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RUNNING HEAD: Sound Strategies for the Integration of both Open & Institutionally Supported Technologies

From Grammatical to Communicative Approaches?


How Far are Costa Rican Teachers from these?
By Prof. Jonathan Acua Solano
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Twitter: @jonacuso
Post 187

Though I am unsure whether my reader has gotten in contact with RichardAmatos (2003) book, Making it Happen, it is a great text to have us language teachers
reflect upon what is happening around us in terms of language learning. As a college
instructor interested in what is happening in my home country in term of foreign language
learning and acquisition, I come to ask myself how far are we from communicative
approaches to teach foreign languages in our local context and teaching environment.
The more graduate students start work as language professionals, the more that
I question how our teachers are being trained to deal with our teaching scenario. If
humans are born with a LAD or Language Acquisition Device (Cook, 1993) based on
Noam Chomskys linguistic postulates, which helps us learn language, why is it that our
teacher students continue to work so much with non-communicative approaches? And

Sound Strategies for the Integration of both Open & Institutionally Supported Technologies

though this is something that is re-studied and re-taken in my Teaching Practicum class
with them, grammar-oriented approaches are the one preferred by them.
Even though Grammar-Translation is not exactly present in Costa Rican teaching
contexts, Audiolingualism and Direct Method are still alive in the public high school
system. As explained by Richard-Amato (2003), Audiolingualism was a new scientific
oral method that was based on behaviorism as proposed by Skinner (1957). It still
counts with many adepts in our teaching context because they are adhered to the theory
that language is acquired through habit formation and stimulus/response association
(Richard-Amato, 2003). No wonder how many teachers get to use books like Interchange

Full Contact 1 (Richards, 2013) with lots of furmulaic scripts intending to be repeated to
try to develop correct habits of speaking. If this were used, I bet lots of language teachers
would be quite satisfied with their class performance, but this is not even happening
when instructors start only providing translations and make their students move back in
time when the Grammar-Translation approach was in vogue.
Do you still remember Lado English Series (Lado, 1978)? I must confess that I
survived that Direct Method methodology used in the writing and production of the books.
You probably survived similar language series from the 70s. But as Richard-Amato (2003)
puts it, books based on the direct method often move students so quickly through new
syntactic structures that their internatilization becomes difficult, if not impossible. And
still today, the instructors from the old school continue to use this kind of method. But
once again, teachers may spoil the whole method when they start to translate everything
to their students.
Im not exactly criticizing the Direct Method or Audiolingualism; Im more into
trying to make teachers aware that many people learned English, and other languages,
by using this kind of methodologies. The one and only problem is the pervasive use of a
19th Century method called the Grammar-Translation. It is incredible to think, and hard

Sound Strategies for the Integration of both Open & Institutionally Supported Technologies

to believe, that teachers in Costa Rica in the 21st Century are still transitioning to more
communicative approaches, and after five years of high school language training, they
barely know a few words and expressions in English as if these learners had been taught
within cognitive-code approaches with a big twist into grammar-translation. Will we get
into real communicative approaches some day? Only time will tell

References
Cook, V. (1993). Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. Houndmills,Basingstoke,
GB: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lado, R. (1978). Lado English Series 1. White Plains, NY: Prentice Hall College Div.
Richard-Amato, P. (2003). Making it Happen. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
Richards, J. (2013). Interchange Full Contact 1. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University
Press.
Skinner, B. (1957). Verbal Behavior. New York: Appleton Century Crofts.