What is some information about the direct method of language teahing?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Direct , or Natural, Language Teaching Method (DM) is also known as the "Berlitz" Method. It is mainly a teaching tool for the acquisition of a second or foreign languages. This method was modeled in the 1900s as a rebuttal to the Grammar Translation Method, which had been in since the late XVIII century. In the latter model, students learned a second language using their native language, and translating as they went along. The DM model does the opposite: it teaches the target language in full immersion, as if it were the natural language of the student.

In DM the language has to be "natural" so the verbiage spoken in the classroom is casual, focusing on everyday "useful" and relevant discourse. Speaking and listening skills are essential, as the student will have to inductively get to understand the dialogue in the classroom. Moreover, students must interact in the target language at a rate of 80/20, where the twenty percent is the limit percentage that can be used in the native tongue.

When a teacher uses DM, the following strategies take place:

  1. Teacher introduces an element and says its name 
  2. Student repeats
  3. Teacher corrects and helps with intonation
  4. Student repeats after correction
  5. Teacher asks a question using high frequency words
  6. Student repeats the question and then answers.
  7. Teacher repeats answer back to the student with corrections
  8. Student will continue to repeat

Students will acquire more vocabulary as they go. In the process, the teacher will increase the amount of words, questions and phrases for interactive purposes. It is expected that the students will fully speak the language with more exposure to it, hence, the Direct Method could be considered a good methodology ONLY if we are to assume that EVERY students has the exact same capacity and ability to acquire a second language through full immersion.

This is precisely the problem with DM; it does not take into consideration the myriad of variables that could hinder the learning process, and it is practiced under the assumption that all students learn the same way. For this reason, linguists attempted to decrease this deficiency by the creation of the Audio Lingual Method.


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