Language teaching methods are dependent on and influenced by different theories of language and language learning. The history of language teaching puts forward different kinds of methods. These methods are adopted by different people in different situations according to the need of the learners. Different methods may be appropriate to different contexts.
The efficiency of a method depends upon a complex of factors which vary from place to place and situation to situation. The challenge today is to avoid dogma and rigidity through fresh consideration of priorities, and to root all new strategies in the realities of the situation. An attempt has been made here to take into sweep the history of language teaching methods beginning from the earliest times to the present time. Some of the important methods and approaches to teach English as a second language are discussed here.
2.3.1 The Grammar Translation Method
The Grammar Translation method aimed at making learners understand grammar in traditional terms, and acquire a wide literary vocabulary of a second language. Ultimately, learners were expected to become proficient in writing the language accurately, and also appreciate the literary significance and value of reading text.
This method focused on application of rules of grammar, which are practiced through translation exercises. Learners are asked to write a piece of composition on a topic based on the reading passage. It aimed at teaching learners more about the target language, but not how to use it.
This method favours to teach English by rules not by use. It aims at training the learners to write the language accurately by regular and systematic practice in translating words and sentences from their mother tongue. Students get no opportunities to participate in the discussions of the unit. Translations into mother tongue affect the originality of the words. It does not allow the learners to think directly in target language. Thus, it hinders to create a direct link between thought and expression.
Most of the instructors acknowledge that this method is ineffective by itself as it does not stress on the spoken form of the language and communication skills were neglected. The material this method worked with was literary and as such of little use in transactions. Hence, this method does not enhance the students’ communicative ability in the second language.
2.3.2 The Direct Method
The term ‘direct’ refers to the fact that learners are in direct contact with the target language. The aim of this method was to develop in the learners, the ability to think in the language, whether in speaking, reading or writing.
The following procedures and principles guide this method:
Classroom instruction is conducted exclusively in the target language.
Only every day vocabulary and sentences are taught.
Oral communication skills are built up in a carefully graded sequence placed around question and answer interactions involving both the teacher and students in small and interactive class.
Grammar is taught inductively.
Concrete vocabulary is taught by using real life objects and pictures and abstract vocabulary is taught by connecting various ideas.
Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.
(Sinha, 2005. 114)
In this method the teaching is done entirely in the target language. The learner is not allowed to use his or her mother tongue.
The direct method was popular towards the end of 19th century sometime and in the beginning of the 20th century. This method was successful in private schools but found it difficult to use in public schools as there was a demand on teachers that they should use high proficiency and native – like fluency in spoken language.
It was not possible to learn the second language just like the first language since there was not enough time and opportunities available in the schools. Teachers were expected to teach only in target language which was a great struggle for them. Learners were confused as there was no selection and grading of vocabulary and grammar were carried out.
2.3.3 The Audio-Lingual Method (ALM)
During First World War, the American army began intensive oral/aural courses known as the ‘Army specialized Training Programme’ (ASTP) and were later adopted by educational institutions as the audio lingual method (Brown, 2000.74).
The salient features of the audio-lingual method are:
Language teaching begins with the spoken language; the material is taught verbally before it is offered in the written form.
The target language is the only language of the classroom; the mother tongue of the learners is not to be used.
New language items are introduced and practiced situationally, through contextualized dialogues.
Items of grammar are called structures and graded following the principle that simple forms are taught before complex ones. Grammar is induced from examples given and no explicit grammar rules are to be provided.
Reading and writing are initiated once an adequate grammatical foundation is laid.
The teacher is the role model; student-to-student interaction takes place in chain drills or when students take different roles in dialogues.
The audio-lingual method began to decline as students failed to achieve long-term communicative capability. It was realized that habit formation, over learning and avoidance of errors was not the best way to learn a second language (Brown, 2000.75). Although, this method provided potentially good tools for SLA, its lack of concentration on meaning and fluency detracted from its success.
2.3.4 The Bilingual Method
This method was developed by Dr. C. J .Dodson. He says, ‘a different attitude is necessary toward the place and function of the mother tongue in the process of learning a second language’. It was proved that the mother tongue, when used as a meaning conveyor, facilitates rather than hinders the imitation responses of the learners. This sparing use of the mother tongue also releases more time for practice and active contact with the foreign language which is crucial at the beginning stages for acquisition of correct language habits.
