Grammar Translation Method

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English Language Teaching

Vol. 4, No. 2; June 2011

A Contrastive Study of Grammar Translation Method and
Communicative Approach in Teaching English Grammar
Shih-Chuan Chang
Department of Foreign Languages, Cheng Shiu University
Chengcing Rd. Niaosong Township, Kaohsiung County, 833, Taiwan Tel: 886-07-731-0606-6212
Received: October 21, 2010

Accepted: January 11, 2011

E-mail: llc724@csu.edu.tw
doi:10.5539/elt.v4n2p13

Abstract
The Grammar Translation Method and the Communicative Approach have both played important roles in grammar teaching. Which is better, the Grammar Translation Method or the Communicative Approach? This paper aims to compare the controllability and feasibility of these two approaches and find out which one is more suitable for grammar teaching in Taiwan. Two classes were selected and taught by the Grammar Translation Method and the Communicative Approach respectively. The college admission test showed that they share a similar level of the overall English proficiency before the intervention. The pre-test demonstrated that there wasn’t any distinction between the two classes in their grammatical competence. The post-test embodied that there was significant difference in their grammatical competence between the two classes. The scores of the students in the Experimental Class were higher than that in the Control Class. The result showed that grammar teaching in the framework of the Grammar Translation Method is better than the Communicative Approach. Nevertheless, the Communicative Approach emphasizes fluency and the Grammar Translation Method is concerned with accuracy. Fluency and accuracy are the target for English learning. So the best way to improve the situation is to combine both methods in teaching English Grammar.

Keywords: Grammar translation method, Communicative approach, Grammar teaching 1. Introduction
1.1 The current situation of grammar teaching for English majors in colleges Curricula for English Majors require that grammar teaching should be arranged as part of the program. As one of the required courses, grammar has been taught to English majors in universities and colleges for years. It is known that “grammar is a set of rules that define how words (or parts of words) are combined or changed to form acceptable units of meaning within a language” (Penny, 2000). Guaranteeing the accuracy of the sentences mainly depends on the learner’s mastery of grammar. Grammar, which is an indispensable part of a language, is so important that the teachers and students have always attached great importance to grammar teaching and learning. For the above-mentioned reasons, how to make grammar teaching and learning effective and efficient is an important task for both English teachers and researchers.

Although college English teaching and learning research in Taiwan has undergone great changes during the past decades. The current grammar teaching in colleges is still characterized by the adoption of the traditional teaching method, which is known as the Grammar Translation Method. With this model, language structures are presented by the teacher, then practiced in the form of spoken or written exercises, and then used by the learners in less controlled speaking or writing activities. Although the traditional grammar teaching method helps improve the students’ mastery of the grammatical rules, the students cannot use these rules flexibly and appropriately in communication. That is to say, the traditional grammar teaching method has its disadvantages which prevent the students from developing their communicative competence. Firstly, the traditional grammar teaching method is teacher-centered. As a result, the majority of the classroom time is spent on the teachers’ elaborate explanation of English grammar rules, while all the students are either listening or taking notes. Thus little attention is paid to the development of English communicative competence. The...
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