The Audio-lingual Method
This method arose as a result for the need of foreign language proficiently in both listening and speaking skills directly following the Second World War. This approach is closely linked with the psychological movement of behaviorism and thus, has as its main focal points, drilling, repetition and habit-formation. Lessons under the ALM framework were often structured as such that grammatical structures were taught through short dialogues and discussions. Moreover, a great deal of mimicry took place under this doctrine, for the belief was that the more (correct) repetition took place, the more proficient one would become in grammar and pronunciation. Of course, critics argue that the over-emphasis on repetition almost poisons one’s ability to achieve communicative competency.
The Communicative Approach
As a revolt against the ALM, educators and linguistics decided to create a method that focused on whole-language, rather than on the fragmented elements petitioned by the former. The Communicative Approach, to which I subscribe, combines reading, listening, speaking and writing into one as a way to teach “real-life” English; thus, the objective of the CA is to teach the student the wholesomeness of English, by way of engaging him or her in reading activities, conversations, listening, writing various forms of documents, etc. These real-life situations that the CA focuses on necessitate communication, which, in turn, forces and otherwise encourages students to be active in their learning rather than passive sponges simply absorbing what the book and the teacher are saying.
This pedagogy embodies the idea that using music in the TESOL classroom is an effective way of teaching English. Much research exists proving that music and language are tied together in the brain by way of processing pitch, rhythm and symmetrical phrasing. Moreover, music can facilitate in familiarizing students with the commonly used expressions of English as well as wider-ranger of vocabulary, exposure to different accents, dialects, etc. I have used this approach, but interwoven with the Communicative Approach. Although I am a proponent of this pedagogy, I do not think that all of my students would succeed in learning English this way, but when used as a supplement, I have found it highly effective.
Grammar Memorization Speech
This approach to TESOL involves teaching students grammatical structures with corresponding activities that help students to memorize and apply the grammar rules. I found much folly in this approach when it is used independently (though there are some benefits to it) as it limits students to pure mechanistic aspect of language. To me, this approach is mathematical in nature, is it teaches structure, rules and requires all of the rules to be committed to memory, much like mathematical equations. Further, students are given very little practice with realistic language and simply talk as if they are robots. A strong point of this approach, though, is that it forces students to think critically about grammar structures before making an utterance—that is, when the student wants to speak his thought, he thinks carefully about how the rules are structured prior to speaking. This method works much better when merged with the Communicative Approach, for the latter serves as a complement by allowing students to use grammar actively and in significant situations.
I had never heard of this approach before, though I have used elements of it. This method utilizes a great deal of entertainment while teaching a language. Like Audio-lingual Method, students use repetition as a practice tool, though maintain their enthusiasm toward lessons. One of the key factors of this approach is bolstering the students’ confidence (intangible rewards) as a way of encouraging students to continue with the continual repetition; teachers also emphasize the importance of gestures as both a confidence booster as well as a teaching tool. Additionally, the structure of the classroom matters in this approach as students’ desks are configured in a circle rather than in the traditional classroom setup; this is the first approach where the set-up of the classroom is key to its success. However, like the other approaches, I believe this method could go well with the Communicative Approach, for the Rassias Method seems to regress to the traditional model whereas the CA is far more progressive; extracting elements of the Rassias Method and incorporating it into the CA I think would make a wonderful combination for a effective instruction.
By Robert J. Platt, M.A.