even cannot understand the target language spoken by any native speaker.
In Grammar Translation Method, the authority of the classroom is totally in the hands of the teacher and teacher is at the centre of the classroom. The communication is just from teachers to students not from student to teacher and not even from students to students. The students are considered empty minded which have needed to be filled with all the possible vocabulary and grammatical structures that can be filled in their minds.
The main disadvantage of the Grammar Translation Method is that it is almost impossible to translate all the phrases and sentences into the target language because the main focus is the translation of this method so such students who have been taught through this method become fail to communicate well in the target language.
In the Grammar Translation Method, accuracy is emphasized rather than fluency and students go on thinking to accurate the grammatical rules which actually hinder their fluency. In Grammar Translation Method, the teacher abruptly interferes and stops the students wherever they make the mistakes so they become conscious while speaking and communicating in the target language and become unable to be fluent.
Criticism of the grammar translation method
There have been various criticisms on the use of Grammar Translation Method for the teaching of modern language particularly English. There are some objections that have been put on the Grammar Translation Method.
Grammar Translation Method emphasizes on the reading and writing skills on the expense of listening and speaking skills. But learning the listening and speaking skills of a language is more important than leaning reading and writing skills because it is a natural way of learning a language. In Grammar Translation Method, writing gives learners a reflective chance to look at their writing that whether they have written correct spellings, vocabulary and grammatical rules. The main aim and goal of most of the learners in learning modern languages is not just to develop reading and writing skills whereas they want to communicate well and understand the native speakers’ language.
Grammar Translation Method demands the arrangement of the grammatical rules in a structure starting from the simple rules and leading to the complex rules. While most of the learners especially adult learners want to start using the language straight way because they have not got time to learn all the grammatical rules one by one and start using them after then. Grammar Translation Method emphasizes to make the students learn each rule and practice it one by one and after commanding a rule move to the next one. So there remains the need to revise all the rules again and again so that they may not get washed out of the learners’ mind.
In Grammar Translation Method, sentence is the basic unit of the language. The learners are made able to memorize certain rules of grammar and certain vocabulary which they have to fit everywhere they find a chance to use them. But if learners find some unusual situation they become unable to fit their memorized rules to fit in that situation.
In Grammar Translation Method, grammatical rules and vocabulary is memorized in modern ways of teaching a language memorization is not regarded while exposure of a language, experience and use of language is preferred and recommended. People have different learning styles. Some people like to learn vocabulary, grammar rules, phrase and sentences through memorization. But when they have to sue them, they must have time to stop and recall the memorized items.
In Grammar Translation Method, the focus of the learners is the manipulation of the grammatical rules and words to write correct sentences with prescribed content. But in learning the modern languages, it is recommended that the major focus should be more and more on the oral practice and expression of the personal meanings. The expression of the personal meanings may spoil the structure of the grammar rules and sentences.
In Grammar Translation Method, the teachers and the learners mostly speak in their first language or native language. While it is highly recommended that use of second and target language should be maximized in learning the language but here maximization does not mean teachers and learners should all the time speak in the target language. The speaking of the second language is also advantageous because in language classrooms we may also have multilingual learners that may belong to different languages so a single language i.e. second or target language will be convenient to use without pointing a single native language.
In Grammar Translation Method, teacher should explain, describe the grammatical rules, tell the meanings of the words, translate the passages, conduct grammar practices, correct mistakes and teacher should authorized the classroom and learners. But now it is highly recommended that teachers role in the class should be as a guide and facilitator. Teacher’s role in the language classroom should be less. Teacher should act behind the scene. Teacher should give the problems to the learners to solve, interact among each other and generally it leads the learners to be independent learners.
In Grammar Translation Method, translation is the basic technique. Translation is a way of understanding the meanings of the written and oral texts by converting the texts into the first or native language of the learners. Translation is a way of comparing and contrasting two languages i.e. first language and second language. But now it is highly recommended that translation should be avoided because it leads to such a mental process which hinders or stops learning. The learners should be encouraged to speak and even think in second language as much as possible.
In Grammar Translation Method, accuracy is emphasized rather than fluency but it is now highly recommended that accuracy should come at the last and fluency should preferred first. If the learners are corrected on their mistakes from the very beginning, they will become hesitant to speak in the target language. When they will start to speak, their minds will abruptly become read to look upon the grammatical rules that they are using so I this way they will become unable to be fluent in language (Jonathan, 2012)
Grammar translation method in Pakistan
Faiq (2003) stated that in most of the Pakistani schools, Grammar Translation Method is used to teach English. In Pakistan, Grammar Translation Method is used to learn and memorize the grammatical rules in such a way that rules are deductively presented and practiced through the exercises of translation, fill in the blanks and by using such other techniques. Mostly students are taught certain letters, applications and stories like “thirsty crow”, “greedy dog” etc. In Pakistan, it is considered that learning a language means just to be able to read literature and write certain kinds of things without giving importance to the listening and speaking skills.
Grammar is taught through deductive method i.e. rules are presented to the learners, deep analysis of the rules is done and rules are used for translating passages of English into Urdu ad of Urdu into English. It is a common practice in our public sector schools that a student reads aloud the lines of a paragraph and teacher translate it into Urdu word by word. Teachers write the meanings of the difficult words on the blackboard. Linguists say that a language can be better learnt without translation and meanings of the difficult words can be told through demonstrations and actions.
Language can be better learnt and taught by using it actively in the classrooms. Grammar can better learnt through inductive or implicit method i.e. exposure of a rule is provided to the learners and learners grasp that rule unconsciously. The importance of listening and speaking skill cannot be denied in the public sector schools of Pakistan. Writing is also an important skill but just copying the material from the blackboard is not a good practice. It limits the thinking process of the learners. Learners should be given some topics to write on them in their own words.
In our schools, teachers and textbooks take the central role in the classroom while the students sit passively depending on the teachers and textbooks. The learners’ purpose of sitting in the classroom is to take lectures from the teachers. The interaction from the students to teachers is not ever into the consideration of public sector schools. They just know how to feed the minds of the learners with information. Learners should be considered as living beings with their own minds, ideas and thinking. The learners have their background knowledge. The use of the leaner’s’ background knowledge can be helpful for the teachers to teach a language.
The direct method was the outcome of the reaction against the grammar translation method. It was developed on the supposition that the learners of foreign and second language should directly think in English. This method is against the translation of written and oral text and focuses on telling the meanings of the words through action, demonstration or real objects. This method focuses on directly thinking, doing discussion and conversation in second language.
According to Palmer (1959), the direct method has the following characteristics:
Translation is banished in the language classrooms including the use of mother tongue.
When grammar is taught inductively that means exposure is given to the learners related to the grammar rule that is being taught. Through this method grammar rule is internalized to the learners.
Oral training precedes any sort of reading and writing. The learners are given chances for oral communication first and then it leads to the reading and writing skills of the language. We can say that listening and speaking skills lead to the reading and writing skills.
The use of detached sentences is shifted by the use of connected text.
The pronunciation is taught systematically through the system of phonetics and phonology of the target language. It means that learners are motivated to speak in the accent of the second language. So the learners have to follow the phonetics and phonology system of the second language.
The use of bilingual dictionary is banished totally in the language classrooms. The teachers don’t tell the meanings of the word through the learners’ native or first language while the difficult words are described through action or through natural context.
The vocabulary and structures of the language are inculcated to large extent by the teachers and answered by the students.
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