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Posts Tagged ‘language learning methods’

Language Learning - Silent Way (Gattegno)

Monday, August 24th, 2009

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.

Second Language Learning Methods - Communicative Approach

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The communicative approach to learning a new language makes the teacher the facilitator. The interaction between student and teacher is paramount as well as collaborative learning.

This type of learning uses techniques that help to convey the ideas, thoughts, feelings and information to reach others.

Using content based approach (CBI), it takes the focus off of the language and its structure, but rather on the acquisition of skills or a specific knowledge. An example of this would be teaching someone to repair a computer using French as the language of choice. The student will learn to communicate in French as well as the learn how to repair the computer.

This approach has both the teacher and the student engaging in the process of selecting and organizing the content of the curriculum.

The most critical aspect of this approach is the negotiation for meaning. The Task-based approach is carrying out certain task using the target language. An example would be to have students shop for a specific item. The teacher would first instruct them in the target language how to do this and then have them essentially do it.

Notions and Functions

The idea of communicative learning is broken up in notions and functions called Notional Functional Syllabus. A notion is a specific framework of communication and function is a particular purpose for a speaker in a precise context.

As an example, the notion of shopping would require a variety of language functions that relate to asking the price or an item, being able to bargain for the product and identifying the features of the product.

Students use the target language in different context and the main focus is to help the student find meaning rather than the development of grammatically structures or the acquisition of proper pronunciation.

To be competent and proficient as a communicative speaker of a foreign language, it requires the learner to apply the knowledge of formal and sociolinguistic features of the language.

By linking the classroom learning to outside of the classroom using student’s personal experiences helps the student to take a broader approach to learning. This is why the classroom is used as a means of more interaction through working in groups and pairs as opposed to individual participation.


The communicative approach is only deemed successful if the teacher understands the student. The goal is to have students speak the language fluently enough for native speakers to understand what they are saying.

Second Language Learning Methods - Direct Method (Berlitz)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

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:

  1. The Functional level: limits communication in its simplest form both orally and by listening.
  2. Intermediate level: conversing in English and understanding familiar topics of discussion.
  3. Advanced Intermediate level: competent communication and comfort with speaking the English Language in a professional and personal setting.
  4. Advanced level: speak English proficiently
  5. 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.