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Second-Language Teaching

Second language teaching is a field which provides an excellent meeting ground for many of theoretical and practical aspects of psycholinguistics to come together. It is here that we have a chance to see how ideas of human language and human learning interconnect. Language teaching method may be conveniently characterized on the basis of five principle dimensions:
1. Language mode: speech-reading
2. Meaning: actual object/situation-translation
3. Grammar: induction-explication
4. Psychology: mentalist-behaviorist
5. Linguistics: mentalist- structuralist

Traditional Method
1. Grammar Translation Method
Looking back at the history of FL teaching is very interesting. It allows us to know the different trends and, what is more important, to ask some questions about the best way to teach the FL. Stern (1983: 75) recommends we “look to ourselves and ... explore to what extent our second language teaching has been influenced by our own language learning and language teaching experience”. This overview will help us determine which aspects have affected our learning experience when facing academic settings or less formal situations. Our past and present teaching experience will offer good reasons to discuss and draw renewed conclusions. (Discussion highly recommended, see Stern: 1983: 75).
Howatt (1984) provides a very complete historical perspective. The first aspect to pinpoint is how the FL can be learnt in two different settings: as a result of a natural immersion experience -backed by the need to use the new language for trade and surviving purposes-, or after a formal and systematic academic process. These two axes will show not just different linguistic varieties to refer to the FL, but different goals, materials and activities. And different are the roles played both by teachers and learners. The closer these two perspectives are, the more effective the FL teaching turns out to be.
The theoretical principles which have traditionally inspired the diverse methods come from different linguistic and psychological conceptions. Language and learning are the two foundation stones on which methods have been based.
A long tradition in teaching the FL according to academic and formal trends is present in the Grammar-translation method. The knowledge of grammar constitutes the core, and translation is the most important type of exercise. The study of written texts of classical languages exerts a great influence.
Theoretical background
Language is reduced to the grammatical system. The sentence is the main unit of reference, and its morphological elements must be organized according to a series of prescriptive rules. Logico-semantic criteria are used to describe the linguistic model.
Learning is understood as a result of a great intellectual effort where the memorization of rules and vocabulary is necessary. This mental discipline is taken to a general social conduct.
Methodological features
Content Linguistic notions: Rules and exceptions
Morphology of words
Syntax: Parts of the sentence
Simple and complex sentences
Objectives The study of literary works is the ultimate goal
The reaching of conversation is postponed and underestimated
Extra-linguistic goal: mental gymnastics
Materials The grammar book
The dictionary
Procedures Explanations in the mother tongue by the teacher, who has a central role
Meta-language used for grammatical notions
Practice exercises to apply the notions in a deductive way
Memorization of long vocabulary lists
Reading comprehension and vocabulary exercises of a text
Translation of literary texts
Assessment Exams to evaluate the capacity to understand written texts and to translate sentences

The criticism of the traditional Grammar-translation method has a response in the second half of the 19th century. Several authors react against an excessive theoretical and academic tradition which did not prove to be efficient in everyday language conversation. Howatt (1984: 161-206) provides a broader view of this reaction, whose principal facts are treated here.
Particularly outstanding is Gouin (1880), a French teacher of Latin who decided to study German as a foreign language. He followed the same Grammar-translation methodology he had applied in his lessons. He studied the grammar rules and a great amount of vocabulary, and even translated literary works. But he could not understand a single word when he took part in conversations. The failure made him search for the reason underlying those negative and frustrating results. To make things worse, after going back home, he observed how his three-year-old nephew had acquired his mother tongue and was able to speak without any problem. These sorts of observations took him to the insights that, after listening, children conceptualize meanings and develop a capacity of thinking and speaking in that language. Thus, importance was attached to the exclusive use of the target language as a direct methodology and an easy sequence of concepts to present and practice the content. Gouin created the series method, where sequenced actions as such concepts are taught step by step. Learners will associate each sentence to the specific movement to which it refers.
A similar conclusion on how first language is acquired takes Berlitz to an immersion or direct methodology. The features of the Direct Method can be summarized along the following lines:
• Only the target language is used
• Everyday language is the first goal
• Questions and answers are the main vehicle for a graded oral progression
• Inductive techniques so that learners discover rules
• Correction is not neglected
The so-called Reform movement is another important reaction and lays its emphasis on the teaching of oral language. The International Phonetic Association requires special mention. Created in 1886, its declaration of principles is compiled in six articles:
1. Foreign language study should begin with the spoken language of everyday life.
2. Pupils must be familiarized with the sounds of the FL. Conventional spelling is postponed.
3. The most common sentences and idiomatic phrases must be introduced at a first stage. Dialogues, descriptions and narratives will follow in a natural, easy way.
4. Inductive way for first levels. Grammar must be postponed.
5. The FL meaning must be explained with direct reference to objects or concepts and not to the native language.
6. When writing is introduced, a sequence is recommended from reproduced texts to free composition. Translation belongs to the most advanced stage of the course.