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Dodson’s Bilingual Method within the framework of the structural approach allows the use of the mother tongue in the class; he postulates a rule: only the teacher is to use the mother tongue for the words and sentences that are being learnt, and are for classroom instructions. He divides the bilingual method cycle into stages; in the initial stages, the teacher uses the mother tongue more liberally even in asking questions and in giving explanations and instructions. But, in the later stages, the use of the mother tongue is reduced gradually, and the teacher and the taught use only the target language (Krishnaswamy, 2003).
Later, this method was not accepted as it opens the ‘floodgates’ of the mother tongue which results in the excessive use of it in English language classes; this, in turn, considerably reduces whatever little exposure there is to English.
2.3.5 The S-O-S Approach/Method
The audio-lingual method came to India in a modified form. The advocates of S-O-S approach emphasized a systematic study of the principles and procedures that could be applied to the selection and organization of the content of a language course.
The main characteristics of this approach are:
Language teaching begins with the spoken language. Material is taught orally before it is presented in written form.
The target language is the language of the classroom.
New language points are introduced and practiced situationally.
Vocabulary selection procedures are followed to ensure that an essential general service vocabulary is covered.
Items of grammar are graded following the principle that simple forms should be taught before complex ones.
Reading and writing are introduced once a sufficient lexical and grammatical basis is established.
But later on, S-O-S approach suffered from many of the draw-backs of the audio lingual method, as a certain rigidity was built into the way this approach was translated into text books and teaching materials. The methodology advocated to realise the approach had acquired ritualistic dimensions like other rigid methodologies. In the mid-sixties, however, the view of language, language learning and language teaching underlying this approach was called in question. Reaction to this approach led to communicative language teaching.
2.3.6 Communicative Approach
The communicative language teaching means little more than an integration of grammatical and functional teaching. Littlewood (1981.1) states, “One of the most characteristic features of communicative language teaching is that it pays systematic attention to functional as well as structural aspects of language”. Dell Hymes (1972) referred to ‘communicative competence’ that includes both grammatical knowledge and ability to use this knowledge and perform different kinds of functions.
This approach is a natural extension of the notional-functional syllabus. It has already been realized that the classical paradigm afforded an unsuitable basis for the teaching of language for communication (Trim, 1981). The notional-functional syllabus threw up ideas, worked out syllabuses and these in turn have become the basis of the communicative approach.
Communicative approach claims that learners’ motivation is increased if they feel that they are working on communicative skills; they assert that a language is learnt effectively when the focus is not on language and that learners learn how to communicate by communicating, by interacting with their teachers and fellow students. It is a learner-centred approach. CLT provides the learner the opportunities not only in grammatical competence but also in social skills to satisfy his/her daily needs as larger aim.
Characteristics of Communicative Language Teaching
Communicative Approach or communicative language teaching has following characteristics:
The aim is to make the learner attain communicative competence, i.e. using language accurately and appropriately.
The prime focus is on the learner. The teacher is just a facilitator – a person who ‘manages’ the environment and the materials which will help the learners become autonomous.
It relies on ‘authentic’ materials. The tasks set are purposeful and meaningful. Thus, the communicative task can be judged immediately for its ‘success’ by the learner himself/herself.
CLT emphasizes the functions of a language rather than the rules.
Communicative tasks aim at making the learners fluent (especially during the early stages), as well as accurate in the target language.
Use of techniques to encourage student participation in natural environments – group and pair work, role play, simulation and information gap exercises.
2.3.7 The Lexical Approach
Linguistic theory has also recognized a more central role for vocabulary in linguistic description. Linguistic theory has also recognized more central role for vocabulary in linguistic description.
Lexical approach in language teaching seeks to develop proposals for syllabus design and language teaching founded on a view of language in which lexis plays a central role.
Willis stresses, “The lexical syllabus not only subsumes structural syllabus, it also indicates how the structures which make up syllabus should be exemplified “since the computer corpus reveals the commonest structural patterns in which words are used (Cullis, 1990: vi).
Specific roles for teachers and learners are also assumed in a lexical approach. The status of lexis in language teaching has been considerably enhanced by development in lexical and linguistic theory, by work in corpus analysis, by recognition of the role of multiword units in language learning and communication.
2.3.8. The Need for an Eclectic Approach
It was as a reaction to the profession of teaching methods in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the rigidity frequently found in the application of these methods that the eclectic approach was proposed. The teachers have been choosing the method which suits their teaching aims and classroom situation.
