The Grammar Translation Method was a traditional method used to teach Greek and Latin. It is also known as the classical method because it was developed centuries ago specifically to teach classical language.
This technique called for students to provide translation of an entire text on a word for word basis. They had to memorize a lot of grammatical rules and grammatical exceptions as well as a long list of vocabulary.
The main focus of using this method is:
• Interpretation of words and phrases
• Learning the structure of the second language by comparing it with the native language
• Taking into account grammatical rules
• Be able to read, write and translate a foreign language
The native language is used to conduct the class where a large vocabulary list was used that covered both languages; the second language as well as the first. Grammar points would be derived from the text and contextually presented in the textbook as it is explained by the teacher.
The Learning Process
Those grammar points were instrumental in giving the student a provisional rule of how to assemble words into appropriate sentences. The grammar drills and translations were incorporated into the learning process through practice and exercises. This helped to increase the knowledge of the student without them having to put too much emphasis on the content.
The student would break up different sentences as they were needed and translate them. By the time the student got through that process, they would have translated the entire text from the second language to the native language. In some cases, they would be asked to do the reverse (translate native language into second language) to make sure that they grasped the process.
There was hardly any emphasis placed on how words were pronounced or any type of verbal or nonverbal communication aspects of the language. Reading written text was essential to the learning process, but only to get the translation correct.
Conversational fluency is not important when it comes to grammar translation. You have to depend on your memory to be able to recall all the rules associated with the grammar of the second language you are trying to learn.
The student who is learning using this technique will be able to read and write in the target language, but the spoken language is not a priority as well as emphasis on listening skills.