Spanish Language Instructions

By: Douglas Bower

Realizing that The Grammar Translation Method of second language instruction did not work to impart spoken proficiency in the target language, in the late 1800's, The Direct Method surfaced in language instruction. The need for a system that worked to teach spoken competence is what drove those to create The Direct Method. What it entailed was methods of language acquisition that were more closely related to how first (native) languages were acquired. The main goal was to teach how to think in the second language and move as far away as possible from the harmful grammar-first approach. It did not seek to make constant references to one's first or native language, as does The Grammar Translation Method.

The Direct Method brought a new wave of thought into second language teaching. The shift in philosophy of second language education led its proponents to believe that all instruction should be taught in the target language with no translation into the learner's native tongue. The emphasis was in forming connections between meaning and the second language being learned. One of the major and famous advocates of The Direct Method was Charles Berlitz. His schools still employ this method and are famous worldwide.

The basic idea was to learn to think in the language one wanted to learn. This was to be done without relating the learner's first language to the second language at all. Through the use of picture and pantomime, meaning was to be conveyed. The objective was to make links between meaning and the target language. If you were shown a picture of a cat, the word c-a-t in English would not be used to help you learn that in Spanish, the word is gato. The picture would convey the meaning of the word spoken by the teacher.

A problem with The Direct Method is that it met with opposition in public schools that are governed by strong political forces. Second language learning, for communicative purposes, was never popular in education and especially in mainstream America. Budgets, time, classroom size, and teacher incompetence were all cited reasons for sending The Direct Method into decline in the public eye. It is still employed in private schools.

It is the basis for The Audiolingual Method of Second Language Instruction.

NEXT: The Audiolingual Method

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