As the names of some of its leading exponents suggest (Johann Seidenstucker, Karl Plotz, H. S. Ollendorf, and Johann Meidinger), Grammar translation was the offspring of German scholarship, the object of which according to one of its less charitable critics, was "to know everything about something rather than the thing itself" (W. H. D. llouse, quoted In Kelly 1969: 53).
Grammar Translation was in fact first known in the United States as the Prussian Method. (A book by B. Sears, an American classics teacher, published in 1845 was entitled The Ciceronian or the Prussian Method of Teaching the Elements of the Latin Language [Kelly 1969].)
The Grammar-Translation Method is not new. It has had different names, but it has been used by language teachers for many years. At one time it was called Classical Method since it was first used in the teaching of the classical languages, Latin and Greek. Earlier in 20th century, this method was used for the purpose of helping students read and appreciate foreign language literature. It was also hoped that, through the study of the grammar of the target language, students would become more familiar with the grammar of their native language and that this familiarity would help them speak and write their native language better.
Finally, it was thought that foreign language learning would help students grow intellectually; it was recognized that students would probably never use the target language, but the mental exercise of learning it would be beneficial anyway.
Grammar Translation dominated European and foreign language teaching from the 1840s to the 1940s, and in modified form it continues to be widely used in some parts of the world today. At its best, as Howatt (1984) points out, it was not necessarily the horror that its critics depicted it as. Its worst excesses were introduced by those who wanted to demonstrate that the study of French or German was no less rigorous than the study of classical languages. This resulted in the type of Grammar-Translation courses remembered with distaste by thousands of school learners, for whom foreign language learning meant a tedious experience of memorizing endless lists of unusable grammar rules and vocabulary and attempting to produce perfect translations of stilted or literary prose. Although the Grammar-Translation Method often creates frustration for students, it makes few demands on teachers. It is still used in situations where understanding literary texts is the primary focus of foreign language study and there is little need for a speaking knowledge of the language. Contemporary texts for the teaching of foreign languages at college level often reflect Grammar-Translation principles. These texts are frequently the products of people trained in literature rather than in language teaching or applied linguistics. Consequently, though it may be true to say that the Grammar-Translation Method is still widely practiced, it has no advocates. It is a method for which there is no theory. There is no literature that offers a rationale or justification for it or that attempts to relate it to issues in linguistics, psychology, or educational theory [2, p. 3]. In the mid and late of 19th century opposition to the Grammar-Translation Method gradually developed in several European countries. This reform movement laid the foundations for the development of new ways of teaching languages and raised controversies that have continued to the present day. Initial Principles of
This has been just a brief introduction to the Grammar-Translation Method, but it is probably true that this method is not new to many of you. You may have studied a language in this way, or you may be teaching with this method right now. Whether this is true or not, let's have some observations about the Grammar-Translation Method, identifying principle characteristics of that...