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CSS Dixieland

Probing the depths of knowledge

These essays by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland, cover a wide range of historical, philosophical, scientifical and technical subjects. Each page deals with a particular topic, divided into sections and explained by itself. Every page shows at its top hyper links to every other page. The Start page also has short descriptions of the other pages. CSS Dixieland expresses gratitude to the readers that make this work meaningful.

This Web document has been tested with KDE Konqueror, graphic HTML interpreter for Linux. It may not be rendered correctly by other graphic HTML interpreters. It will probably be correct when rendered by text-only HTML interpreters (visual, aural, or Braille tactile interpreters), but if feasible, please use KDE Konqueror. Uniform Resource Locator:

Language Teaching page

Personal tutoring for those who want to master
the English language and its culture
Teaching Languages: approaches, methods and techniques

Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard
Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard.
Wagner Frost Illustration

Sections in this page

  Tutoring pupils
  Teaching Languages

Technical note: In languages other than English or Latin, but which use mainly Latin characters, some characters are taken from other alphabets, or some Latin characters are modified with diacritic marks for representing different phonemic sounds or other orthographic conventions of those languages. Those characters, when used in this document, have been encoded as entities of Hyper Text Mark-up Language or sometimes in Unicode UTF-8. Therefore computers using other character encodings may render some characters inaccurately, but hopefully, it will still be possible to read non-English words without too much difficulty.


Tutoring pupils

For those who prefer personal guidance

Professional and advanced English, formal writing and speaking, complex grammar, rich vocabulary, elegant diction.

Being polyglot in several languages, with years of experience as an English teacher, interpreter, translator, and recording studio speaker, P. A. Stonemann is in excellent conditions of transmitting some of his vast knowledge to his pupils. In this page it is explained in detail how they benefit in their improvement of the English language.

To whom:

This tutoring is targeted to those who want or need to master professional or advanced English: writers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, medicine doctors, businessmen, diplomats, politicians, public speakers, journalists, universitarians, and others for whom the perfect command of formal writing and speaking is an important asset, be it either because of their activities in their own country or for their current or planned projects abroad.


Two main reasons justify the existence of this tutoring:

On one hand there is a sizeable number of professionals who already speak some English, but who lack fluency, have difficulties understanding different English accents, commit various kinds of mistakes, do not feel at ease expressing their thoughts, or whose written English is less than perfect.

These people have two main options (short of travelling abroad): either join an existing English course, or else learn on their own.

By choosing the first option they soon realise that most English schools do not cater to their needs, for those schools tend to focus on the beginner or on the casual learner, a strain of half-hearted "student" that is only too predominant, and who passively expects to be "taught" by songs, games and other "motivating" activities, rather than by becoming himself actively involved in the effort of acquiring knowledge by means of factual information, self-discipline, and hard study.

By choosing the second option, professionals with limited English face the reality that, for being teachers of themselves, they should possess the talent of a genius or the iron will of a Prussian soldier: daily discipline to tackle hard studies and never give up. A rather demanding probation on someone who has already other responsibilities in life, and perhaps a tight time schedule in his weekly obligations.

On the other hand, a small number of private tutors and a handful of the very best schools really do provide an English teaching that could undoubtedly be labelled as "top of the line", even under First World standards. Nevertheless, the fees that they collect from their fortunate pupils can only be met by the most privileged well-to-do. All others are condemned to one of the first two options: or schools of dubious efficiency, or learning by themselves.

Almost invariably they are doomed to failure.

An intermediate option began appearing not very long ago: English conversation clubs. They usually meet in a restaurant, hotel, night club, or similar place. Sometimes in a bookshop, a church, or a cultural centre. The most expensive ones organise week-end trips, sojourns on rural locations, and barbecues. They talk, they drink, they eat, they socialise and have lots of fun. And that is it. They certainly will dispel some of the shyness barrier that seriously hinders the linguistic progress of so many learners, who are afraid of being ridiculed if trying to talk a foreign language. But it is unlikely that they could learn much through those ludicrous appointments. They will not foster deep advances into the intricacies of English, because much of the language that is used in those social events remains only on the surface.

It is, more often than not, informal, colloquial, casual and easy going. The pitfalls of our language are all there, lurking for the non-native English speaker to be caught unawares. Few will ever master the complexities of Shakespeare's beautiful tongue just by attending mass-produced franchise schools, third world teaching, conversation clubs, restaurants and barbecues.

Our English Culture tutoring offers an affordable new option, and a pretty darn good one at that.


Clearing up of grammatical complexities (phrasal verbs, ready made sentences, correct use of the verbal apparatus...), introduction of rich vocabulary (including specialised terms), enhancement of elegant diction, techniques for better expression, answers to questions and doubts, suggestion of readings, or exercises tailored to the weak points of individual participants. Texts written by pupils are analysed, compared to those written by authors of consumated reknown in our language, corrected if necessary, and pointed out how they could be improved.

Informal or colloquial English is generally avoided, because experience shows that most learners cannot easily distinguish between levels of formality in language usage, and there is an obvious risk of their using inappropriate expressions in situations where more formal language is to be expected. As a rule, popular conversational turns are only dealt with if required by the context (like it may be the case when studying regional speech, time honoured expressions that have become crystallised, or utterances characteristic of specific ethnical or social groups, exempli gratia, Cockney English).


Important. Please read

The first visit is for free, without any compromise. If reaching an agreement on continuing with the teaching, then the next period of lessons must always be paid in advance and in cash, otherwise the agreement will be terminated.

The payment for a period of lessons covers four weeks (28 days), it is not a monthly payment. There are thirteen periods in a year (28 X 13 = 364), always starting on a Saturday.

In the unlikely case of a lesson being cancelled by the teacher, these rules apply:

At pupil's choice, the hours for that lesson will be either added to another convenient day or distributed in two days. Alternatively, the pupil may prefer to have the next lesson considered as paid, or else to have a proportional discount on the payment for the next period.

The teacher will make every effort to notify cancellations well in advance. Only in the case of continued absence of the teacher for over four weeks (as it may happen due to accident, illness, or other impending causes of force majeure), then the remaining proportion of money that the student had paid will be sent back to him, and the agreement will be temporarily or definitely suspended.

Attention: lessons cannot be cancelled by the student.

The student can only try to agree on a different day or time for a specific lesson or period of lessons that had been previously scheduled. In most cases the petition to the teacher for modifying a future lesson must be done in person, face to face. There is no easy way to communicate at short notice. It is therefore necessary to do that petition at least from one lesson to the next. Lessons will not be permitted to accumulate, except for very extreme circumstances of the student (like accident, illness, and the like). A student wishing to travel or to take holidays must reach the last lesson that he had paid, and then stop.

The price for tutoring is low on purpose, precisely to compensate for the impossibility to accept cancellations. The teacher will wait at the appointed place for the full two hours, if possible (depending on waiting comfort). In case of the student failing to appear, the lesson that had been prepared for that day will be given at the following available day. The student will receive absolutely no compensation.

Services such as interpreter, simultaneous translator, tourist guide, recording studio speaker or others, will be subjected to similar conditions as those of teacher, for sessions of up to two hours.

Price and conditions will be agreed upon for longer sessions.

Teaching Languages

Approaches, methods and techniques

By P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland

This text can be freely quoted, or copied partly or entirely, with or without modifications. Credit to the author is requested. Suggestions are welcome.

For further information, for any questions or doubts that may not have been answered in the lines below, or for sending Your ideas, please be kind to write to the electronic post address given at the bottom of the Start page.


The theory of language teaching has had since at least the XVI century, and more clearly since the end of the XIX century, a variety of authors who have developed a diversity of ideas, being often in open conflict with regard to several issues, such as emphasis on written or spoken language, the use of instrumental language versus target language for explanations, the importance of grammar, and plenty of other points. Authors have always been particularly inclined to difference of views, much more with the teaching of languages than with the teaching of any other subject, because any other discipline is normally taught in a language that the student can already understand, and therefore his own language becomes an instrument to introduce some other knowledge, but the teaching of a language also admits of being done in the target language that the pupil is endeavouring to learn. The long history of language teaching has therefore passed through almost continuous alternations of ideas, much more than the teaching of any other field of knowledge, and with the common characteristic of each idea for language teaching moving to a diametrically opposite extreme from the preceding idea, with a great deal of controversial issues always involved in the process.

