Question from Chris

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7 thoughts on “Question from Chris”

  1. Chris,

    I would be interested in know where you got the “communicative …. I have heard this one thrown around a bit and don’t really know what it is…

    The U-Maine French Professor that I have been discussion methodology with threw out the Communicative approach and I wonder if this is the same as Communicative Language Teaching? I have always found the names of all of these approaches confusing… Once I found Krashen/TCI I really lost interest…
    If I am going to have conversation with proponents of other methods it would probably be helpful to be aware of their positions.

    She also said that “attention to applied linguistics did L2 teaching a lot of good”
    I have no idea what this would be…. I asked her but she has not responded yet..

    Have you seen this site?

  2. I can’t answer for others, but to me the terms mean the following:
    -Traditional: methods ultimately based on the 18th-century model of teaching Latin, that is with an emphasis on presentation of formal grammar rules followed by primarily written exercises to solidify the understanding of the rules and translation of passages from a text (usually chosen because they contain the grammatical structure being studied). The most well known of the traditional methods is Grammar-Translation.
    –The premise for this is the belief that language study is an academic pursuit containing a set body of material to be mastered. Only after this body of material has been mastered can communication (defined as reading and translating texts) in the target language occur.
    —Personal observation: this method of instruction is still pervasive in the American public school system

    Eclectic: As the term implies, the eclectic* approach borrows from a number of different methods, approaches and strategies to create a highly individualized set of didactic activities. Depending on the knowledge base and care of the teacher, this approach may result in anything from a consistent and well-conceived approach to language instruction to a hodgepodge of conflicting (and even mutually exclusive) approaches and strategies that confuse students and actually delay language acquisition.
    –*Webster online dictionary: “composed of elements drawn from various sources”; “selecting what appears to be the best in various doctrines, methods or styles”
    —Personal observation: as noted above, the quality of the product in the Eclectic Approach depends entirely on the knowledge and ability of the individual teacher. There are some eclectic teachers who have crafted a solid program of instruction from a variety of elements. Unfortunately the majority of eclectic teachers are simply those who run from workshop to workshop (or book to book) grabbing the latest game, strategy or “trick” to throw willy-nilly into their instruction. An example of this is the use of games. I know a teacher who is a master at using games in instruction. She understands what type of game is input based and belongs as part of comprehensible input, what type of game is reinforcement of what has been acquired, and what type of game is really a form of assessment. She judiciously inserts a game here and there in a way that supports acquisition. Other teachers often go to workshops, grab a handout of a game and play it the next day simply to add “some fun” to their classes.

    Communicative Language Teaching: an approach that emphasizes interaction as both the means and goal of language study. In practice the concept of interaction has resulted in great stress being placed on output at an early stage in language acquisition. The Audio-Lingual Method, Notional-Functional Syllabus and Learning through Teaching are all methods that fall within the scope of Communicative Language Teaching.
    –Communicative Language Teaching may be contrasted with Comprehension-based Teaching (TPR, TPRS, other methods that emphasize understanding rather than production) and the Lexical Approach (which emphasizes learning commonly used structures as lexical units).

    Other: It would probably be wise to mention other methods and their place in language instruction, such as Direct (Berlitz) Method, Natural Approach, Silent Way, Suggestopedia, language immersion, TPR – to name a few.

    1. Notional-Functional was a term that Helen Curtain used at that conference last week. I’d never heard it before then. She said it was a European-led move towards focus on communication instead of grammar. Thanks for your explanation, Robert.

    2. Chris I worked intensely with Suggestopedia years ago. It has to do with brain wave changes from roughly 22 cycles per second to 14 (alpha state) where the brain becomes highly responsive to the target language – a language blotter. It’s good stuff but you have to get the kids lying on the floor doing yogic breathing to work on the heart rate to get the brain waves down and not too many people are going for that these days, I would imagine. The book is Superlearning by Ostrander and Schroeder. The Society for Advanced Learning Techniques (SALT) in Iowa was a big proponent of it but I don’t know if they still exist. I think they were connected to David Maxwell, now, or last I heard, President of Drake University. But when I contacted him about TPRS he was distant, professorial.

      Berlitz is something you have to see to believe. It’s clownish. Nothing but forced output. No reps as we know them, zero personalization (boring pictures), and a feeling in the learner of being in way over their heads. Because they are. But it made money for the Berlitz dudes!

      Great article Robert and thank you.

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