The Direct Method of learning a language involves a non-communicative way that uses target/L2 language, which is a step by step and limited process that considers the correct translation to be of the most importance.
The method was developed by Maximilian Berlitz, who migrated from Germany to the United States in 1872. His initial intention was to teach different languages using the traditional grammar approach. However, hiring a French assistant changed his perspective entirely.
The Berlitz Story
Berlitz hired an instructor to teach to his students, but when he hired the assistant, he found out that the Frenchman did not speak any English. However, when Beriltz had to go on sick leave, he left the Frenchman, Nicholas Joly, in charge of his classroom and asked him to do his best teaching language to the students.
Surprisingly, Berlitz came back to the classroom expecting a disaster and found out that his students were actively interacting with Joly and had progressed even further than they would have done learning the material using a nontraditional method.
The teacher communicated with the student through miming and gesturing. Grammar is not the essential goal because students were later able to discover grammatical rules on their own.
It was at this point that Berlitz realized that the innovative technique used by Joly was more successful and stimulating. The process used the target language of native speakers.
There are different levels of learning Berlitz’s direct method, which includes certain initial assessments to see where the student fits in:
- The Functional level: limits communication in its simplest form both orally and by listening.
- Intermediate level: conversing in English and understanding familiar topics of discussion.
- Advanced Intermediate level: competent communication and comfort with speaking the English Language in a professional and personal setting.
- Advanced level: speak English proficiently
- Native Speaker: Speak English naturally or at a professional level
The underlying principle of using the target language will enable the student to use inductive or deductive reasoning for identifying grammatical rules without having to provide an explanation of the rules that are used. The Berlitz method combines both the direct and the audio-lingual approach combining listening and speaking and later reading and writing.
The academic and intellectual world may see this method as being quite unusual and nontraditional. However, the direct method is considered by many to be more adaptive and popular with students who wanted to learn a foreign language without having to be too concerned about grammatical translation.