Definition of terms

What is understood by the terms 'approach', 'method' and 'technique':

An approach is a teaching philosophy, a theoretical model with certain fundamental beliefs or principles, whence a method or methods derive.

A method is the result of a process of selection, gradation, presentation and practice of a linguistic experience to be offered to the student (definition given by Mackey in 1965), whence a technique or techniques derive. There is below a list of the main methods used for teaching languages, each of them inspired in a certain approach. Different approaches sometimes may share similar methods.

A technique is a set of procedures to teach general proficiency of a language or some specific skills (listening, uttering speech, reading or writing). Examples of techniques are games, work in pairs or in small groups, oral or written exercises, and other activities inspired in a certain method. Different methods may share similar or even identical techniques.

The two philosophies

Approaches present a continuous line, whose extremes are represented by two opposed teaching philosophies:

-Cognitivism: it believes that learning is mostly deductive and must be taught by explicit rules. Cognitivism assumes that the acquisition of a language is done mainly by intellectual effort. Cognitivist methods tend to teach grammatical and phonetical rules, semantical values and correct usage of vocabulary, formal and literary language, the structure and the culture of the language.

-Behaviourism: it believes that learning is mostly inductive and must be taught by presentation of samples and frequent repetition of them. Behaviourism assumes that the acquisition of a language is done mainly by forming the habit of using the language. Behaviourist methods tend to teach without rules the functions of informal and colloquial language, hoping that the student could learn implicit rules only by his intuition.

Rather than indulging in the endless arguments of deductive learning versus inductive one, it would be more realistic to say that different pupils have also different natural talents, such as good or bad ear (therefore affecting listening and pronunciation), rich or poor memory (affecting passive and active vocabulary, spoken or written), strong or weak abstract and logical reasoning (affecting grammatical proficiency, reading and writing). They also have different purposes or necessities that impel them to learn languages, such as travelling, professional contact (face to face, by telephone or by letter), reading in the original language, listening wireless or television transmissions, or other motivations. Finally, they may be motivated to make heroic efforts and take an active learning attitude, or else they may be lazy rascals who take a totally passive attitude and who are good for nothing, except for frustrating their tutor. Many beginners are in the latter group, if not most of them.

Of course, individual teachers may take elements of one approach and elements of the other, to form their own intermediate approach. They may for example try to teach informal language by explicit rules, or on the contrary, formal language without rules. But eclecticisms apart, these two approaches of Cognitivism and Behaviourism have been the antagonised historical approaches on which all known methods are based and from which all known teaching techniques derive.

The hard line of the Cognitivist Approach:

-The Grammar Translation Method, used since ancient times. It received its theoretical basis with Karl Ploetz about 1850. Until the end of the XIX century the Grammar Translation Method was almost the only method used in universities, seminars, schools or most other institutions, although for personal tutoring the Behaviourist Direct Natural Method was also sometimes used. The Grammar Translation method is based on detailed explanations of grammar and on translations between instrumental and target languages, in both ways.

-In the Grammar Translation Method the teacher does not need to speak the target language, but only to know its written form.

-All explanations are given in an instrumental language hopefully known by the pupil. The target language is analysed, but not actively used.

-Translation between instrumental and target languages, both ways.

-Detailed morphological and syntactical analyses of the target language.

-From the start, there is careful reading of difficult classic texts (for analysis of grammatical forms, not for content). Only formal language is taught, colloquial language is avoided. The emphasis is on written language.

-Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.

-The best students will become proficient readers and writers in the target language, but relatively unable to speak it, because they cannot pronounce well.

For centuries, Christian seminars used this method to teach Latin to those who wanted to become priests of the Church. Universities did the same, since Latin was the lingua franca of learned scholars all over Europe. The fact that those scholars communicated amongst them not only in written Latin, but also in SPOKEN Latin (with better or worse pronunciation), means that the method is not totally useless for learning to speak a language.

The hard line of the Behaviourist Approach:

-The Direct Natural Method, used by Greek personal tutors who accompanied all the time their Roman patrician pupils, speaking to them only in Greek and nothing in Latin. The method continued in some use for personal tutoring all along European History. In schools it began to be used about 1900, mainly as a reaction against the predominant Cognitivist Grammar Translation Method. The Direct Natural Method is based on the continuous use of the target language exclusively, which in advanced stages becomes also instrumental for giving explanations. Nothing is said in the language of the student, like if teacher and student could not communicate in any language previously known by both. The idea is to repeat the way in which a child supposedly learns his first language. It is wishful thinking, however, because there are deep differences between the native child who learns his first language and the adult or teenage student who tries to learn a foreign language:

-The native child is continuously exposed to the language, and encouraged by family and friends to speak it. The student is exposed only a few hours per week, and outside class he will normally be encouraged to use his native language and not the foreign language, except in the special situation where the student happen to be himself the foreigner, who is learning the language of the country in which he is staying or to which he has migrated.

-The child needs a language as an instrument for survival and for the most imperative communication needs. The student has already that instrument in the form of his native language, and he may see the learning of a foreign language as an unnecessary effort, as something that he may never use. Again, excluding the situation of a foreign visitor or immigrant, who may suffer miserably by being unable to communicate in the host language, and who may perhaps try to find other speakers of his native language in the host country.

-The child is programmed by Nature with an instinct for language learning. The infant student has the same natural gift, the teenage student still keeps some of it, but the adult student has already lost most of it. Hence the importance of teaching a foreign language to young children, who will as adults be able to learn the third and the fourth languages more easily. By contrast, most monolingual adults are linguistic mules. They already posses deeply enrooted linguistic habits, and it is for them difficult or impossible to start anew with the very different concepts of a foreign language. Their own language is a serious hindrance against the learning of a second language. They tend to pronounce foreign sounds approximately as sounds of their native language, and they often show a fastidious tendency to translate every word into their own damned language, with a false biunivocal semantic equivalence and with a mind-set enrooted in the native rules, rather than to understand the idea and to express themselves automatically, as a polyglot does.

In backward countries like Brazil, most adults are and will always be totally incompetent in foreign languages. Their 'culture' ends inside their restrict national boundaries, knowing little of the rest of the world. They do not travel, they do not read, and they watch only translated films. There are exceptions, of course, as a few Brazilians are really gifted with linguistic talent. Talented individuals often occupy professional positions where fluency in some other language is an absolute necessity.

In spite of those big truths, some tutors still hope to teach by this method, which to be fair, has also some positive points amongst its characteristics.

-In the Direct Natural Method the teacher must be somewhat of an actor, and very fluent in the language.

-In the strict method the language of the student is NEVER used, the teacher may not even know it. All activities are done in the target language only. Obviously this is the only solution available when, for any reason, the teacher be unable or unwilling to use the language of the student.

-There are no grammatical explanations at the low level. Grammatical rules are hoped to be learnt by intuition, after the exhaustive repetition of many different sentences. Grammatical explanations begin at the medium level, and gain full force at the high level.

-Advanced students read texts in the language for content, not for grammar.

-Illustrations, gestures and theatralisation are used to introduce simple sentences in the target language. Colloquial language tends to be used initially, later also formal language is introduced, but with emphasis on spoken communication more than written. Pronunciation receives attention.

-Students tipically become desinhibited fluent talkatives, but often poor performers in reading or writing (the opposite of the previous method).

The Direct Natural Method is especially suitable for teaching situations where the student is FORCED to speak the target language, be it because the student is physically present in the country where the language is spoken, or because he has been secluded for some months in an isolated place where the language is continuously used, such as a country house prepared for the purpose, with books, magazines, newspapers, cinema, radio, television or other resources ONLY in the target language, and with teachers and all assistant personnel being fluent speakers of the language.

It also works better with children than with monolingual adults, precisely because children are programmed by Nature for learning their first language in this way. Polyglot adults can also learn by the Direct Natural Mathod, because they are already aware of the fact that a language seldom has a biunivocal equivalence of vocabulary and structure with another language. With monolingual teenage or adult beginners, however, this method is a pain for the teacher and for the student.

