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The process of the second language acquisition differs greatly from the process of the first language acquisition. After the scientists and linguists have deeply explored the way children are learning their mother tongue, the variety of methodologies for teaching and learning the foreign language were developed. Over the years, different techniques and methods were applied that satisfied the needs of the society. Each method has its specific purpose of usage and develops some range of skills; thus, various activities and exercises exist within each approach. This paper discusses the most famous and commonly used methods for English language acquisition, their advantages and disadvantages, their usage, and effectiveness.
This method is called “classical” as it is the oldest one. In early times, well-educated people were able to read the classics; it was the fundamental goal of learning Greek and Latin. Thus, the prevailing activities include reading book passages, translation, question answering, and grammar rules memorizing. The only type of interaction that exists is between the teacher and the student. Students do not interact with each other. This method helps to develop the ability to read, however, it does not improve the ability to speak, to communicate, to pronounce words correctly. The teacher mostly uses the students’ native language during the lessons. In order to expand their vocabulary, students are memorizing the lists of word with the translation into the target language. Today, it is hard to name this method the most effective. As Zainuddin, Yahya, Morales-Jones, and Ariza argue (2011): “Much time was spent in learning about the language, not the language itself” (p. 64). Nevertheless, this method provides the learner with the basic knowledge of the target language, such as sentence structure, conjunctions, and verb tenses that provides the opportunity for the students to learn to speak fluently and grammatically correct.
Direct method is totally different. Native language is not used at the lessons; the teacher explains the material in the target language. Students get the meaning out of the context like in real life. The predominant goal is to teach how to communicate in a foreign language. According to Larsen-Freeman (2011), in order to be successful in learning using direct method, “students should learn to think in the target language” (p. 28). The vocabulary is established through pictures, demonstrations, visual aids, and associations. The teacher encourages students to interact with each other, to ask questions, to communicate orally. Students learn grammar implicitly, occasionally inductively (Christison, Christian, Duff, & Spada, 2015, p. 5). Thus, the teacher is burdened with a big responsibility. In fact, it depends on his/ her proficiency and experience that requires not only perfect language fluency but also a talent to present and explain the information. Moreover, according to the Elizabeth (2007) “this method, cannot be used successfully for the average and the below average students” (p. 56). Thus, the method is useful either for the children who are just getting acquainted with a foreign language or for the adults who want to improve language skills, especially, communication and understanding.
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The audio-lingual method offers the students to listen to the language in speech. Actually, it involves listening and repetition of dialogues in order to develop language proficiency and the ability to speak. The idea of the method is to develop a “habit” by substituting different parts of the sentence. According to Steinberg and Sciarini (2013) “repetitions and mechanical drills involving words as stimuli and responses were considered to be the essence of learning” (p. 146). However, learners were not able to speak fluently. Thus, the method was not as effective as it was expected to be. Although, teachers do not use “pure” audio-lingual method, many techniques and activities are successfully incorporated into the lessons.
The method developed by Galeb Gattengo presupposes the encouragement and engagement of a student to be creative, to discover, to solve problems, and to learn the language by virtue of such activities. The teacher uses colored pronunciation charts and rods to model the task; the students in a team are trying to reproduce the models. As Richards and Rodgers stated (2014) “these visual devices serve as associative mediators for student learning and recall” (p. 291). The teacher tries to remain silent during the lesson by using gestures and visual aids, shaking or nodding his/ her head to explain the material. The teacher pays little attention to the correction of mistakes expecting the initiative from the students. This method is rather unusual for the majority of the teachers, who get used to speaking during their lessons. Thus, this technique requires a totally different approach; participants need additional training on how to use this method.
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In order to eliminate the psychological barriers that students have in the process of learning, Georgi Lozanov, the famous psychiatrist-educator, has developed Suggestopedia. (Zainuddin et al., 2011, p. 65). The main principles of this method include calm and relaxing atmosphere in the classroom, comfortable furniture, music, entertaining activities (songs, games, drama), and visual aids (posters) that helps the students to believe that the process of learning is enjoyable and easy. This method has a positive influence on the communication skill that makes the students confident. Students practice language in use through these activities. At first, they listen to the dialogues, then they read them, and, finally, they act them. However, the technique will be unsuccessful in large groups of students. Moreover, the lack of textbooks and teaching materials for this methodology becomes another challenge for the teacher.
Community Language Learning
Community language learning is a method, where the teacher performs the role of the supporting counselor, and the students learn through consultation (Byram & Hu, 2013, p. 141). Learners share their experience, feelings, and difficulties with other students in the native language. After that, the teacher translates his /her expressions and the student repeats them one more time in the target language. The aspect secure learning environment is very important when using this method. The teacher not only pays attention to the language aspects but also helps to overcome some psychological or emotional obstacles and fears; thus, the approach is called learner-centered. Of course, there are a few limitations: it is not appropriate for children and some types of personalities; a small number of students within a group is preferred; high requirements for the teacher, including knowledge of psychology and sociology.
Total Physical Response
This method has become extremely popular all over the world, as it has proved to be effective. The principle of this method is listening-acting. During instruction, the teacher gives directions, demonstrates and models the desired movements or actions (Ruan & Leung (2012, p. 59). The learning process is rather funny and exciting. In fact, it is expected that the learners will develop listening comprehension that will make them able to speak, read and write. The process stages are similar to the acquisition of the first language. Undoubtedly, this technique will work perfectly with children. By virtue of this method, it is easy to explain imperatives and some common vocabulary. Daily tasks, such as tidying up, driving the car or taking a photo, are acted out, and all the actions are voiced. Thus, the learners begin to speak very quickly. However, other grammatical constructions and ability to read may lag behind.
In contrast to grammar-translational method, in communicative approach “teacher is a facilitator” (Natsir, 2014, 59). Students interact with each other and with the teacher. The communication is purposeful; thus, students learn new vocabulary in real world context, not just memorizing the lists of words. The main activities include information sharing, social interactions, language games and role playing. A variety of materials, such as newspaper articles, serves as topics for discussion. Recently, the most widespread goal in learning English is the ability to speak fluently that emphases the importance of the learner’s lexical competence over structural and grammatical competence (Carter & McCarthy, 2013, p. 111). Undoubtedly, this method is effective in the improvement of speaking and communicational skills. For students to enhance their pronunciation, writing and reading proficiency, a teacher needs to focus on these aspects during the lessons.
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To conclude, a variety of methods for English language teaching/learning exists nowadays. Each of them enhances language proficiency and deals with some difficulties of students or teachers, helps to overcome the barriers to language fluency. In order to develop all the competences, reading, listening, writing, and speaking, the teachers use multiple methods. Thus, different activities and approaches to the learning process make it exciting and easy that adjusts the student’s character, personality type and needs. Thus, the choice of methodology depends on many factors, such as age, gender, social and cultural background, current knowledge level or psychological features of the learners. The usage of multiple methods will help to enhance four competences and will lead to the successful learning process.