An eclectic approach according to Rivers (1981. 54) allows the language teachers to attract the excellent practices of all the leading methods and use them in their classroom teaching. It is obviously essential because teachers are engaged in the daily task of assisting students to learn a new language. The teachers have neither time nor can they apply each and every new method that comes into practice.
The preference of English language teachers around the world today is for some of communication teaching and learning. It is essential that the learners are given a lot of opportunities to practice in and outside the classroom. It is also important that they have enough time and freedom absorb, reproduce and analyze what they have been exposed to. It is equally essential that they internalise the linguistic structure and use it whenever necessary for communication.
The eclectic approach is criticized because it does not offer any guidance regarding the basis and the principles by which the aspects of various methods can be opted and used.
2.3.9 Content-Based Instruction (CBI)
Content- based instruction (CBI) refers to an approach to second language teaching in which teaching is organized around the context or information that students acquire, rather than around a linguistic or other type of syllabus.
Language is used for specific purposes. The purpose may be academic, vocational, social or recreational but it gives direction, shape and ultimately meaning to discourse and text. When learners focus on the language samples, they are exposed to, they become engaged in following through and seeing if the purpose is attained and how their own interests relate to this purpose.
Many CBI practitioners recommend the use of realia such as tourist guide books, technical journals, railway timetables, news paper ads, radio and TV broadcasts and so on.
Critics have noted that most language teachers have been trained to teach language as a skill rather than as a content subject. Thus, language teachers may be insufficiently grounded to teach subject matter in which they have not been trained. As CBI is based on a set of broad principles that can be applied in many different ways and is widely used as the basis for many different kinds of successful language programmers, one can expect to see CBI continues as one of the leading curricular approaches in language teaching.
2.3.10 Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)
In this age of information technology, there is hardly any sphere of human activity that has been left untouched by computers. Computers have revolutionized data storage and retrieval and have added a new dimension to educational technology.
Technology cannot replace the teacher in the classroom, but can lend assistance to facilitate learning.
Computer lessons address all the skill areas-listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also makes distance learning possible as well as convenient.
The language laboratories can set up with equipment that provides individual learners with a headset.
The advantages of computers in language teaching are:
It can control presentation. It can combine visual and graphic information with text it can highlight features using colour and movement.
It can provide novel and creative stimuli for learning. New language can be created in an interactive mode.
It provides immediate feedback. And this can be used for error correction. It can also help in error-analysis.
Its adaptability helps teachers to adopt instructional materials to suit the needs of the students.
The basic principles and procedures of widely practiced methods for teaching a second language are described. Both Direct and Oral methods which proposed an eclectic approach based on the learners, gained prominence over Grammar Translation method. The new tools advanced by technology and science contributed much to the development of audio-lingual and audiovisual methods in language teaching. As a reaction to audio-lingualism, cognitive code learning began to recognize learning as an innovative process and looked for common features of all languages. The Communicative Language teaching with its stress on meaning, fluency and real life communication came into existence from the notion of language as a social process. It then became recognized approach for language teaching.
The researcher agrees with Mitchell and Myles (2004.261), ‘that there can be no best method which is relevant at all times and in all circumstances with all types of learners. In keeping with today’s learners the teachers use diverse language teaching methods.
2.4 Language Skills
The main purpose of any classroom teaching in English is to improve the communicative abilities of the learners. To improve the communicative abilities, the classroom teaching has to be necessarily skill oriented. English language is widely used for communication purposes and so competence in language skills has become necessary to improve the communicative abilities specially listening, speaking, reading and writing (LSRW).
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Among these four skills, both listening and reading are called as receptive skills or passive skills and the other two skills, namely speaking and writing are called as productive skills or active skills. It is important to note that these skills are interconnected in order to achieve the overall objectives of communication. Everything takes place and develops within the linguistic, cultural and social boundaries of the concerned society in which the particular language is spoken. It is the curriculum, syllabus; text book, teaching methodologies under the efficient functioning of the teacher in the classroom, those students are shaped in communicative competence.
2.4.1 Listening Skills
Listening is the capacity to process information coming from an aural source. Such information is first filtered by the perceptual processes of the listener and absorbed into the short-term memory. Selected information is then stored into the long-term memory for retrieval at a later stage, if and when required.
Listening places a far greater load on the memory because the listeners cannot go back to the previous text in order to check or revise comprehension.
According to Rivers (1968) there are two basic levels while learning to listen, they are the levels of recognition and selection and the levels of selection. When the learners begin to hear a second language, they hear only meaningless sounds but when a person is continuously exposed to a language, he/she may begin to recognise elements and patterns of grammar automatically.
