The Evolution of Second- and Foreign- Language Teaching

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The Evolution of Second- and Foreign- Language Teaching
(The 19th and 20th Century and The New Era of Second Language Teaching)

In his treatment of the historical developments in language pedagogy, Stern (1992) isolates three ways in which language pedagogy has aimed to renew and improve itself:1. Innovation through change in teaching methods; 2. Innovation through language-related sciences and research; 3. Technological innovation.

During the nineteenth century, the Grammar-Translation Method with its emphasis on the transmission of structural rules and analysis of form served as the principal method of teaching modern and classical languages in schools. The goal of studying a foreign language was to learn the language so as to be able to read its literature. Grammar was taught deductively with the student's native language being the medium of instruction. Little emphasis on speaking or listening to the language was encouraged. Instead, the "book-oriented method" reflected an intellectual activity of mental discipline involving reading and memorization of rules and facts (Stern, 1983). In the final decades of the nineteenth century, grammar translation was attacked as a cold and lifeless approach to language teaching, and it was blamed for the failure of foreign language teaching.

In the middle of the 20 th century, the first Russian satellite launched. It resulted in an increased interest in and funding for foreign-language study in the United States. Language-teaching specialists in the United States began developing a method that would be suitable for U.S. colleges and classrooms. They drew on the Army Method, which derived from the intensity of contact with the target language rather than from any well-developed methodological basis, structural linguistic theory and behavioural psychology to develop what was termed "the Audio-lingual Method". Towards the end of the sixties and early in the seventies, the general abstract, structural view of language was replaced instead by a semantic and social emphasis in language. The growth of psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and an interest in semantics had important implications for the teaching of languages in that they highlighted the importance of real-world language use. Learning received receptive responses in the seventies and focused attention away from the pattern and drill approach and towards communication. From these changes grew a new approach to language teaching in the seventies termed the Communicative Approach or Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). Finnocchario and Brumfit, (1983) have compared the Audio-Lingual Method and Communicative Language Teaching by contrasting their characteristics as follows:

Audio-Lingual Method Communicative Language Teaching - Lang. learning involves structures Lang. learning involves communicating - Emphasis on structure and form Emphasis on meaning - Aim is linguistic competence Aim is communicative competence - Errors must be prevented at all costs Errors are part of language learning - Teachers must specify what language Teachers cannot know what language the the student will use the student will use - Students must interact with the language Students must interact with people - Accuracy is a primary goal Fluency is a primary goal - Language is habit Language is creation - Teachers control the learners Teachers assist the learner

In the late nineties, in terms of learning in general, Henchey et al. (1996) have outlined a vision, which is articulated in stark contrast...
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