Schooling, higher education as well as post gradual education are considered to be one of the most important ways of social and economical progress. Methods of education have had a long history and have always reflected social changes and helped to understand what was happening in the world at a certain period of time, what priorities people had and what lifestyle was typical of them.
I chose this subject as I consider it to be crucial for me as a teacher to realize what a foreign language is learned for, what kind of personality is expected by the society nowadays and what are the ways of forming such a personality.
The approach to the teaching of a foreign language had the same changes both in Germany and Russia and the end of the 20th century.
The approach at the beginning of the 20th century.
Language – is a system of verbal expression of a people’s cognition. There has always been a question: “Is it possible for a person to think without a language?” Most of scholars suppose, that cognition is performed on the base of a language or that cognition and language are the same. Hence changes in one of them automatically triggers off changes in the other. Ancient Greek used the word “logos” with the meaning o both “cognition” and “thought”. These two concepts were brought apart much later. Wilhelm Humboldt considered language to be a means of thinking. He said, that language of a nation is its spirit, and spirit of a nation is its language. As a proof he mentioned the fact of language fragmentariness and laconism of reeducated speech - the consequence of non-verbal forms of cognition, which reflects logic of the time. The left hemisphere, responsible for speech is dominant in a person’s brain and controls the whole body. It sends down the logical order of an action course and later helps to transform it into words. On the basis of logical order of action there is a judgment, a form of cognition with a function of either confirming o denying a certain thought. The judgment consists of the subject, the predicate, a link and quantors. According to the theory of linguistic relativity, judgment coincides with sentence, hence language and person’s are closely interconnected. The theory of linguistic relativity was first put forward by German linguist Humboldt. He found that people speaking different languages have different perception of reality, which means every language brings along different type of logical contemplation. Humboldt said that language is a “world between the people, speaking it and the objective world. Every language encircles the people, speaking it and it only enables it to leave this circle by entering some other one because activity, actions and perception of a person, which is to say that their attitude to reality is wholly controlled by the language. In different languages signs are not different words of the same object, but different attitude towards it. For example, the word “ blue” in English, “Blau” in German, “bleu” in French mean two shades of the same color in Russian. And some African tribes differentiate two colors only – the “cold” and the “warm” ones. That’s the sign of connection between the outer proceedings and the inner world of a person. If we try and replace lexemes of a language by mathematical signs they will lose pat of its ability to translate the attitude of a speaker. So the real world consists of linguistic norms of a society. B. Sapire – famous American scholar - thought that people’s behavior is based on linguistic factors. He started his career as an inspector and gave many examples from his practice. Worker could, for example, smoke at the gasoline drums provided it was written on them “empty gasoline drums” and ignoring the fact there still was gasoline at the bottom of the drums, which was easy to figure out. People were rather lead by the language than by their logics. And another important point is that there are words expressing general meaning of an object not concrete object. For example, words like “Unkraut”, “Obst”, “Gemuese” are not botanic objects like ‘Nessel”, “Apfel” und “Moehre”. It’s just an idea, interpretation of a person’s perception. The explanation to it is that initially we ourselves define in object according to the signs we find important. The history of the 20th century is reach in developments (such as two world wars, spread of socialism in the world and so on) which made it desirable for a person to be obedient. After the Second World War communication between the Soviet sector and the rest of the world was reduced to minimum and foreign languages were not the top priority of a person’s education. Furthermore, collectivism was of great value at that time, so speaking out was unnecessary and sometimes punished, which makes it easy to realize that the ability to express one’s own mind was far from being the main point of school education.
Methods of teaching at the second part of the 20th century exemplify their historical background. The most common at that time was grammatical- translation method which normally focused on grammatical rules and it took a person a long time to master a foreign language.
- Grammar was learned according to the way Latin grammar used to be taught.
- Deductive rules explanation
- Bookish grammar structures
- two language comparison (always with translation)
(Junge – boy, boy – Junge)
Vocabulary is taught by translating isolated sentences.
- No exercises to texts, reading and translation only
- No discussion exercises or speech practice exercises
- Texts were usually with cultural or historical background
- Writing o letters was taught at the earliest stages
The priorities of the class were: reading and comprehension, translation, writing competence.
Teachers did not normally use media during the lesson. The speech and pronunciation of a teacher were supposed to be close to those of a native speaker, so they performed the role of the audio text readers.
This grammar – translation method of teaching goes back to the times of translation of the Bible. The fact is that it was one of the first books to be translated into a large amount of languages and foreign languages were normally used for written translations of books and different types of documents. That’s why there was no term «methods of teaching a foreign languages» or «didactic» all. So both disciplines are relatively new.