As we can see, the pendulum went from one side (Grammar Translation Method) to the opposite side (Direct Natural Method). We shall continue seeing this pendular movement, but it is good to remember that the appearance of newer methods was neither an improvement nor a disappearance of older methods. The good old fashioned methods have kept their enthusiasts until today, for as we have stated, the perfect method does not exist and a teacher may choose his own, according to his skills, personality, ideas, and available resources.

The soft line of the Cognitivist Approach:

-The Reading Method, used since 1920 by Michael West and reinforced by the Coleman Report of 1929, which recommended to train mainly the reading skill in students whose language course did not extend more than two years. The method begins teaching the sounds of the target language, but it limits linguistic proficiency to the skill of reading, paying little or no attention to writing, listening or uttering speech. It assumes that many students will never have the chance of real spoken communication, but they might more easily find written materials in libraries or book shops. This was certainly the case in most monolingual countries in 1920, where the only means that existed for listening to a foreign language were phonographs, gramophones, wireless transmissions (the first general radio broadcasts started in those years), and of course the few fluent speakers of that language that happened to be in the country as visitors or as foreign residents, or who for whatever reason knew the language very well. Cinematography with sound began in 1929, spreading during the 1930's.

The later spreading of short wave radio, of audio (and later video) records in a variety of formats (such as vynil disc or magnetic tape), plus the invention of cable or satellite radio or television, and of Internet, has substantially changed this situation. However, cinematography in the original language is a rarity even today, in many backward countries. Brazil is example of a third world country where most film distributions are translated (dubbed) into the local language, therefore condemning most people to be permanent linguistic mules, because few of them will make the effort of watching in the original language a film that they can very conveniently listen in a bad translation into their own language.

-In the Reading Method the teacher does not need to speak the target language, but only to know its written form and its culture. It is important to teach the students the history and culture of the target country.

-Translation is common, mostly from target to instrumental language. Vocabulary is introduced gradually, and continuously expanded. The meaning is guessed by context and global comprehension is emphasised, avoiding bilingual dictionaries, translation of words and linear reading.

-Grammar is only taught for immediate comprehension of the text.

-Huge quantities of reading from the start, about many different subjects. Reading is the main skill, with only minimal introduction of other skills.

-Some writing is done, but not extensively, only in short communications.

-Little or no attention is given to listening or to pronunciation.

-The best students will become proficient readers in the target language, but relatively unable to speak it (because they can hardly pronounce), or to write it (because they have formed a passive vocabulary more than an active one).

The soft line of the Behaviourist Approach:

-The Audio Oral Lingual Method, began to be widely used in the United States Armed Forces during the Second World War, with the intention of preparing many military officers for being able to get at least a minimal communication in the languages of the countries that they would invade. In civilian schools it began to be used about 1950. Its theoretical basis arrived in 1957 with the Behaviourist Psychology of Skinner. It is strongly based on the concept of 'military drill', with an intense practice by the pupil of an oral model (pronounced by the teacher or by an informant, or recorded). The model is called the 'auditive stimulus', the reaction of the student is named the 'oral response', and the refusal or approval of the teacher is labelled the 'linguistic reinforcing'. From this method derived other functional methods: the Audio Visual Method, based on sounds and images projected onto screen (reading and writing comes several months later), or the Audio Visual Lingual Method, with images in the course book (with little or no delaying of reading and writing).

-In the Audio Oral Lingual Method the teacher must speak well the target language, without need of being extremely fluent in it. He immediately reinforces correct responses of the student, like a tamer would do with his animals in a circus show.

-New sentences are introduced as dialogues, with gestures, theatralisation, illustrations and intense repetition, but with some explanations given in the instrumental language (different from the Direct Natural Method, in which only the target language is used).

-The target language is compared to the instrumental language, more than properly translated. Vocabulary is initially limited, later graduallly expanded. Complex forms or cultivated language tends to be avoided.

-Grammar is slowly introduced, one structure at a time, intensely repeated but without detailed explanations, hoped to be learnt by intuition. Linguistic forms are prioritised over content. Target culture is important, although like in most Behaviourist methods, colloquial language receives more attention than formal language, here especially so because the emphasis of the method is on spoken language.

-Skills are introduced in this order: listening, uttering speech, reading and writing. Listening and pronouncing are the focus of the method. Reading receives some limited attention, but writing receives very little.

-Pronunciation is important, aiming to accuracy rather than fluency.

-The students will receive an exaggerated impression of their own fluency, due to the carefully graded materials used in class. They will encounter some problems later, when facing real and ungraded language.

The Cognitivist Approach with elements of the Behaviourist:

-The Cognitive Code Method, used since 1966, based on the Cognitive (gerative transformational) Linguistics of Noam Chomsky. Its Cognitivist part is based on specified linguistic rules, while its Behaviourist part puts emphasis in communication, but not in pronunciation. Carrol declared in 1966 that the Cognitive Code Method is a modification of the Grammar Translation Method, while Diller in 1978 said that it must rather be seen as a modification of the Direct Natural Method. In fact, it is some combination of both methods, lying more or less in between, a little more to the Cognitivist side.

-In the Cognitive Code Method the teacher is seen as a helper, with a good command of the target language and the ability to analyse it and compare with the instrumental language, but individually or in group, students are seen as RESPONSIBLE for their own learning.

-Language is seen as an acquisition of rules, not as the formation of habits that the Audio Oral Lingual Method supposes. Communication is emphasised.

-Grammar is taught in both ways: intuitively by means of sample sentences, and also deductively by giving explanations and rules.

-Vocabulary, especially passive, is constantly expanded by frequent reading. Parrot-like repetition is avoided, periods of silent study are encouraged.

-Accuracy tries to be balanced with fluency: errors are seen as unavoidable part of the learning process, to be used constructively.

-There is an emphasis on understanding, without removing the importance of the other skills: uttering speech, reading and writing.

-Pronunciation is taught, but perfect accent is seen as an unrealistic utopy.

-The goal for students is native-like bilingual and bicultural competence.

The Behaviourist Approach with elements of the Cognitivist:

-The Structural Situational Method, used since 1957. The structural part of this eclectic method tends to follow the Behaviourist Audio Oral Lingual Method, while the situational part incorporates some important elements of the Cognitivist Linguistics of Noam Chomsky, who in 1957 strongly attacked the Behaviourist Psychology of Skinner and the Structuralist Linguistics of other authors. In 1966 Mr. Chomsky stated that the teaching of languages cannot be only a consequence of current psychological or linguistic ideas.

-In the Structural Situational Method the teacher must be a competent speaker of the language, though it does not need to be extremely fluent or to possess a deep knowledge of its culture.

-Teaching is done by the typical phrasal books for travellers: a column with sentences in the instrumental language, a second column with the approximate equivalences in the target language, and a last column with the approximate pronunciation. The pronunciation may be written using international phonetic symbols, but more often using some modification of the alphabet known to the student (the alphabet of the instrumental language), with some pages giving an explanation of the sounds that correspond to these written conventions.

Situations try to reflect real life: 'At Customs', 'At the Railway Station', 'At the Hotel', 'Touring the City', 'Visiting a Home', and so on. Translations are functional, not literal. Typical ready-made expressions of the instrumental language are rendered into some similar version in the target language.

-Grammar is introduced gradually by pattern practice, with some explanations and with substitutions of elements to form different sentences: affirmation into question, present into past, a word into another, greetings, et cetera.

-Pronunciation must be enough for unambiguous understanding, without being necessarily perfect. There is no "parrot-like" repetition (as there is in the Audio Oral Lingual Method).

-Students become able to read public signs or short texts, to write short notes, or to communicate in short sentences: to request, answer, understand what is being said in casual interactions, but not to hold long conversations, to attend long speeches, or to read or write extensively in the language.

The Cognitivist and Behaviourist approaches in the Natural Approach:

An eclectic method developed by Stephen Krashen about 1990. Because it takes elements from the Cognitivist Reading Method, and others from the Behaviourist Direct Natural Method, it could also be called the Reading Natural Method.

-In the Reading Natural Method the teacher must be very fluent in the language (as it is also the case in the Direct Natural Method, but unlike it, he also needs to possess deep knowledge of the culture of the target language).

Almost only the target language is used (like in the Direct Natural Method), almost completely avoiding the language of the student. Only a few and short explanations of difficult points may use the instrumental language.