Both the Grammar-translation and the Direct methods have influenced FL methodology. Without doubt, the admittance of a less formal variety of the FL is widely accepted. The age factor could determine the complexity of cognitive tasks when teaching the new language: an oral treatment was thought as most appropriate in early stages, without completely rejecting the advantages of using reading, translations and references to the mother tongue. The use of reading texts should not neglect the spoken activity. The controversy has found a compromise solution which responds to “the needs for better language learning in a new world of industry and international trade and travel”, as Stern (1983:457) puts it. The right balance between the opposite poles has been difficult to determine. Circumstances have leaned the pointer towards one or the other side, which is a positive pragmatic perspective.
West (1926), who taught English in India, without neglecting speaking, recommended reading for its practical utility. Learners were trained in reading strategies. And graded readers were prepared so that students faced textual models (not just disconnected sentences) and progressive varieties of the FL starting with the most basic level (made up of just 300-500 vocabulary items) up to more advanced ones. Ogden (1930) insisted on the value of a first stage or Basic English. Stern (1983:161) pinpoints its functional and educational orientation: “...based on the thought that, at an elementary level of language use, a learner requires above all the spoken language of everyday life”.
Similar conclusions were put forward by Coleman (1929) for American High School students and by Bond (1953) for College students at Chicago University. Reading would become a foundation stone for a complete FL language learning process where the spoken side was postponed but not forgotten.
Theoretical background

Everyday language varieties and levels of use are the linguistic perspectives adopted. Studies on vocabulary frequency, such as the ones carried out by Thorndike (1921), are the basis for graded readers.
Without an explicit reference to psychological features of learning, it can be deduced that it is taken as a progressive and cyclic process responding to individual learner needs and age. As a consequence, a pragmatic educational position is the key sustaining basis.

As for the teaching of foreign languages in Europe and in America, the distance for students to practice oral skills had a great influence. European students did not have to travel very far to do it. This situation was not the same in the U.S.A. International events made FL methodology change. As Brown (1983:70) points out, “Then World War II broke out and suddenly the United States was thrust into a worldwide conflict, heightening the need for Americans to become orally proficient in the languages of both their allies and their enemies. The time was ripe for a language teaching revolution”. Again a new reaction to the traditional method takes place, but now firmly inspired on the supposedly most valid linguistic and psychological descriptive theories. Brooks (1960), Stack (1960), Lado (1964) and Rivers (1964) compile and analysis this influential method.

Theoretical background
Thus, structuralism, which started facing the logico-semantic ambiguity of traditional grammars, adopted the empirically scientific description of languages based on form and distribution without taking meaning into consideration, as traced by Bloomfield and other linguists. The subjective reference to words was replaced by the objective precision of morphemes as the units which shape phrase and sentence structures. The current spoken language was the subject of description and a corpus of data was required to carry out the study.
From the psychological point of view, Skinner’s behaviorism and Osgood’s neo-behaviorism have provided an empirical perspective for language as a set of verbal habits. And like other human behaviors, language learning is essentially a habit training question in terms of stimulus and response. Verbal operant conditioning is shaped after the appropriate reinforcement. Errors as deviated behaviors must be avoided and corrected.
Moulton’s (1961: 63) slogans compile the descriptive and methodological features of this position:
1. Language is speech, not writing
2. A language is what its native speakers say, not what someone thinks they ought to say
3. Languages are different
4. A language is a set of habits
5. Teach the language, not about the language
And there are many others language teaching method. Because of that students will learn something from any method. No method is total failure and there is no the best method. Teaching must be able to choose the appropriate method based on the students’ needs.

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