Monday, March 16, 2009


“Comparison between The Grammar Translation Method and The Direct Method”

For the teaching of foreign languages the Translation Method is the time honoured method which has been in vogue from time immemorial. While reviewing the relevant professional literature in the area of TEFL, the GTM always comes first. It aims at teaching target language by giving word-for-word, phrase-for-phrase or sentence-for-sentence equivalents in the mother tongue for words, phrases or sentences and vice versa. It is also recognized as the classical method because of its association with the teaching of classical languages like Latin and Greek.

The GTM enjoys the following merits and demerits.

As claimed by the advocates of this method, it has the following advantages:
1. The translation interprets the foreign phraseology in the best possible manner.
2. In the process of interpretation, the foreign phraseology is well understood. It is the easiest way of explaining the words and phrases of the foreign language. Any other method of explaining vocabulary is time-consuming. Translation saves a good deal of time, which would otherwise be wasted if meanings are explained by giving definitions and explanations in the foreign language itself.
3. Translation from the foreign language into the mother tongue enables the pupils to develop their vocabulary very rapidly. This is perhaps the easiest way of expanding vocabulary.
4. The structure of a foreign language is best learnt when compared and contrasted with that of the mother tongue.
5. The pupils are not given long explanations with the help of gestures, mimes or demonstrations.
6. It is an appropriate way of giving the meanings of words which stand for abstract ideas or qualities such as honesty, ugliness, secret, true, false etc.
7. This method is easy for the teacher. He has not to put in much labour. This is one factor which explains the popularity of the method. This method suits average and even below average teachers.
8. The teacher may ask the students to tell in the mother tongue what they have learnt. This is especially true of the early stage. Thus translation method helps a lot in testing comprehension.
9. In this method, the teacher translates every word, phrase and sentence that he comes across in the book. He also compares the structures of the foreign language with those of the mother tongue. This method is, therefore, also known as the grammar translation method because the grammar of the new language is taught with the help of the grammar of the mother tongue.
The disadvantages/demerits of grammar translation method are as under:
1. It is dubbed as an ancient method, fit for the teaching of classical and dead languages only. It hinders the establishment of a direct bond between experience and expression and does not help the child to think in English.
2. Word for word translation makes the whole process of learning English unnatural. Words cannot be put together with the aid of rules like digits in arithmetic. For example, there are many words and phrases like ‘key’ in music, ‘ice’ and ‘field’, ‘on the job’, ‘along the way’ for which exact equivalents in Urdu are not available.
3. Translation hinders the process of fluency of expression. It prevents or retards the pupil from self-expression in English.
4. It teaches English by rules and not by use. Language learning is an art to be learnt by practice. It is a power that grows by exercise, not by merely knowing meanings or rules.
5. It encourages literal translation. The close association between the foreign language and the mother tongue that Translation Method maintains is responsible for many mistakes in the students’ use of English. For example, a student may write, “The question does not take birth” instead of “The question does not arise”.
6. It is an unnatural method. The natural order of learning is language is listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is way how a child learns his mother tongue. But in Translation Method the teaching of language starts with the teaching of reading. So it is concerned with literacy and has nothing to do with oracy.
7. Speech is neglected. Translation Method lays emphasis on reading alone with the result that speech is neglected. The pupils are not provided any practice in oral work. This explains why many of our students even at the college level are tongue tied so far as speaking of English is concerned. It is often observed that in a class which is taught through translation method the pupils listen more to the mother tongue than to the foreign languages. Since language learning is a process of habit formation, such pupils fail to form the habit of speaking the foreign language fluently. Thus they have to pay a very heavy price for following this method.
8. It is teacher oriented method and not student oriented method. The learner is a passive recipient of knowledge. He does not take active part in the learning process.
9. It is uninteresting, dull and mechanical. It is bookish. No aids are used to make lessons interesting. It reduces the learning of a living language to that of a dead language.

A strong reaction against the heavy emphasis placed on written language and the failure to appreciate the role of spoken language laid the foundation of the Direct Method “which concern itself primarily with the spoken language and pays little or no attention to grammatical rules” (Robinett). The approach insists that only the target language should be used in the classroom and the native tongue should be completely prohibited. In fact, the very name of this approach i.e. the Direct Method signifies that meanings are to be linked directly with the words of the target language without going through the process of translating into students’ native tongue. (Larsen - Freemen).