Listening comprehension attained the signpost of a wide range of theories of second language acquisition (SLA) and classroom teaching, which focus on the beginning levels of second language proficiency.
Further, in L2 teaching classrooms, not only English but also other L2 learning situations, the centrality of listening comprehension in L2 learning process has been exceptionally established with appropriate theories and practices. For e.g., Rost (1994) summarizes the importance of listening comprehension in L2 learning process as follows:
Listening is an important skill in the classroom for the learner to get the correct input, without it, he/she cannot gain anything.
Spoken language offers the learner to interact with others.
The spoken language challenges the learner to understand the language as native speakers actually use it.
Listening exercises gives an opportunity to the teachers to draw the attention of the learners by giving various interesting listening inputs.
(Rost, 1994. 141)
Place of Listening Skills in Second Language Acquisition
In the sixties, behaviourists influenced language teaching. Language learning was understood as basically habit formation. The audio-lingual and audio-visual teaching methods were based on the above view. Moreover, in this approach, teaching of listening comprehension in second language profession was viewed as only mastering discrete skills and the main focus was on teaching and testing those discrete skills; listening was considered a passive skill and the learner a passive receiver of information.
In the early 70’s, listening comprehension was given importance in learning a language. For e.g. in Total Physical Response (TPR) approach and in The Natural approach this trend can be seen. It is believed that listening helps to internalize the language system and thereby acquire language. In other words, by listening to a language a learner not only will learn to comprehend listening inputs but also will be able to improve his/her reading, writing and speaking skills.
Listening Comprehension Process
Listening comprehension has been realized as high-level active process and the listener has an important role by way of interacting with the text interpreting the text based on several other factors such as his/her background knowledge, the context and the purpose of listening. This is evident from some of the recent definitions of listening comprehension.
“Listening comprehension is an inferential process in which the listener constructs meaning through this interaction and the interpretation of the text is guided and influenced by the context of situation listener’s purpose for listening (Buck, 1997. 28).
Lynch & Mendelson, (2002) defines listening, “listening involves making sense of spoken language, normally accompanied by other sounds and visual input, with the help of our (listeners’) relevant prior knowledge and the context in which we (listeners) are listening.”
Rost (2005. 503) opines, listening refers to a complex cognitive process that allows a person to understand spoken language.
From the above definitions, one may conclude that, listening comprehension is not a simple process and the processes cannot be overtly observed. Buck (1997) claims that, listening comprehension is an “inferential process” and through that operation listeners take the responsibility of ‘constructing meaning’. Listeners interact with the text, which is supported by the context. And listener’s purpose also plays a key role in making meaning. According to Lynch and Mendelson (2002) , listening comprehension a bundle of related processes such as recognition of sounds uttered by the speaker, perception of intonation patterns, interpretation of the relevance of what is being said to the current topic and so on. Rost (2005) precisely says that, listening comprehension is a ‘complex process’ and this process is carried out by the listener to construct meaning of ‘spoken language (P. 503).
Purpose of Listening
While listening to various texts, one applies different skills to process the text, depending on the purposes for which one is listening.
Listening is the only medium through which one access the sounds of a language and all the supra segmental features of the language, such as tone, pitch, stress, pause, etc. Hence, listening is a pre-requisite for speaking and at a later stage, for reading.
Without knowing how a language sounds, one cannot engage confidently in speaking in the language, and without knowing how the sound patterns of the language function, reading its graphics serves little purpose. Teaching discriminative listening helps the learner to comprehend the language.
Listening can be a major source of pleasure and relaxation. Listening to the sounds in nature can be very soothing. Listening to someone reading stories aloud or poem is a pleasurable activity. Listening is also an important social skill.
Difficult Factors in Listening
There are five major factors that researchers believe affect listening comprehension.
Text characteristics (Variation in a listening passage / text or associated visual support.
Interlocutor characteristics (Variation in the speaker’s personal characteristics.
Task Characteristics (Variation in the purpose for listening and associated response).
Listener Characteristics (Variation in the listener’s cognitive activities and in the nature of the interaction between speaker and listener).
Teaching Listening Comprehension
Though listening may be the specific form, listening comprehension involves a number of language skills. Teaching listening comprehension is of two types: 1. Teaching linguistic nuances like phonetic differences, identification of similar sound in words, recognizing word boundaries and morphemes, distinguishing syntactical and lexical items in sentences, etc; 2. Teaching how to listen to a context, how to draw meaning of unfamiliar words and how to recognize them in a speech. Both the forms are important and undividable for teaching of listening skills. But any error is found in teaching either of these forms; its effect will be seen in speaking, reading and writing skills as well.
