Choose Your Language

Language Learning - Silent Way (Gattegno)

The Silent Way was created by Caleb Gattegno and is the instructive approach to teaching a foreign language. The primary objective is for students to work independently as learners of a new language.

It allows students to develop their own theoretical models of learning a second language. Students are encouraged to use their mental abilities to decipher the meaning of a new language.  Expression of thought and feelings are created in the classroom among fellow students. The student trades their time for experience.

The student’s native language gives them leverage in learning a new language and they are given room to learn how to speak in the new language. It is the nonverbal aspect of their native language which includes sounds, gestures and writing that helps the student to identifying with a new language.

Gattegno used his model on certain observations and he thought that students did not learn because teachers did not teach. Instead, teachers need to do a study of how students learn and to do that experiment on themselves.

Gattegno used himself as an example and even though he was a teacher, he wanted to know how students learned so he became a learner and that is when he realized that awareness is the only thing that teachers can educate when it comes to humans.

His learning model claimed to be more approachable to teaching a second language because it was based more on awareness than on offering knowledge to the student. For every learner that Gattegno studied, no matter what age they were, he found one common principle and that is students were gifted and intelligent. They brought a strong will to learn, a lifetime of experiences of managing challenges and they were also independent.

Most of the methods of teaching using the Silent Way came from understanding how students learned. Included in this approach was the style of how the teacher corrected the student and how the teacher used silence to validate the student. The teacher wouldn’t give any answers that the student could not find out on their own.

A lot of people think that communication is the only tool to learning a new language. However, Gattegno does not seem to think that communication is the only key ingredient. He observed that communication called for the person communicating to convey their ideas and the student listening must be willing to submit to the message before giving a response.


Learning a second language is expressing thoughts and feelings, ideas, perceptions and opinions and student can do this effectively with their teacher. They will be able to develop criteria for right and wrong by exploration of the two boundaries.

Therefore, it will require making mistakes, which is a part of the learning process. If teachers can study the art of learning and realize that mistakes are good for the learning process, they will appreciate when students do make mistakes.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 24th, 2009 at 6:30 pm and is filed under Foreign Language, Language Learning, Language Teaching, Second Language, Second Language Acquistion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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