How some of the students remember itBearbeiten
I spoke to two representatives of older generations and asked them questions about their schooling system, methods of teaching of a foreign language, plan of a lesson and their relationships with teachers. Here is what they told me: Hanna Hornsteiner, 1935: - We had lessons of foreign language at school. I learned French. I started learning it when I was thirteen or fourteen, I do not remember exactly and had two or three lessons a week. We normally started by checking our homework, which was reading and translating of a text. Some of them we to be learnt off by heart. There were different topics. Of course, we started with something easy like “Me family, school, me hobby”. I still remember some parts of these texts. - We all had a lot of work to do, as we knew, we would all get marks. And my teacher was quite strict I should say. And my parents always took care of my education, so I spent much time learning French, trying hard to do my best. I still can speak some of it, although I do not need much of French these days.
Olga Melnikova, 1941:
- I learned English at school, although German was much more common at that time, a lot of my classmates learned German. Our lessons normally started with some grammar drill. Our teacher meant, it was the most important part, the basics of a foreign language, so to say. And we were not allowed to argue with her. Well, I’d better say, it would never occur to me to argue with her.
- She was absolute authority for all of us. And she spoke English fluently, which was so unusual at that time. She also took care of the way we dressed. I remember, once I was made to go and wash my face, as she thought I was wearing makeup. I actually was not, it was forbidden at school.
- We did a lot of translations of texts concerning different subjects. That’s what our lessons normally were. We had English once a week. I don’t speak it now unfortunately.
At the end of the 70s in Germany the idea of a new method was born. The first to come up with this idea was Hans-Eberhard Pieto, who said that the old way of a language usage fails to meet the objective in the modern international society of the 20th century. Shortly after that he started his famous research and sometime later published a book called “Kommunikative Kompetenz als ubergeordnedes Lehrziel im Englishuntericht” . This book caused a stir in the circle of linguists and became widely spread. It promised great changes in didactic and teaching methods. Soon there were published some more important researches. Among them were “The communicative approach to language teaching”, “Sprechaktteorie”, “Pragmalinguistik”, “How to make a learner speak”, etc. all of them confirmed that it was crucial for students and teachers to become communicative partners, which based on the change of social order with the view of educating socially active society. These claims turned out to be true and fair. Germany kept turning into international country with thousands of immigrants. As well as that economical relationships kept growing with business units in every other country of the world, learning of foreign languages became essential and thus the top priority. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, communication between Russia and European countries became widely spread due to economical relationships. A lot of business units made demand for German speaking employees high which meant people had to apply their theory in practice. However grammatical method did not turn out to meet the objective and a question about new linguistic approach was brought up. In Russia the new communicative method was introduces in 1993 by Russian psycholinguist Passov, professor of Moscow State Linguistic University who was one of the first to change the challenge. First of all this approach was to teach learners to make themselves clear. The reason to that was that the new main value became a personality capable of finding solutions to the problems, making business abroad, reaching compromises, making decisions and – last but not least – understanding other cultures with the help of the language. In the modernization concept of the 21st century it is pointed out that new society needs persons for active social work. Thus, the communicative method of teaching was first introduced at the end of the 70s in Germany and at the beginning of 90 in Russia. It was the time for each country when ability of international communication became of great value. People who learned and taught foreign languages both came to the conclusion that all the methods, popular before did not give the desirable result which was communicating with other nationalities and expressing their own thoughts and ideas in a foreign language. The first step to it was in-depth analyses of all the breaches of previously used methods. In 1993 – 1995 all the school and university teachers were given the task to analyze their students’ behavior so that to work out the strategy of new way of work. At the second stage (1994 -1996) social activity and psychological behavior of younger generations was studied and described in physiological, philosophical and pedagogical works. The in-depth analyses showed that the percentage of socially active young people was not high enough. Social activity could be brought up by changes in the system of education. The problem was found, the aims outlined, there appeared objectives and hypothesis. At the empirical stage the ground for realization of new methods of education was found. Communicative method was a mix of all the previously used methods. The great difference was that all the texts which were far from reality were replaced by those used in everyday situations. Thus dialogs became the central point of students books. The aim of making them is to provoke a certain reaction, to make the second communicant speak in a foreign language, to counteract with others. Standard phrases like “Hello, my name is Anna. I live in Berlin” are replaced by the topic “Nice to meet you” where a student must get to know another person, find out some details about them, ask some personal questions and discuss the easiest subjects. Thus a student develops the ability to use a language spontaneously. The typical feature of the new method was that learners of a foreign language were unaware of what was going to happen next, what question was going to be asked and what their answer would be. During the class a lot of time is spent on communication whereas writing and reading are of much less importance than before. Teachers take part in all the discussions, but correct only rude mistakes that cause misunderstandings. It is expected that learners correct their own mistakes or those made by their follow-students. I asked two young persons to compare the answers I got from the two previous communicants. Manuela Muhr, 1990: - The first thing I found unusual reading the interviews was the relationships between students and teachers, especially the story with the makeup. It sounds rather rude to me. I’d say our teachers are always correct to us and respected our privacy. - At school I had English and French. Well, O think, we did not spend much time on grammar, the focus of our classes was spontaneous speaking and we had a lot of listening, which I found the most difficult. I often go to France, cos my sister studies there. I speak French a lot. It’s not a problem for me.