There is strong input before expecting any output from the student. The usual order of learning the four skills is: reading, listening (pronunciation is learnt here), writing and speaking. This is not strict, with some students it may be modified because of their individual talents or needs.

Reading is intense (like in the Reading Method), primarily for form by following the advice of 'pause and think', but secondarily also for content.

Pronunciation is important. It does not need to be perfect, but it must be clear enough for easy communication.

-Students finish the course typically being able to combine, in various degrees according to their individual talent and effort, a certain competence in communication with a cultural awareness of the target language, due to the strong emphasis on reading.

The Behaviourist and Cognitivist approaches in the Communicative Approach:

-The Functional Notional Method, used since 1972, later developed by Hymes in 1979, Widdowson 1979, Murison-Bowie 1983, and Curcio Celia 1984. It is based on ideas taken from Psycholinguistics and Sociolinguistics, aiming to combine Cognitivist ideas (grammatical rules, precise vocabulary, translation...), with Behaviourist ideas (phonetical competence, communicative efficiency, practice drills...). It tries to represent real situations that the pupils will probably meet in the future, rather than to focus only on the classic variety of the target language (as in the Grammar Translation Method), or rather than an exhausting mechanical repetition of sentences (as in the Audio Oral Lingual Method).

-Like it is the case in the Structural Situational Method, in the Functional Notional Method the teacher must also be a competent speaker of the language, without necessarily being extremely fluent, but he needs to be highly imaginative for setting and conducting activities.

-Linguistic functions receive priority over linguistic structures. The pupil is taught how to ask, agree, disagree, suggest... more than how to form different verbal tenses, voices, moods, or other grammatical parts.

-Situational functions are presented, such as 'Talking to a New Acquaintance', based on spontaneous use of colloquial language more than on formal language.

-Theatralisation and group work by the students is strongly encouraged. They thus become desinhibited talkatives.

Equilibrium between approaches: Direct Grammar Writing Method

One of the possible combinations of the most interesting features found in the different methods here exposed, has been gradually developed since the year 2000 by the author of this essay, P. A. Stonemann, and applied in the following years to different kinds of students. It has therefore a strong theoretical basis AND the necessary field test to gauge its suitability for a variety of pupils and of teaching situations.

It results in the method described further below. The method is very properly labelled as the 'Direct Grammar Writing Method' because almost all of its elements are predominantly Cognitivist, but with the VERY IMPORTANT EXCEPTION of using almost exclusively the target language. To include only that Behaviourist element, in spite of keeping everything else Cognitivist, might to some teachers seem insufficient for classifying the method as a middle way, until we realise how fundamental that element is.

In effect, the denial to the student of his own language, and the forced introduction of every activity, instructions and explanations included, almost exclusively in the target language, puts the Direct Grammar Writing Method in a unique place in the whole history of language teaching. Especially because the activities are not of the ludicrous kind that they usually are in the Direct Natural Method. They are advanced, complex activities, of the kind found in the Grammar Translation Method, but differently from that method, the Direct Grammar Writing Method does not normally use any translations.

Let us present first the main characteristics of the Direct Grammar Writing Method, afterwards we shall see a richness of comments derived from the teaching experience of P. A. Stonemann.

-THE STUDENT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN LEARNING. The teacher is not at all a 'motivator'. He is an instructor, and the method demands from the teacher to be VERY FLUENT in the language, to possess a high knowledge of its written form and its classic culture, and to be imaginative for conveying meanings using almost exclusively the target language, by means of theatralisation, gestures or illustrations, plus approximate synonyms, definitions or explanations in the target language.

-The language of the student is almost NEVER used. Nearly all explanations are given in the target language, almost exclusively. Tests are performed almost only in the target language. Gestures, theatralisation or illustrations help to convey meanings. New words are understood by their context, consulting for their exact meaning the monolingual dictionary of the target language.

-The use of dictionaries of the target language is strongly encouraged: monolingual, synonyms and antonyms, pictorial, or other kinds of dictionaries, nearly always with definitions and examples given in the target language. Bilingual dictionaries or translations are avoided.

-Detailed morphological and syntactical analysis. Frequent consultation of the grammar book is emphasised. Tables of grammatical substitutions (for pattern practice) are commonly used.

-Frequent reading of classic texts and of other texts, for form (structure and style) as well as for content (information contained in them or cultural characteristics of the people who speak the target language).

-Frequent writing of different kinds of texts in the target language. Errors are corrected, and explained in the target language. The activity of writing is of the outmost importance, more than with any other method.

-Full sentences are given in the formal language, avoiding contractions or colloquial language. New sentences are usually shown in their written form and immediately pronounced, repeated if necessary, not allowing the student to pronounce the letters of the target language as if they were representing the sounds of his own language. Pronunciation must be enough for easy commmunication, but not necessarily perfect.

-Songs, films, computers or other resources are good help, if available. Fluency is encouraged without abandoning accuracy: errors are immediately corrected. There are frequent dialogues on subjects of interest to teacher and to student.

-Situational dialogues using role play or phrase books for travellers without translation, aiming to linguistic functions without forgetting linguistic structures. Language is seen as formed by rules (intuitively in child, explained to adult). Explained rules must be followed by the habit of using the language.

-The Grammar Writing Method is probably THE MOST DEMANDING of any method that exists or has existed in the history of language teaching, highly demanding from student as well as from teacher. It is intended for advanced students, or at least intermediate students, but not normally suitable for beginners, except for a polyglot wishing to add another language to his rich repertoire.

-With absolute beginners, a few translations and some short explanations in the instrumental language may be initially used, but given later only in the target language. A polyglot can cope with the exigencies of the method. He may be a beginner in the language being taught, but he is already master of a rich collection of linguistic knowledge. However, with a beginner that also happen to be a monoglot, the method is excessively painful for teacher and for student, and with average students it is in most cases almost useless.

-Experience shows that highly motivated and talented students profit from this method much more than from any other, but the usual half-hearted average students will probably quit soon, due to the pressure of rigurous Spartan sacrifice that they need to exert. It is not a method for every one, but only for a minority of high intelligence and intense dedication to study.

Didactic Goals of the Direct Grammar Writing Method

These are the main didactic goals that the Direct Grammar Writing Method pursues to achieve in pupils:

To communicate efficiently at a high cultural level of British English:
   By being able to read fluently, and to write and speak elegantly.

To command a formal or a professional usage of the language:
   By knowing the forms used in elevated style by the best authors.

To be aware of the similarities and disparities of languages:
   By comparing structures and meanings and by knowing language universals.

To understand perfectly any book written in English, or translated into it:
   By good knowledge of old English forms, found in classic literary works.

To increase intellectual skills, and the faculty of language learning:
   By comprehension of grammatical rules and memorising of vocabulary.
   By being able to compose descriptive or dissertative essays and narrative fiction.

These are the main ways used for the achievement of those didactic goals:

Written exercises:

   To analyse a text morphologically and syntactically.

   To conjugate verbs in voice, person, number, mood, tense and enunciation.

   To change sentences between active, passive and reflexive voices.
   " " " " first, second and third persons, singular and plural numbers.
   " " " " indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative and other moods.
   " " " " past, present and future, single, compound and continuous tenses.
   " " " " affirmative, interrogative, negative and interro-negative enunciations.

   To change nouns and pronouns between nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases.

   To modify root words into flexed ones, by means of declinations (Accidence).

   To combine sentences according to rules given by the teacher.

   To define grammatical categories, list their sub-categories, and offer examples:
   adjective, noun, pronoun, article, verb, adverb, numeral, preposition, conjunction and interjection.

   To find synonyms, antonyms, homonyms and paronyms of words (Semantics).

   To write correct forms of difficult, uncommon, archaic or specialised words (Orthography).

   To translate English and another language both ways, including rare terms and ready made sentences.

Spoken exercises:

   To copy a text dictated orally, and to dictate for others to copy.

   To answer questions and make comments after reading a text.

   To pronounce a public speech and to converse about a certain topic.

   To defend an idea using sound reasoning and powerful arguments (Rhetoric).

Comments on the Direct Grammar Writing Method

Let us now see the comments on the Direct Grammar Writing Method, starting with rather theoretical considerations about the process of learning that is often observed with different kinds of students.

It has been emphasised that the student is responsible for his own learning. As a matter of fact, different individuals have different ways of learning.

