Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

1.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LANGUAGE TEACHING

The history of language teaching has been characterized by a search for more effective ways of teaching second and foreign languages. For more than a hundred years, debate and discussion have often centered on issues such as the role of grammar in the language curriculum, the development of accuracy and fluency in teaching, the choice of syllabus framework in course design, the role of vocabulary in language learning, teaching productive skills and receptive skills, learning theories and their application in teaching, memorization and learning, motivating learners, effective learning strategies, techniques for teaching the four skills, and the role of materials and technology. Although much has been done to clarify these and other important questions in language teaching, the teaching profession is continually exploring new options for addressing these and other basic issues and the effectiveness of different instructional strategies and methods in the classroom. The teaching of any subject matter is usually based on an analysis of the nature of the subject itself and the application of teaching and learning principles drawn from the research and theory in educational psychology. The result is generally referred to as a teaching method or approach by which we refer to a set of core teaching and learning principles together with a body of classroom practices that are derived from them. The same is true for language teaching, and the field of teaching methods has been a very active one in language teaching since the 1900s. New approaches and methods proliferated throughout the 20th century. Some achieved wide levels of acceptance and popularity at different times but were then replaced by methods based on newer or more appealing ideas and theories. Examples of this kind include the Direct Method and Audio-lingualism. Some, such as the Communicative Approach were adopted almost universally and achieved the status of acknowledged methodology. At the same time, alternatives to mainstream approaches have always found some level of support within language teaching, although often this has not led to wider acceptance or use. Methods in this category include those from the 1970s such as the Silent Way, Community Learning, Suggestopedia, and Total Physical Response, as well as more recent alternative methods such as Multiple Intelligences and the Lexical Approach. From a historical perspective we are able to see that the concerns that have prompted modern method innovations were similar to those that have always been at the center of discussions on how to teach foreign languages. Changes in language teaching methods throughout history have reflected recognition of changes in the kind of proficiency learners need, such as a move toward oral proficiency rather than reading comprehension as the goal of language study; they have also reflected changes in theories of the nature of language and of language learning. Kelly (1969) and Howatt (1984) have demonstrated that many current issues in language teaching are not particularly new. Todays controversies reflect contemporary responses to questions that have been asked often throughout the history of language teaching. It has been estimated that some 60 percent of todays world population is multilingual. From both a contemporary and a historical perspective, bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception. It is

fair, then, to say that throughout history foreign language learning has always been an important practical concern. Whereas today English is the worlds most widely studied foreign language, 500 years ago it was Latin, for it was the dominant language of education, commerce, religion, and government in the Western world. In the sixteenth century, however, French, Italian, and English gained in importance as a result of political changes in Europe, and Latin gradually became displaced as a language of spoken and written communication. As the status of Latin diminished from that of a living language to that of an occasional subject in the school curriculum, the study of Latin took on a different function. The study of classical Latin became the model for foreign language study from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Once basic knowledge was established, students were introduced to grammar and rhetoric. School learning must have been a deadening experience, as lapses of knowledge were often met with brutal punishments. There were occasional attempts to promote alternative methods to education: Roger Ascham and Montaigne in the 16th century and Comenius and John Locke in the 17th tried to reform the whole system but with little success. The decline of Latin also brought with it a new justification for teaching Latin. Modern languages began to enter the curriculum of European schools in the 18 th century and they were taught using the same procedures that were used for teaching Latin. Textbooks consisted of statements of abstract grammar rules, lists of vocabulary, and sentences for translation. Speaking the foreign language was not the goal and oral practice was limited. The sentences were constructed to illustrate the grammatical system of the language. By the 19th century this approach based on the study of Latin became the standard way of studying foreign languages in schools. Textbooks consisted of lessons organized around grammar points. This method became known as the Grammar Translation method.