Review of Methods of Language Teaching
| AUTHOR: Blair Bateman, Baldomero Lago
TITLE: Methods of Language Teaching
Laleh Moghtadi, Azad University (Iran)
The first two chapters of this book contain an ‘Introduction’ and ‘Questions for
Observation and Thought.’ The other ten chapters cover the following methods:
The Grammar-Translation Method, the Audio-lingual Method, the Cognitive
Approach, Total Physical Response (TPR), the Natural Approach, Communicative
Language Teaching, Teaching Proficiency and Reading through Storytelling (TPRS),
Content-Based Instruction / Content and Language Integrated Learning, Task-Based
Instruction, and the Lexical Approach. All chapters except the first two follow
a standard format; the 'Historical Background' section historically
contextualizes each method by showing how each method emerged and developed and
went into and out of favor with those in the field.
The introductory chapter explains the rationale behind the writing of the book
and provides a justification for including two largely rejected methods by the
profession (i.e. the Grammar Translation Method and the Audio-lingual Method)
while excluding other methods (e.g. Suggestopedia, the Silent Way, and Community
Language Learning/Counseling Learning) based on the practicality of the methods’
application for current classroom settings, and the availability of a skilled
teacher to demonstrate the methods.
The second chapter, ‘Questions for Observation and Thought,’ poses ten questions
for language teachers to consider after reading the description of a particular
method and observing its accompanying video. The specific points discussed are
1. Which of the three views of language (a structural view, a functional view,
and an interactional view) do you think this particular method espouses? Explain
2. On what theory or theories of language learning does this particular method
seem to be based? Why?
3. What is the syllabus of this particular method organized around?
4. What types of materials (such as textbooks, handouts, Internet-based
materials, realia, etc.) does this particular method use?
5. What roles (such as responding to the teacher's questions, drawing
comparisons between L2 and L1, participating in pair and/or group activities,
communicating ideas and feelings in the language, taking responsibility for
their own learning, etc.) does this particular method require of learners? What
would it be like to be a student in a classroom where this method was used?
6. What roles (such as providing comprehensible input in the language, telling
stories, providing opportunities for interaction in the language, providing
authentic oral or written texts, etc.) does this particular method require
teachers to assume? How would these roles compare with those of other methods in
terms of the demands placed on teachers and the expertise required of them?
7. What elements of the standards (such as the American Standards for Foreign
Language Learning or ESL Pre-K-12 Standards, the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines,
the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the Canadian Language
Benchmarks, or similar regional or local standards) does this method address?
Are there any elements that it neglects?
8. What are the overall strengths and weaknesses of this method? What aspects of
language learning and use does it emphasize? Are there aspects that are not
addressed by the method? What learning outcomes might be expected from the method?
9. Does this method give attention to the learning of culture? If so, how is
culture addressed? If not, are there ways in which it might be easily incorporated?
10. How do the tenets of this method fit with your own philosophy of language
teaching and learning?
The next section, entitled 'Theory of Language Learning,' provides the language
theory and the learning theory underlying each method, the goals of each method
(e.g. one of the goals of the Grammar-Translation Method is to develop the
ability to read literature in the target language), the key concepts introduced
in each method (e.g. one key concept of the cognitive approach is the
distinction between meaningful learning and rote learning), the premises upon
which each method is based (e.g. TPR is based on the premise that human beings
are biologically programmed to learn languages; Communicative Language Teaching
is based on the fact that language is a tool for communication and that students
learn language by using it to communicate), the rationale behind each method
(e.g. Content-based instruction is based on the rationale that ''people learn a
second language more successfully when they use the language as a means of
acquiring information, rather than as an end in itself'' (Richards & Rodgers,
The 'Classroom Activities' section provides an explanation of how a typical
lesson could be organized. For example, the main activities in a class based on
the TPRS method present new vocabulary words along with their English
translation, introduce a story, provide repeated exposure to new vocabulary
through asking multiple questions after introducing each new sentence of the
story (e.g. after introducing the sentence ''The girl wants to have a dog,'' the
teacher might ask ''Does the girl want to have a dog? Who wants to have a dog?