Children learn vocabulary and grammar in an inductive way. They listen to many samples of the language, in different situations accompanied by gesture and intonation, and they induce intuitively the rules for forming words and sentences. Children possess an embedded instinct for learning one or more languages, they are programmed by Nature for that purpose. In a bilingual environment, they learn the two languages perfectly and they do not confuse one language with the other. Initially they tend to follow the logical system, later they perceive that the norm is sometimes different from the system, and incorporate exceptions without difficulty. Children are ideal learners.

Some adults can also learn in an inductive way, especially polyglots, or some monoglot women. But other adults, in particular most monoglot men, are almost totally useless for learning in that way. Most monoglot adults need to learn vocabulary and grammar in a deductive way. They listen or read explanations about rules and usage, and they deduce rationally how they must form words and sentences. If they do not receive explanations about rules and usage, they invariably will repeat very similar or even identical errors many times. This is because monoglot adults already have a language, and the only language that they know is, for most of them, a serious obstacle against the learning of a second language. This is true for monoglot adults only, not for biglot ones. Biglot adults can learn other languages and become polyglots with relative ease. To command already two languages is an ENORMOUS ADVANTAGE, greatly helping in the effort of acquiring the third, the fourth, the fifth, or more languages. By contrast, most monoglot adults are linguistic donkeys.

The four devices by which children learn their first language could be resumed so:

-Immediate association: "Please, hand me that glub that is on the table". The imaginary word "glub" will be immediately associated to the object located on the table, which is being pointed to by the person requesting it.

-Context: "If you do not study, you will not be allowed to go out to glub with the other children". In this case the object is not visible, because it is not a physical object, it is an action. The action represented by the inexisting verb "to glub" can easily be imagined as "to play" or "to enjoy", or as some other ludicrous activity. Precise meaning becomes clear by frequent listening of the word, being used in different contexts.

-Memorisation of word forms (Morphology): "He glubbes every day, he glubbed yesterday, he is glubbing today, he will surely glub tomorrow, and he would glub for the rest of his life if he could !".

Independently of what the strange word "glub" might have meant, what is clear is the way in which the word has been inflected for giving indication of verbal tense and mood:
"glubbes" for a present that happens regularly.
"glubbed" for the past.
"is glubbing" for a present that is happening now.
"will glub" for the future.
"would glub" for the conditional.

Those specific examples are valid for English. Not all languages present verbal tenses exactly comparable to those ones, but the central idea is clear: whether flexive, agglutinant, or root-monosyllabic, any language has systematic mechanisms that can be learnt in that way.

As Ferdinand de Saussure said, any language has a system (like the mechanism above) and most natural languages have a norm (irregular forms) and a parole (individual idiosyncrasies). In artificial languages such as Esperanto or Volapuk the system is almost always identical to the norm, for they lack irregular forms, but natural languages, whether dead or living, often present some differences between the system and the norm. Not uncommonly, children form inflections that would be perfectly logical by the system, but which are not considered acceptable by the norm.

The presence of irregular forms does not matter for the process of learning. There might for example exist a simple past such as "He glab", or a past participle such as "glubben" (thus forming the present perfect as "He has glubben"). The irregular forms will be memorised almost as easily as the regular ones.

-Memorisation of word order (Syntax): "It is a big glub !". This would be a SVO Syntax (subject, verb, object) for the affirmative sentence.
Not a SOV Syntax: "It a big glub is !".
Not a VSO Syntax: "Is it a big glub !".
Not a VOS Syntax: "Is a big glub it !".
Not an OSV Syntax: "A big glub it is !".
And finally not an OVS Syntax either: "A big glub is it !".

Of course, negative or interrogative sentences may have other syntaxes. They will be memorised too, without difficulty. That is a prerogative of the child.

Adults could also learn by these devices, but as it has been said, most monoglot adults absolutely cannot do it in the easy way that a child or a biglot adult can. This means that for most monoglot adults other learning devices must often be used. We could resume them like this: literal translation, free translation, approximate synonyms or definition of term, explanation of grammatical category and rules of usage. The definition or also the explanation can be given in the instrumental language known by the student, or directly in the target language. The synonyms are not necessarily of identical semantical value, as they often present different shades of meaning, but are a valid approximation.

Examples of translation, a colloquial sentence with cultural connotations:

"The fast-driving redneck was caught by a patrol of highway bears"

-Literal translation word for word to Portuguese, with some explaining notes:

"O rapido-dirigindo vermelho-pescozo (tipo de caipira norteamericano) foi (ou era) detido (ou agarrado, capturado) por uma patrulha de autovia ursos (policia rodoviaria, policia de estrada)"

-Free translation, without explaining notes:

"O caipira que dirigia demasiado rapido foi detido por uma patrulha da policia rodoviaria"

Those are examples of different ways to translate, the first one literal and the second one free. The literal translation is at first glance more difficult to understand, but in reality it provides a deeper knowledge of language and culture than the free translation does. Perfectly exact translations are often impossible, because much depends on the ideas of the translator. This is so, because a language cannot be completely separated from the culture from which it comes. A North American redneck has cultural characteristics that are very different from those of a Brazilian caipira, but this important difference is ignored in the free translation.

That is why the old adage "Every translator is a traitor". The Spanish writer Don Miguel de Cervantes (author of "El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha") said once that "leer un libro en traduccion es como mirar un tapiz por el reverso" (reading a book in translation is like looking at a tapestry from behind). In effect, a translation may give an idea of what the original text is about, but it will NEVER convey all the nuances and the cultural connotations intended by the author, no matter how good the translator. People who do not understand this fact are the same donkeys who happily generate a computer-made translation INTO THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE, and stupidly send the result to a native speaker, or even publish the result. They do not know that translation software is only intended for understanding a foreign text, but not intended for providing a good translation as a final work. The skill of an experienced human translator has not been equalled yet by ANY computer programme, in spite of intense efforts made for the last sixty years (tentative computer translations began in the 1950's).

-Approximate synonyms or definition of term: "redneck" = "countryman, cowboy, hillbilly". Tambem "brawler". Um "redneck" e um tipo de caipira norteamericano que tipicamente gosta de beber cerveja em um "honky-tonk bar" (bar com musica Country and Westron), que dirige um "pick-up truck" (pequenho caminhao aberto), que joga "pool" (bilhar), e que entra em, ou provoca ele mesmo, "brawls" (brigas) por diversao.

-Explanation of grammatical category and rules of usage: "redneck", nome substantivo, nome comun singular. Plural: "rednecks". Pode formar verbo: "rednecking" = "comportando-se como um redneck", "comportamento caracteristico de redneck".

Obviously most native speakers know the meaning of "redneck" by the inductive way that is characteristic of children learning their first language, but most foreign adults need to learn meaning and usage mainly by translation, synonym, definition or explanation. A few adults can learn also inductively, particularly those adults who have the habit of reading or who already master other languages, and therefore who can compare the different ways under which various languages "see the world". This is because most monoglot adults are not conscious that other possible ways exist to express ideas.

They tend to "see the world" under the narrow limits of the only language that they know, and they erroneously think that another language be just an exact translation of their own language word for word, with biunivocal equivalence (simple substitution of words, but with identical meaning and structure as are the words and sentences of their own language). When they realise that using another language is not as simple as that, they often lose heart. Then they think that the foreign language be "wrong" or "unnatural", and they psychologically block themselves against it. This is the main reason why many of them are permanent beginners in a foreign language.

One more example of how confusing may be to teach by translations, when not attending to cultural differences. A bakery in Britain is a shop for buying bread and related products. A "padaria" in Brazil is often a snack bar and mini market. To say in Brazil "Ele esteve bebendo uma cerveja na padaria" would be perfectly natural. But the English translation "He was drinking a beer at the bakery", although etymologically correct, would certainly provoke perplexity in a Briton knowing nothing of Brazil, as a British bakery does not serve beer. If we translate as "He was drinking a beer at the snack bar", we have apparently satisfied the need for naturality in the translation, but in reality we may enter into bigger trouble. The Brazilian author writes next "...e comprando graxa preta para suas botas". The translation "...and buying black bitumen for his boots" would heavily distort the view of the world of a typical Briton. Where did he buy the bitumen ? At the snack bar ? How so ?