Testing listening skills
The main aim of testing listening skills is to help students understand the meaning of words and to provoke them to critically assess the given material. The test items consist of: dialogue, news, railway announcement, years, days, sentence, words, word pairs and numbers. These items were used to test the listening comprehension skills of students under study.
Here, the emphasis is on the importance of addressing the differences between spoken and written texts in the teaching of listening skills. It is only when learners are aware of the unique characteristics of authentic listening input that they can be equipped with the skills to handle real life communication.
2.4.2 Speaking skills
Speaking is ‘the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts’ (Chaney, 1998. 13). It is an extremely important faculty, and essential for an individual’s living as are the abilities of seeing and walking. Speaking is also the most natural way to express one’s own feelings, thoughts, opinions, ideas and insights. Without the ability of speaking, people fail to orally communicate with their fellow human beings and remain in isolation from any kind of society.
Language is a social phenomenon and a system for communication in speech and writing. Written language is the representation of spoken language by visual symbols. Language indeed is a special possession of humankind. Without language human civilization would have been impossible.
Today language is not only a library language but also a language of opportunities and possibilities. Recognizing the new role of English in the present era, the academic bodies are launching new courses with the goal of equipping students with requisite knowledge and skills. In addition to this, spoken English institutes are mushrooming in almost all cities and urban areas. In a liberalized global world English is the best medium of communication and the gateway to educational opportunities and economic success.
Importance of Speaking Skills
The need for developing speaking skills in English has grown enormously during the recent years. With the incredible increase in international trade, tourism and travel, and exchange of efforts in various fields and professions, the demand for acquiring the spoken form of English has gone up considerably.
India being a multi-lingual country, English is often called upon to play the role of a lingua-franca in the context of inter-state movement and communication. Speaking is a multidimensional skill and there is no specific definition of it because of its complex nature. Globally authors, linguists, language experts and researchers have come up with different views based on their experience, research and experiments and produced various ideas.
Penny Ur (1996.120) defines speaking in the following way:
Speaking is the most important skill since people who know a language are referred as “the speaker” of a language. In addition, speaking is the ability that includes all other kinds of knowing. It is the productive skill in the aural mode”.
According to Brown and Yule (1983), when the speaker says words to the listener, it is not only to express what is in his/her mind but also to cater to the needs or information services of the listener.
Process of Communication
Communication is a process of exchanging verbal and non-verbal messages. It is continuous process. For a successful oral communication speakers need knowledge of language features, ability to process information, and language and the spot. The rapid processing skills help speakers process the information and language on the spot.
The ability to make use of the words or language to express oneself in ordinary voice is to perform the linguistic knowledge in actual communication and ability to express ideas, feelings, thoughts, and needs orally.
The term communicative competence is coined by the anthropological linguist Dell Hymes (1967, 1972). Light (1997. 63) has described communicative competence as “Being able to meet the changing demands and to fulfill one’s communication goals across the life span. Communicative competence is the ability to send messages which promote attainment of goals while maintaining social acceptability.
Effective communication depends on one’s ability to express oneself in speech clearly, accurately and fluently. The learners follow different strategies to communicate to the teachers and to their fellow students. In the present research study, test is given to find out the different techniques used by the learners to communicate effectively.
2.4.3 Reading Skills
Human existence has centered on the development of oral traditions and over the years, spoken language as a tool of communication has gained our importance. However, with the vast amount of information growing around, reading as a skill and the ability to read for different purposes has gained great importance.
Reading is an indispensable skill and as a means of communication, it is as important as speaking. More than simply using any reading material as a tool for constructing knowledge, it is importance to know how it is used. The students have to be trained to learn with the texts- a process via which students interact with the texts as they build their own meaning and knowledge. Reading plays a crucial role in language learning/teaching because of its ability to feed one’s existing knowledge in different ways.
Definitions of Reading
Reading comprehension can be defined as an active thinking process through a reader intentionally constructing meaning to form a deeper understanding of concepts and information presented in the text (Neufeld, 2006). To comprehend readers must use information they already possess to filter, interpret, organize and reflect upon the incoming information from the page. Efficient interpretation of the text involves a combination of the word recognition skills, linking of new information to prior knowledge, and application of appropriate str
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