The Grammar-Translation Method
The Grammar-Translation Method is not new. It has had different names, but it has been used by language teachers for many years. At one time it was called the Classical Method since it was first used in the teaching of the classical language, Latin and Greek (Chastain 1988). Earlier in this century, this method was used for the purpose of helping students read and appreciate foreign language literature. It was also hoped that, through the study of the grammar of the target language, students would become more familiar with the grammar of their native language and that this familiarity would help them speak and write their native language better.
REVIEWING THE PRINCIPLES
The principles of the Grammar-Translation Method are organized below by answering the ten questions posed in Chapter1 (pages 7-8). Not all the questions are addressed by the Grammar –Translation Method; we will list all the questions, however, so that a comparison among the methods we will study will be easier for you to make.
1. What are the goals of teacher who use the Grammar-Translation Method?
According to the teachers who use the Grammar-Translation Method, a fundamental purpose of learning a foreign language is to be able to read literature written in the target language. To do this, students need to learn about the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language.
2. What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of the students?
The roles are very traditional. The teacher is the authority in the classroom. The students do as she says so they can learn what she knows.
3. What are some characteristic of the teaching/learning process?
Students are taught to translate from one language to another. Students study grammar deductively; that is, they are given the grammar rules and examples, are told to memorize them, and then are asked to apply the rules to another examples. They also learn grammatical paradigms such as verb conjugations.
4. What is the nature of student-teacher interaction? What is the nature of student-student
Most of the interaction in the classroom is from the teacher to the students. There is
little student initiation and little student-student interaction.
5. How are the feelings of the student dealt with?
There are no principles of the method which relate to this area.
6. How is the language viewed? How is culture viewed?
Literary language is considered superior to spoken language and is therefore the language the students study. Culture is viewed as consisting of literature and the fine arts.
7. What areas of language are emphasized? What language skills are emphasized?
Vocabulary and grammar are emphasized. Reading and writing are the primary skills that student study.
8. What is the role of the students’ native language?
The meaning of the target language is made clear by translating it into the students’ native language.
9. How is evaluation accomplished?
Written tests in which students are asked to translate from their native language to the target language or vice versa are often used.
10. How does the teacher respond to student errors?
Having the student get the correct answer is considered very important. If students make errors or do not know an answer, the teacher supplies them with the correct answer.
REVIEWING THE TECHNIQUES
Translation of a literary passage
Students translate a reading passage from the target language into their native language. The reading passage then provides the focus for several classes: vocabulary and grammatical structures in the passage are studied in subsequent lessons.
Reading comprehension questions
Students answer questions in the target language based on their understanding of the reading passage.
Students are given one set of words and are asked to find antonyms in the reading passage. A similar exercise could be done by asking students to find synonyms for a particular set of words.
Students are taught to recognize cognates by learning the spelling or sound patterns that correspond between the languages. Students are also asked to memorize words that look like cognates but have meaning in the target language that are different from those in the native language.
Deductive application of rule
Grammar rules are presented with examples. Exceptions to each rule are also noted.
Students are given a series of sentences with words missing. They fill in the blanks with new vocabulary items or with items of a particular grammar type, such as prepositions or verbs with different tenses.
Use words in sentences
In order to show that students understanding the meaning and use of a new vocabulary item, they make up sentences in which they use the new words.
The teacher gives the students a topic to write about in the target language. The topic is based upon some aspect of the reading passage of the lesson.