Many objects or actions of everyday life are simply impossible to translate. They can be explained, but not translated. The list of examples would be endless: it would include food and drink, cooking procedures, eating habits, house appliances, plants and animals that are common in a country but absent in another (giving their taxonomical, Latinised names, would be understood only by a person with some knowledge of Biology), leisure activities, popular festivities, civil or religious ceremonies, professional or commercial trades, family or friendship relations, concepts based on legal or political issues, social hierarchy and conventions, dressing garments, and so ad infinitum...

The proposal of the Direct Grammar Writing Method is to eliminate the problem of translation at one blow: by eliminating translation itself. The student receives all his instruction in the target language only. After explaining to him the meaning and usage of a certain word or a ready-made sentence, and giving a diversity of examples, he will not be tempted to assume any false equivalences between the target language and his own. The explaining process, however, is certainly more difficult than the easy way out "conveniently" provided by a translation. Therefore, the method requires a highly cultured and very fluent teacher, and a dedicated and enthusiastic pupil. It will not work with average teachers or students.

Every explanation given by the teacher must be followed by plenty of examples. This requires a high degree of imagination in the teacher, and a thorough mastery of the target language. By contrast, the teacher does not need to know anything of the language or languages spoken by his pupils. The group may be composed of students coming from different linguistic backgrounds, such as foreign immigrants in the host country, or visitors who are part of a programme of cultural interchange. All the better for that heterogeneity, because the students will be less tempted to converse with one another in a language other than the target language.

The teacher has to be initially a little tolerant with students who ask questions in the language that they know, but if understanding the question, then the teacher must give in the target language THE QUESTION AND ITS ANSWER. Gradually and with some tact, the teacher must encourage his pupils for making the effort of asking in the target language. He must immediately correct any possible errors in the question, and then give the answer. This policy is valid only for the interaction between teacher and students. They must be imperatively discouraged from talking to one another in a language other than the target, but they can be allowed discrete conversations among them in the target language, during class time. Outside of class time, the teacher of course has no control over what language the students may use.

Results in the application of the Direct Grammar Writing Method

The effort of writing in the target language is central to the method. It absorbs the interest of students strongly inclined to read and write in their own language, but it is hopelessly useless with those who only read occasional articles in newspapers, magazines or comics, or with those whose "writing" is reduced to scarce notes or to informal chat in the Internet. The writing work takes time, and cannot be entirely done during class time. The idea is that the student will do it at home, at his own pace, and he will later present the text to the teacher for correction of errors and explanations of usage. The teacher uses part of the class time for producing a version of the text as close as possible to the original written by the student, but free of errors and with idiomatic authenticity. The student then compares the version written by the teacher with his own original text, and incorporates into his linguistic repertoire the corrections and the idiomatic expressions.

All that is easier said than done, with most students. The modern world puts emphasis on sounds and images, much more than on the written language. How many have read "The Lord of the Rings" of J. R. R. Tolkien ? Or "2001" of Arthur C. Clarke ? Or "The Andromeda Strain" of Michael Crichton ? I have read them myself, I know those masterpieces of our literature in detail. By comparison, how many have watched the motion pictures derived from those excellent books ? Although also cinematographical masterpieces, the films can never convey all the information that is found in the books on which they are based. Most people have watched some of those films, relatively few have read the books. That is because watching a film can be done "casually" and in social company, but reading a book usually requires more concentration, more time, and it is a solitary activity. Most people are mentally lazy, they will never willingly put themselves to the effort of writing in a language of which they manage only a short vocabulary, they are unsure of the structure, and they know almost nothing of idioms and culture of the language.

Two sad realities must not be forgotten:

-The first is that most speakers of ANY language do not know how to write in their own language with clear meaning, logical organisation of ideas, and elegance of expression. Depending on their cultural level, their compositions may be free of orthographic or grammatical blunders and of colloquial terms, they may also be relatively free of pleonasms that are common in the spoken language, but definitely they are not pieces of literature.

-The second is that even those speakers who outstand by the fluency of their oral output, may still be very poor performers when it comes to write anything in their language. They command the spoken form with ease, but they are not sure of how they must write a formal document such as a report, a request, a business letter, or a recommendation. They either consult a book of samples for those documents and fill the text of empty conventional formulas, or they just write as if they were speaking, thus making the document excessively informal. They know no middle way. Either empty conventions or informality.

It must be kept in mind that most people are not used to write extensively. They seldom need to write anything longer than a personal letter, and for such letters they typically use informal language. If they need to write a formal document, they tend to solve the problem by going to a lawyer or some other professional. My pupils frequently ask me to write for them documents that they need for some purpose in their personal life. In the past I did it as part of the English lesson, generally on the spot. We then read together what I had written, hoping that they should made an effort to learn how to write in good style, but I knew that I must not be exaggerately optimistic with them. It is better to teach them how to fish than to give the fish.

When I gradually realised how easy is for me to write, and how difficult for them, naturally I thought that the activity of writing could be systematically developed into a method for language teaching. Before that gradual awareness came to me, I tended to dive into complex grammatical explanations, to introduce a diversity of texts for reading, and to provide translations as literal as possible, which are some of the devices by which I learn languages myself (I am a polyglot). I continue believing in the importance of grammar and of reading, but I have definitely substituted the "convenience" of the translation by my effort of giving explanations in the target language, and I force my pupils also to make the effort of writing in the language that they are learning. Results PAY HIGH with some kinds of students, but the method is simply impossible with other students.

Average students, heavily influenced by modern world tendencies of video, television and Internet Relay Chat, are simply lost. Even the most dedicated teacher will not save them. They will continue with their tendencies and will not take to books. Other methods may perhaps put some little knowledge in their empty heads, but the Direct Grammar Writing Method surely will not. They will never do any home work, which is of the outmost importance with this method. They will stagnate in their learning, and they will quit as soon as possible. A teacher wishing to use this method should start by asking his pupils how they distribute their time. For work or for leisure, or for a combination of both, the manner in which a student organises his obligations, activities or hobbies is a pretty good indication of his suitability for the method. It is not a guarantee of success or of failure, but it gives a higher probability of either.

-With students who are always "busy", always in a hurry, slaves of the clock, often arriving out of time, often "forgetting" their home work, or "not having the time for it", then the Direct Grammar Writing Method will not give ANY positive results. Do not even try.

-Likewise impossible are monoglot adults who may enjoy lots of free time, but who lack the habit of reading, who have never travelled abroad, and who do not imperatively need the target language. The best advice that can be given to the teacher is to stay away from such donkeys.

-Some results will appear after a number of sessions with monoglot adults who have the habit of reading (therefore they "find" the time for it), but who have never travelled abroad and who do not imperatively need the target language. These students will stagnate. They will reach a certain progress, then stop. They will not continue improving in their command of the target language. After some time, lessons will become monotonous and frustrating, forcing the teacher to repeat what he has already explained before. To continue using this method with them is a waste of time.

-Then we have the case of the monoglot adult who has already travelled abroad once, or twice, or thrice, but who never reads anything. Independently of how badly he may need to learn the language, he will not do it by this method. He certainly is aware of the importance of understanding and of making himself understood in a foreign country, because he has already gone through the hard experience and he suffered miserably (or he just went as member of one of those organised tours, where the guide leads his charges as a shepherd leads his sheep). However, he will not take to the habit of reading and writing just by force of persuasion. Some other method may be more appropriate for him.

-When we encounter the monoglot adult who already possesses the necessary characteristics of having travelled abroad, reading on a regular basis, and really needing the language, then we begin to stand on a safer ground. With this kind of student something can be done. How much, it will depend on some other factors, of which the most important is his NATURAL LINGUISTIC TALENT.

-Regarding teenagers or children we must not consider their biological ages, but their levels of maturity and responsibility and their natural linguistic talent, precisely because the Direct Grammar Writing Method, probably more than any other method, has a tendency to increase differences of temperament, character and personality. What is apparently a homogeneous group of students will only remain homogeneous for a short time. In few sessions, the intrinsic differences that exist from one student to another, will begin appearing and taking their toll on the teacher. Most typical teenagers are not good for the method, but there are exceptions. The exceptions can well be considered more as young adults than as teenagers, and treated as such. The others are still irresponsible, immature children. The method cannot be applied to them, like neither to real children, except for very few geniuses that humouristically but realistically may be called "miniature adults".