The advantages of the Direct Method are as under:
1. It is a natural method. The Direct Method teaches language in the same way in which the child learns his mother tongue. The language is taught through demonstration and conversations in context.
2. As Direct Method lays stress on speech, pupils acquire fluency of speech. They think directly in English without the intervention of the mother tongue. They are quick at understanding spoken English. They also have good pronunciation. Pupils who are taught through this method converse in English with great facility.
3. Since language is taught through demonstration, Direct Method makes use of audio-visual aids. The use of these aids facilitates learning and makes lessons interesting.
4. It facilitates reading and writing. Since pupils can speak fluently, they also write fairly quickly and correctly. They also acquire a love for reading the language. According to Champion, the Direct Method makes the reading of English literature easy.
5. It helps the critical study of English literature. Since the Direct Method helps the pupils to acquire a practical command of the language, it helps in the critical study of English literature.
6. Through excessive speaking, speech habits are formed. As a result, the learner develops fluency in speech. He can speak the language like the native people. Fluency in speech also improves the learner’s writing skill. He gets rid of translation habit and starts thinking directly in English.
7. Through continuous speaking, the learner’s pronunciation is improved. His intonation gets better. He can speak in a way that he can be understood by a native speaker.
8. It is an interesting method. The teacher and the students take an active part in the teaching process. The use of audio-visual aids such as radio, tape-recorder, TV, charts, pictures, films make teaching and learning very interesting.

Some of the disadvantages of the Direct Method can be enumerated as under:
1. The Direct Method is not a complete method as it lays more emphasis on speech training, and other aspects of language learning like reading and writing do not receive due attention. It has been seen that the pupils who are otherwise good at speaking commit many spelling mistakes in their writing.
2. Someone has rightly said that the Direct Method suits only smart teachers and smart pupils. The pity of the matter is that most of the English teachers have themselves got a very defective pronunciation of English. Their own knowledge of the language is not so rich that they can handle classes through this method.
3. The Direct Method suits only those students who are linguistically minded, as its basic principle is that the aural-oral appeal is stronger than the visual in learning a foreign language. But since it is not true in case of all pupils, the Direct Method does not succeed with them.
4. Difficult for explanation. Of the four ways of explaining meanings of words, namely material association, translation, definition and context, the Direct Method ignores translation completely, which at times can be really easy and time saving for explanation.
5. There are certain other conditions which must be fulfilled for success of the Direct Method. Since Direct Method demands individual attention, the size of the class should not be large. There should be proper audio-visual equipment available to the teacher. But since such facilities are not always available, the Direct Method is not successful in our country.
6. In this method, the use of mother tongue is not allowed. The teacher has to adopt some lengthy ways to explain the meaning. He has to use mime (body movements), visuals, or explanations to make the idea clear. In this way, a lot of time is wasted.
7. In language teaching, all the four skills should be taught according to their importance. But in this method, listening and speaking skills are given more importance; reading and writing are usually ignored.
8. No doubt, this method is very useful at the early stage of learning. But at the higher stages, it becomes very dull and boring.
9. . In this method, the use of mother tongue is not allowed. Explanation of abstract words such as honesty, virtue put a teacher into trouble.
10. This method is very expensive. To use this method effectively, many audio-visuals aids such as charts, pictures, models, tape-recorders, TV are required. Such things are not available in ordinary schools.
v Most of the faults are on the behalf of socio-economic system in which we are living. So they are not the faults of the Direct Method.

The points of difference between the Grammar-Translation Method and the Direct Method are as under:
1. In Grammar-Translation Method, the teacher translates each and every word, phrase and sentence of English into Urdu; the Direct Method teaches English without intervention of the mother tongue of the students.
2. The Grammar-Translation Method depends on translation, while the Direct Method establishes a direct link between word and idea, word and expression.
3. In the Grammar-Translation Method, word is the unit of speech, but in the Direct Method sentence is the unit of speech.
4. In the Grammar-Translation Method, audio-visual aids are not used to explain the meanings. But the Direct Method makes extensive use of audio-visual aids for the illustration of meanings.
5. The Grammar-Translation Method lays stress on the writing skill, but the Direct Method puts emphasis on the listening skill and the speaking skill.
6. The Grammar-Translation Method is useful at every level, low or high. But the Direct Method is successful in early classes only.
7. In the Grammar-Translation Method, the role of students is passive; the teacher monopolizes the entire show. But in the Direct Method the role of students is quite active; the teacher enables the students to express themselves in English.
8. The students taught by GTM lose touch with the real life situations. But in the Direct Methods, life-like situations are created in the classrooms. Students are encouraged to express themselves in English.
9. The Direct Method teaches a language by use and not by rule. So it opposes the teaching of formal grammar. The Grammatical Method teaches a language by rule rather than by use.

The pith and marrow of above said is that both the methods are diametrically opposite to each other. Both the methods are partially true. Weaknesses of The Grammar Translation Method are the strengths of The Direct Method and vice versa. Language learning is based on four skills, i.e. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Both the methods fail to create balance in the natural order of priority as the Grammar Translation Method lays stress on the last two skills where as the Direct Method does the same with first two skills. So they are poles apart from each other. But still it can be said that The Direct Method is more scientific and systematic than The Grammar Translation Method.


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  2. Hi, Saima, Could you give me your Email id ???

  3. Hi Saima mam, Your GTM vs DM notes was useful to me ... thanks
    Keep up good Work ...