The Silent Way

Topics: Language education, Second language, Language acquisition Pages: 19 (6360 words) Published: October 1, 2009
I.The Silent Way

On the years of 1960s’ the Audiolingual Method was under a strong challenge in the form of the "Cognitive Code" and an educational trend known as "Discovery Learning." These concepts most directly challenged the idea that language learning was all about mimicry and good "habit-formation." An emphasis on human cognition in language learning addressed issues such as learners being more responsible for their own learning - formulating independent hypotheses about the "rules" of the target language and testing those hypotheses by applying them and realizing errors. When students create their own sets of meaningful language rules and concepts and then test them out, they are clearly learning through a discovery/exploratory method that is very different from rote-learning. This appears to have much more in common with the way people learn their native language from a very early age, and can account for the way children come out with new language forms and combinations that they have never heard before. The underlying principles here are that learners become increasingly autonomous in, active with and responsible for the learning process in which they are engaged.

Caleb Gattegno founded "The Silent Way" as a method for language learning in the early 70s, sharing many of the same essential principles as the cognitive code and making good use of the theories underlying Discovery Learning. Some of his basic theories were that "teaching should be subordinated to learning" and "the teacher works with the student; the student works on the language". The most prominent characteristic of the method was that the teacher typically stayed "silent" most of the time, as part of his/her role as facilitator and stimulator, and thus the method's popular name. Language learning is usually seen as a problem solving activity to be engaged in by the students both independently and as a group, and the teacher needs to stay "out of the way" in the process as much as possible.

The Silent way is one of the most useful method used to teach a foreign or a second language, especially when dealing with language production and language perception. This makes accessible to students of English a lot of listen-ing feedback as an experience in the use of their new language.

Gattegno discovers some important elements about the awareness of devoting time for learning. He discovers certain relationship within the importance of teaching ordinary school subjects such as reading mathematics and language teaching. The way these traditional subjects were taught transformed teaching methods paying attention to listening skills. The development of the Silent Way method provides some acceptable "tools" for the students to practice listening comprehension. The Silent Way method also contains its main principles, as well as techniques that can be used when applying this teaching method in our classroom. Silent Way is an approach to teaching foreign languages based on a theory of learning and teaching rather than on a theory of language. It derives its name from the fact that the teacher conducting a Silent Way class is silent for most of the time. This silence is meant to give the students the opportunity to fully exploit precious classroom time. The teacher’s presence in the classroom is limited to providing a model of the language that the students are going to work on. The basic assumption is that the students will bring their potential and their previous experience of learning their mother tongue to the foreign language classroom.


The Silent Way shares many of the same essential principles as the cognitive code approach and makes good use of the theories underlying discovery learning. Some of these basic theories are that teaching should be subordinated to learning and the teacher works with the student, the student works on the language. The most prominent characteristic of the method is that the...

Bibliography:  Larsen-Freeman, Helen. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. McMillan Publishers. New York. 1986
 Stevick, Earl W. Teaching Languages: A Way and Ways. Rowly, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers. 1980
 Torres, Jose Luis. Unpublished paper. University of Panamá. La Chorrera. 2004.
 News/Magazine/Archive/silentway.htm
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