S. Kathleen Kitao : Doshisha Women's College, Kyoto, Japan
Kenji Kitao : Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan
Language teaching has been around for many centuries, and over the centuries, it has changed. Various influences have affected language teaching. Reasons for learning language have been different in different periods. In some eras, languages were mainly taught for the purpose of reading. In others, it was taught mainly to people who needed to use it orally. These differences influenced how language was taught in various periods. Also, theories about the nature of language and the nature of learning have changed. However, many of the current issues in language teaching have been considered off and on throughout history. Ancient Times
The history of the consideration of foreign language teaching goes back at least to the ancient Greeks. They were interested in what they could learn about the mind and the will through language learning. The Romans were probably the first to study a foreign language formally. They studied Greek, taught by Greek tutors and slaves. Their approach was less philosophical and more practical than that of the Greeks. Europe in Early Modern Times
In Europe before the 16th century, much of the language teaching involved teaching Latin to priests. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, French was a lingua franca for speaking to foreigners. Members of the court spoke French, of course, but it was also a necessary language for travelers, traders, and soldiers. French was fairly widely taught during this period, and a study of the theoretical books and language textbooks from this period indicate that many of the same questions that are being considered today by language teachers were being considered then. These included questions about practice versus learning rules and formal study versus informal use. The status of Latin changed during this period from a living language that learners needed to be able to read, write in, and speak, to a dead language which was studied as an intellectual exercise. The analysis of the grammar and rhetoric of Classical Latin became the model language teaching between the 17th and 19th centuries, a time when thought about language teaching crystalized in Europe. Emphasis was on learning grammar rules and vocabulary by rote, translations, and practice in writing sample sentences. The sentences that were translated or written by the students were examples of grammatical points and usually had little relationship to the real world. This method came to be known as the grammar-translation method. Though some people tried to challenge this type of language education, it was difficult to overcome the attitude that Classical Latin (and to a lesser extent Greek) was the most ideal language and the way it was taught was the model for the way language should be taught. When modern languages were taught as part of the curriculum, beginning in the 18th century, they were generally taught using the same method as Latin. The 19th and Early to Mid-20th Century
The Grammar-Translation Method
The grammar-translation method was the dominant foreign language teaching method in Europe from the 1840s to the 1940s, and a version of it continues to be widely used in some parts of the world, even today. However, even as early as the mid-19th, theorists were beginning to question the principles behind the grammar-translation method. Changes were beginning to take place. There was a greater demand for ability to speak foreign languages, and various reformers began reconsidering the nature of language and of learning. Among these reformers were two Frenchmen, C. Marcel and F. Gouin, and an Englishman, T. Pendergast. Through their separate observations, they concluded that the way that children learned language was relevant to how adults should learn language. Marcel emphasized the importance of understanding meaning in language learning....