In consequence of the above exposed, we can form a profile of the student for whom the Direct Grammar Writing Method is adequate:

Considering the case of monoglot adults, or of some teenagers and a few children who at least in certain aspects possess almost the maturity of an adult, the student must present the characteristics listed below. Without them, trying to use the Direct Grammar Writing Method will not go anywhere.

-HE MUST POSSESS THE HABIT OF READING IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE. This is the most important condition, without any doubt. If possessing also the habit of writing something, then we have an excellent situation. He may already be inclined to write poems, or short stories, or personal letters, or whatever. The teacher will do well, if knowing the language of the student, in reading those samples of texts authored by his pupil, and encouraging him to continue using his written language, but detecting some points of style that could be perfected for the task of writing in the target language that he is learning.

-The student must have some time and place available for study outside class, such as his home, a public library, or some other sufficiently comfortable, calm, and isolated place. A student absorbed by family obligations, or by professional or other responsibilities, often cannot devote the time that the method requires. Neither can find isolation for study the student who lives in a cramped house, sharing room with noisy people who have no inclination for intellectual endeavours. Finally, even with lots of time and with his own individual room, the student must already possess the habit of study in some other discipline, and as said in the paragraph above, the habits of reading and writing. Without these habits, this teaching method will not work for him.

-The student must really need the language for some concrete and immediate purpose. Not just because "It is cool to speak English" (or another language), or because "It may help my curriculum", or because "I want to make friends in the Internet", or because of similar frivolous, abstract or distant "reasons". Those students will not last for long. The bastards will quit soon, in spite of the best efforts made by the teacher, when they realise that the task of learning a second language is too hard for them, monoglot donkeys. A valid reason is for example that of a professional who will be sent by his company to a foreign country in a few months, and he needs to get some command of the language for his sojourn. Even more valid is the case of the professional who already needs to read papers or letters in the foreign language, or even to write them, or the professional who must attend foreign visitors face to face, or talk to them by telephone. The imperative need of using the language is for most students the greatest boost to help with their learning efforts.

-Ideally, the student should have already travelled abroad. Not necessarily to a country where the target language is spoken, but certainly to a country where the spoken language differs from his own. Not just a different dialect, but but entirely a different language, at least different enough for making the process of communication difficult without some preparation prior to the travel. In this way, the student will be aware of the necessity of knowing something of the language before travelling, and will be more prone to make an effort for learning it. This characteristic of having travelled abroad at least once is not absolutely necessary, but it greatly helps in the learning.

When we have biglot adults (or adult-minded teenagers or children) at hand, then the necessity of the above characteristics becomes comparatively minimal. Habit of reading is still important, and so it is the availability of time and of a calm place for study, but the imperative necessity of the language is not so important, and experience of travel abroad is even less important. The biglot student will make such a good progress in learning his third language, that his monoglot peers will be astonished. He will be admired, possibly envied, and he may even become a helpful assistant for relieving an overworked teacher from some of his duties. Even easier, of course, it is with triglot or polyglot students who already command a repertoire of languages. Filet mignon for the teacher, constructive and highly rewarding interaction for both, teacher and pupil.

Finally we are left with advanced students, or at least intermediate students. The above considerations have been referred only to the beginner, whether a mono, a bi, a tri, or a polyglot person, but still a beginner in the target language that is being taught. With the advanced student, however, or to a lesser degree with the intermediate student, the Direct Grammar Writing Method gains full force. The pupil already understands explanations given in the target language, if not making them excessively technical. If not using, for example, too many grammatical terms without first explaining them by definition and by examples, because most people have only a limited knowledge of Grammar even for their own language. The pupil can also follow instructions in the target language. He can also tackle the effort of reading unabridged, ungraded texts in the language, feeling less frustration than the beginner, or none at all. He can more or less understand the spoken language and speak it. Last, but not least, he is likely to be more willing for the central point of the method: writing in the language.

These are the results to be expected with the Direct Grammar Writing Method, when applying the method to the profile of student outlined above:

Students learn how to write well the target language with the Direct Grammar Writing Method, better than with most other methods. The only other method for which the activity of writing is important, is the Grammar Translation Method. The difference between the two methods is notorious, however, because the former method trains the student for "thinking in the language", automatically forming in his mind the structure of the sentence and filling it with the appropriate words, while the latter method trains the student for using an intermediate stage of translation from the sentence mentally formed in his own language, to the sentence written in the target language. The disparity between the two languages initially confuses the student, and still for a long time remains as an obstacle against spontaneous output. Only after an exhaustive practice of writing will the student begin to extricate himself from the tendency to think first in his language, with the Grammar Translation Method. From a certain point of view, the student who has learnt by the Direct Grammar Writing Method will write even BETTER than most native speakers, if we make allowance for the fact that his written output will be clearly bookish.

Likewise, his verbal output will sound very formal to the ears of average native speakers. It will be understood by most except perhaps those of the lowest cultural level, but some smile of condescendence will be unavoidable. "You speak better than we do !" or some similar comment, will be ventured by some of those native speakers passing the message that the language is not normally used in that way by most of the people who speak it natively. The student has to be prepared for this initial shock with linguistic reality, hoping that the native speakers with whom he is interacting will be kind to realise that they are not talking to another native speaker, but to a foreign speaker, and will therefore make some effort to use formal language and avoid colloquial expressions. The extent to which those native speakers will make that effort will show their solidarity and their desire to communicate, much more than their ability to speak formally in their own language, which most of them can more or less do anyway if they really want to.

Characteristics of different kinds of teachers

This essay shows that the tendencies of language teaching have been those of a pendulum, moving from one side to the opposite one, with some tentatives of finding middle ways. The position of different methods in regard to various elements of language teaching has been more of a conflict than of a consensus: the use of the instrumental language is intense in some methods and forbidden in others, written language is emphasised in some methods and spoken language in others, and other strong disagreements may exist about important issues such as the teaching of grammar, the use of phonetic symbols, the teaching of formal versus colloquial language, attending or not to cultural differences, the teaching of basic or complex vocabulary, the use of translation or not, the awareness of historical, cultural, social or other differences, et cetera.

In fact the perfect method does not exist, because besides the talent, needs, purpose and effort of the student, and besides the material or time resources available, there is also the ability and preference of the teacher for certain ways of teaching. What could ideally be asked of a teacher is mainly this:

-To know deeply the subject that he be endeavouring to teach.

-To be able, somehow, to transmit that information to the student.

Some liking for teaching and some patience with retarded students is needed, because otherwise the teacher would become desperate with students who forget what has been already taught, who cannot pronounce well, who do not do their exercises, or who have serious difficulties in understanding, uttering speech, reading or writing. Due to the fact that the teacher is himself interested in languages and proficient in them, he tends to forget that many students lack linguistic talent or that they may have only a limited interest in learning a foreign language. As a matter of fact, most students are not enthusiastic.

It is also well known that teachers with a deep knowledge of their subject show a remarkable tendency to explain difficult points by long, detailed and often boring monologues. On the other hand, extrovert teachers often tend to enliven their classes by open, spontaneous and humouristic dialogues with their pupils, which may obscure the fact that these teachers do not really know much of the language that they teach. But, independently to some extent of his personal characteristics, a tutor may be seen by his pupils or by himself under very different views. From one extreme to the opposite they are:

-The teacher-discipliner, who forces pupils to learn against their own will. This is the characteristic view predominant in countries where ignorance and illiteracy are rife (Brazil, for instance). The discipliner, particularly in public schools full of large masses of stupid low class children, tends to be seen as a respectable authority who inserts knowledge by inflicting all sorts of exemplary punishments against those who cannot or will not learn. The teacher-discipliner is typical of the hardest public or religious schools, especially in poor areas. He is an active teacher versus a totally passive and unwilling student. The teacher tends to have as his own the same language of the student, and may have only a limited knowledge of the target language.

-The teacher-'educator', not so tyrant as it was the previous phenomenon, but equally conscious of the sad fact that most of his pupils will not learn if left only to their own responsibility, without pressing on them. This kind of 'educator' thinks that he ought to 'motivate' his pupils, and often also takes the mission of 'forming' their ideas or moral behaviour in life, in particular with children or teenagers as students. The teacher-'educator' is typical of most public or religious schools and of some private schools in poor areas. He is an active teacher versus a partly passive and half-hearted student. The 'educator' often has a little more knowledge of the target language than the discipliner mentioned before, but not always a good knowledge, except in teachers who have travelled abroad or who are, rather seldom, native speakers.