What does the girl want to have? Does the boy or the girl want to have dog? Does
the girl want to have a dog or a cat?''), and address grammar by providing
multiple repetitions of grammatical features in stories (e.g. a German teacher
might contrast third person singular and plural verb endings by asking ''What
does the t in kommt do? What does just komm mean without the t? Or what does the
en in kommen do? What does just komm mean without the en?'').
In the last section, 'Notes on the Video', the authors attempt to describe a
class being filmed and give some information to language teachers about the
characteristics of the class, the teacher, the lesson, teaching and learning
activities, etc. For example, the description ''the lesson begins by introducing
vocabulary words and associated actions, and then contextualizing these words in
a simple story. The story is followed by a vocabulary quiz, a group reading of
another story using similar vocabulary, and finally, the writing and telling of
students' own original stories'' deals with a class in the TPR Storytelling
method. Furthermore, the authors try to include a variety of languages (such as
Attic Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and English) and levels (such
as beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels or a first-semester class in
high school) in the videos. For example, the description ''the lesson in the
video shows a first-year class in Attic Greek (a dialect of ancient Greece)
taught by Dr. Bill Tortorelli of Brigham Young University'' deals with a class in
the Grammar-Translation Method.
The main audience of this book is trainee teachers. Therefore, it is intended to
appeal to language teachers interested in language teaching methods.
The distinctive feature of this book is its video demonstration of classroom
activities associated with each method/approach. The videos are well filmed, the
sound quality is clear and the navigation within the videos is easy. The authors
attempt to include a variety of languages, levels, activities, and a varied
picture of teaching styles in the videos. The teachers included in the videos
are all energetic and vibrant, especially those who teach lessons based on
task-based instruction and TPR storytelling methods. Such exposure provides a
skillful model of target language classroom interactions for new and beginner
teachers. However, in my opinion, what makes the video based on task-based
instruction more effective than the other videos is having more student
involvement and participation in the class, more negotiation, and more
teacher-student interaction. The teacher provides opportunities for students to
speak and listen to the language for communicative purposes. Information gap
activities, role plays, and decision making tasks are frequently used.
Since commonly used textbooks on teaching methods (to the best of my knowledge)
merely include written descriptions of each method, providing videos along with
the written descriptions is particularly useful to both audio and visual
learners, which may help learners more easily visualize what does and does not
work well. Moreover, supplementing the written descriptions with the videos may
help students connect theory to practice in order to fully understand each
method and decide which is the most appropriate method/approach for them and
The authors attempt to provide a historical context for each method/approach
through an explanation of when, how, and why each method/approach developed, as
well as its advantages and disadvantages, without labeling any method/approach
as 'good' or 'bad'. Therefore, they achieve their goal of preferring to let
teachers and students think critically and ultimately individually make
decisions about shortcomings and advantages of each method/approach. To achieve
this goal, the authors have included a separate 'Questions for Observation and
Thought' section that language teachers ponder after reading the description of
a particular method and observing the video.
At first, the book seems too light to serve as a textbook in a TESL/TEFL
methodology course. It seems that learners need to go into more details for each
method in a TESL methodology course. But the succinct discussion of the ten
methods/approaches is still useful, not necessarily for comprehensive coverage,
but rather for quick reviews and summaries.
In sum, this clearly written book of language teaching methods would most aptly
be used to supplement a methods textbook for a foreign language teaching methods
Note: This review was done from a CD of the book, and thus page numbers were not
Larsen-Freeman, Diane. 2000. Techniques and principles in language teaching (2nd
edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Richards, Jack. C. & Theodore S. Rodgers. 2001. Approaches and methods in
language teaching (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Laleh Moghtadi is a Ph.D. candidate in English language teaching. She is
currently a lecturer teaching English at Azad University in Iran. Her
research interests include applied linguistics, discourse analysis,
language acquisition, and language teaching.