Grammar Translation Method

History

The Grammar Translation Method is an old method which was originally used to teach dead languages which explains  why it focuses mainly on the written form at the expense of the oral form. It was designed according to the faculty psychology approach which was very popular during the 18th and 19th century. It contended that ” mental discipline was essential for strengthening the powers of the mind”. The way to do this was through learning classical literature of the Greeks and Romans.

Method

  • Use of mother tongue.
  • Vocabulary items are taught in the form of word lists.
  • Elaborate explanations of grammar.
  • Focus on the morphology and syntax.
  • Reading of difficult texts early in the course.
  • Practice focuses on exercises translating sentences or texts from mother tongue to the target language and vice versa.

It is surprising to see that the Grammar Translation Method was still in use in some classrooms during the late decades of the 20th century. May be, it’s  because it bears some advantages.

Advantages

  • Translation is the easiest and shortest way of explaining meaning of words and phrases.
  • Learners have no difficulties to understand the lesson as it is carried out in the mother tongue.
  • It is a labor-saving method as the teacher carries out everything in the mother tongue.

Criticism

  • What the method is good at is “teaching about the language” , not “teaching the language”.
  • Speaking or any kind of spontaneous creative output was missing from the curriculum.
  • Students lacked an active role in the classroom.
  • Very little attention is paid to communication.
  • Very little attention is paid to content.
  • Translation is sometimes misleading.

Because of all these disadvantages, instructors  tried to find better ways to remedy the pitfalls of the grammar translation method. The Direct Method was the answer.

Reference:

Brown, H. Douglas, 2006. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, Fifth Edition, Pearson ESL.

Richards, Jack C. and Theodore S. Rodgers (1986). Approaches and methods in language teaching: A description and analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Other sources: wikipedia – GTM


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9 Responses

  1. Mohammed

    Thank you! My colleagues started learning the method described in your post

  2. bleusky says:

    thax so much for your efforts.this site helped me lot

  3. VOT says:

    Mohammed,

    Please refer to the Author, Title, publication and year of the work you cite. In this case you should add:

    H. Douglas Brown, Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, 1994a.

    The (a) is because he published more than one work in the same year.

    Grammar translation can not be considered an “old method” because it is still very much in use in many parts of the world today. Originally it was called the classical method which was originally used to teach Latin and Greek. It was late in the 19th century according to Brown (Ibid.) that the classical method became known as Grammar Translation.

    Faculty psychology wasn’t an approach it was a concept in education.

  4. Hi VOT,

    Thank you for posting your comment. Your comments are always welcome.
    Well Grammar translation was popular in the 19th century. It’s an old method. The method as I mentioned above is still in use in some parts of the world because of some of its merits.
    Faculty psychology is in fact a theory based on the notion that the mind is divided into separate powers or faculties and that these faculties were associated with distinct spatial locations in the brain. The theory was influential in education in the 19th century. Learning Greek and Latin was believed to sharpen mental faculties. And the way these dead languages were taught, that is by using the mother tongue and detailed grammar explanations, was copied to teach modern languages.
    Thank you for reminding me to refer to Douglas Brown’s work. Some of the material presented in this blog consists of my readings of his work as well as of that of Richards and Rodgers. Most of the methods presented here are the gist of these readings. I’ve added a reference to these books at the end of the post. Thank you again for posting your comment and helping me sharpen my faculties!

  5. priya says:

    Hello there,

    I need help on this question ” Where does Methodology derive from?”

    Can anyone help with this question please? Its part of my project research.
    thanks in advance

  6. Nejwa says:

    Hi there,
    I was just wondering, do you still know what pages you used for this piece of writing?

    Thank you!

  7. Munawar says:

    Some tell me about the historical background of Grammar Translation Method, please.

  8. Aisha Rehman says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this article. Its really helpful. Its written to the point, which helps in understanding better.
    Once again
    Thank you!

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