-The teacher-instructor, a professional who knows the target language very well, and who also has good ideas of several ways by which he may transmit that information to various kinds of students, but who does not feel as his obligation to 'motivate' them or to 'form' their ideas or moral behaviour. This is the predominant tendency in most private schools, especially those for adult students. It is a balance between an active teacher and at least a partly active student. The teacher is often well travelled, or a native speaker of the target language.

-The teacher-'informant', who is just a native speaker, someone who speaks the target language fluently, but who has absolutely no idea of how he could teach it. Typical students are businessmen, politicians or scientists who wish to learn through private sessions, one to one, with an authentic speaker of a foreign language. The native speaker may not even know the language of the student at all, therefore here the situation is reversed: a totally active student who asks questions, and a passive teacher who simply answers the questions with the correct pronunciation. This is the way in which linguists most often study tribal languages, by hiring one or more members of the tribe, questioning them, and writing down or recording their answers. The native speakers used as teachers in this fashion are known by the French term of 'informants'. By contrast, a partly active teacher shows some grammatical constructions or some vocabulary without need of specific questions being asked by the pupil, but it requires a certain culture of his own language to do this. Most native speakers of low class, in all languages, have little or no knowledge of their own culture. They simply keep their culture by subconscious imitation, not by conscious awareness of its importance.

-The teacher of himself, exclusive of a few self-didactic geniuses who are highly motivated to tackle the effort of learning a foreign language on their own. This is the best way in which a language can be learnt, but it is not for everyone. Besides a superior intelligence and a will of iron, it requires the availability of materials in the foreign language, which is of course more easily accomplished by those who travel and who have the habit of reading, practising in real life what they have learnt in books. Needless to say, P. A. Stonemann as a learner belongs to this latter category of teacher of himself, while as a teacher of others he is in the category that has been named as "teacher-instructor".

Resume of the language teaching methods explained above

The resume given below is intended for being viewed with an HTML interpreter. It could also be viewed as plain text, but in that case horizontal scrolling of the page will probably be necessary, except if using very large screens and very small character fonts. The layout presented here has been calculated for screens of 640 pixels in the horizontal, using fonts of standard size.

The resume tries to reflect the most common tendencies for each teaching method. A teacher may find that a particular method of his liking has been presented here as DEPARTING in some point from the usual praxis that the teacher follows with that method. It is imposible to take into account every idiosyncrasy in a resume of this kind.

For example, the Direct Natural Method is referred as providing to the pupil only basic grammar, learnt mostly by an inductive process (seeing or hearing many varied samples), more than by a deductive process (memorising explained rules), because that is the common tendency observed in most teachers who use the Direct Natural Method WITH BEGINNERS. It is clear that with intermediate or advanced students the importance of grammar gains full force. The target language is then also used for explaining grammatical rules to students who have attained a command of the language good enough for assimilation of the explanations given by the teacher.

The Grammar Translation method is referred as exactly the opposite. It gives detailed grammatical explanations using only an instrumental language that the pupil already knows (either his own language, or a third language used as a lingua franca between the teacher and a student or group of students of different linguistic backgrounds). The target language is studied in written form, but seldom spoken. This is the predominant situation WITH BEGINNERS. But again, a teacher fond of the Grammar Translation Method may choose to speak the target language to intermediate or advanced students, and to make them start using the oral language at some point during the course.

For all those considerations, teachers are requested to see the resume below as only an indication of general tendencies in language teaching (English or any other language). A teacher with personal ideas on a method of teaching, is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to contribute them, for other teachers to know and perhaps to adopt them. This contribution can be done for example by writing in one of the many fora, groups or subscription lists that exist in Internet, or by publishing an Internet document of his own.

Nine of the main methods for language teaching

Nine of the main methods for language teaching, grouping them into the approaches of Cognitivism, Behaviourism, or a combination of the two, then listing the most typical characteristics of each method. This table has been constructed to be efficiently rendered by visual user agents (graphical or text-only), by aural user agents (text-to-sound), or by tactile user agents (text-to-Braille).

Nine of the main methods for language teaching
Approach > Cognitivism Combined approaches Behaviourism
Method >

Typical characte ristics

Grammar Translation Reading Reading Natural Cognitive Code Direct Grammar Writing Structural Situational Functional Notional Communicative Audio Oral Lingual Direct Natural
Proficiency of teacher in the target language Highly cultured, not speaker Highly cultured, poor speaker Highly cultured, average speaker Highly cultured, fluent speaker Highly cultured, fluent speaker. Very Imaginative Average culture, average speaker. Imaginative Average culture, average speaker. Somewhat imaginative Poorly cultured, average speaker Not cultured, fluent speaker
Explanations in instrumental or target language Detailed. Only in instrumental language Cultural. Almost only in instrumental language Cultural. Almost only in target language Linguistic code. Initially in instrumental language, later in target language Detailed. Almost only in target language Situational. In instrumental language Functional. Initially in instrumental language, later in target language Few. In instrumental language Very few. Only in target language
Translation to instrumental or target language In both ways, detailed To instrumental language, for comprehension of text Almost never (student gets it from context) In both ways, comparing the two languages Almost never (student looks in monolingual dictionaries) To instrumental language, using phrasal book To target language, when necessary To target language, comparing the two languages Never (teacher gestures or draws to give meaning)
Emphasis on grammar, and its learning process Detailed analysis. Deductive For direct comprehension of text. Inductive Partial. Deductive and Inductive Partial. Deductive and Inductive Detailed. Deductive and Inductive By pattern practice. Inductive By functions. Inductive Limited, for forms. Inductive None at low level, later gradually increasing. Inductive
Reading in the target language Classic texts, only for form All kinds of texts, mainly for content All kinds of texts, mainly for form All kinds of texts, for content and form All kinds of texts, for content and form Short and simple texts, for content and form Short and simple texts, for content Short and simple texts, for form Initially little. Short and simple texts at advanced level, for content
Writing in the target language Formal. Aiming to high accuracy Formal. Isolated sentences Formal. Short compositions Formal. Short compositions Formal. Accuracy balanced with output Formal or informal. Isolated sentences Informal at low level. Isolated sentences Informal at low level. Isolated sentences Informal at low level. Isolated sentences
Listening in the target language Almost never. Emphasis on written language Almost never. Emphasis on reading Important, although emphasis on reading Fundamental, the focus of the method Sufficient, after text Important, after text Important, before text. Emphasis on spoken language Important, before text. Emphasis on spoken language Important. Emphasis on spoken language
Uttering speech in the target language Almost never. Emphasis on written language Almost never. Emphasis on reading For communication, although emphasis on reading For communication, not perfect pronunciation Sufficient. Emphasis on written language For communication, not perfect pronunciation Important. Emphasis on spoken language Important. Emphasis on spoken language, intense repetition Important. Emphasis on spoken language
Results typically obtained with pupils Good readers and writers, but not talkers Good readers, but not writers or talkers Good readers and listeners, average on other skills Good listeners, average on other skills Good readers and writers, limited talkers Desinhibited, balanced but limited on all skills Desinhibited talkers, average on other skills Desinhibited talkers, limited on other skills Good talkers, but not readers or writers
Comments about the method Traditional method, focused on perfect written language. Spoken language is not taught Method aiming to produce voracious polyglot readers. Writing or speaking is not taught Students become able to combine a certain competence in communication with a cultural awareness of the target language, due to the strong emphasis on reading The goal of the method is native -like bilingual and bicultural competence Mainly written language, partly spoken. It balances accuracy and fluency. Suitable for intermediate or advanced students. Highly demanding from them and from teacher Students learn to read public signs or short texts, write short notes, communicate in short sentences to request, answer, understand what is being said in casual interactions Theatrical and group work by the students is strongly encouraged. They thus become desinhibited talkatives Students receive exaggerated impression of their fluency, due to graded materials used in class. They encounter some problems when facing real and ungraded language Suitable for students forced to speak target language outside class. It works better with children or with polyglot adults, than with monoglot adults


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