Vasilisa Rodina, 1986: - I know that school system changed a lot after the fall of the Soviet Union. There is much of discussion of it. Older generations say it used to be better, but I have a different opinion. First of all I am really pleased with my knowledge of English, though I should say I got only some of it at school or Uni. I have to speak it a lot at work; it certainly did me a world of good. - The most positive moment I think is that we are taught to use it in real life. Without that ability it would be impossible for me to find a good job. - And me teachers were always very helpful, always conduced my progress, I could always come up to them.
- The first essentials of the new method were: speech of practice was to take of first, grammar was not considered to be important anymore. It had to do with the fact, that a foreign language was to be learned in next to no time and if a person could be understood the learning process was looked upon as successful.
- Situational of the lesson
- Practice of some speech patterns were memorized by multiple repetitions
- In languages with difficult spelling speaking comes before writing.
- Model dialogs are both prepared and spontaneous
- Students are the center of the learning process, each of them should get individual approach.
- Media play an important part, listening becomes a part of speaking. Video materials are often used.
- Slang, colloquial expressions and idioms are taught from the first levels.
- The language of teaching is the language of learning. No translations are done in order to avoid interference.
- Foreign culture is explained in the texts so that learners have a good command of traditions of the country where the language is spoken which once again proves the necessity to apply theoretical base to practice.
Role-playing becomes essential. It is especially important on the first stages of language-learning. Learners are given different situations that might happen in real life. Their task is to find a way out. Role-playing produces the effect of real communication. The plot of these situations is normally very easy, for instance going shopping, going on excursion, getting to know new neighbors, etc. At the second stage of learning the task is to find a way out of a more complicated situation: “You get lost in a strange city and do not know the address of your hotel, which is however very famous. Try to describe the building, so that the police officer tells you where to go.”
The next important point of the method is discussions. Learners get a controversial subject to discuss and speak their mind, argue, learn the speaking techniques and try to reach the consensus. The teacher is to control that on one dominates the discussion and everyone is active. They are allowed to ask leading questions and take part in it themselves. However their personal opinion has no more weight than an opinion of a student, since it is important to emphasize the equality of every participant. Subjects of discussions depend on the interests and level of the group. They vary from favorite films and bands to the problems of ecology, unemployment, attitude towards marriage or divorce, etc. Such discussions требуют f relaxed atmosphere to make people speak a foreign language fluently. Simple communication prevents psychological fear to make a mistake. Learners begin to express their thoughts clearly and grammatically correctly. These are the main features of communicative method of teaching. Besides it is necessary to mention some peculiarities of learning process and behavior of a teacher.Students are normally praised a lot. Punishments are not expected. The best form of punishment is absence of praise. A creative approach to classwork and homework is welcome (compared to the traditional approach), which develops abilities and desire to learn. A higher speed of speaking is expected as a way of initially forming thoughts in the foreign language and not in the mother tongue, since they are short of time they skip the stage of translation. This prevents interferention of both languages, structures and vocabulary are better learned, the style of the language is absorbed. On top of that communicative method includes types of activities in a language aimed at communication. For example, brain storming about how to learn a language, what type of exercise is going to take place next, what activities learners find the most effective, interesting, difficult. How is it better to learn new vocabulary – in class or as homework, shall we write it down or just repeat?..
That brings us to the conclusion that communicative method is closer to the psycholinguistics than to anything else, as the language is important as a means and not as the aim. The function of a structure is more important as the structure itself. Out-of-class activities became very popular as the activity, giving great opportunities for applying new knowledge. The new method brought good results very popular. At first tried out at linguistic universities it soon spread to schools and language courses. Depending on many objective factors (normally age, aim and the time span) in both countries there appeared additional methods. The communication remained the base, and often another priority was added according to the aim of the language learning. Analytical deductive method was added for those who needed grammar spot (more attention to grammar rules, the method is connected with translations as well) Express method (the method is centered on games). Everything is based on playing. The learners are asked to make up a new story lives for themselves, new names, nationality and new motivation for language learning. Often they do not know names or social background about each other. Another important point in this method is absence of homework. Everything is learned in class. Video lingual method is a method shifting its center from spelling and even more concentrated on speaking. The plus of it is that learners get an impression of real situation. On top of that they have the advantage to decipher gestures and body language. Audio lingual method is close to the previous one. But it is considered to be more complicated and is aimed at more advanced speakers, because they are deprived of the possibility to perceive information of the body language. Learning by teaching. Learners develop their abilities by preparing lessons. The real teacher takes part in it as a normal student.
The first steps to mastering a foreign language should be taken in the kindergarten (compare with 12-13 years old in the age of grammar – translation approach). Typical for such learners is the fact that the Concept is the mix of teaching a foreign language and aspects of behavioral rules with the elements of social play. They learn social norms of behavior and simultaneously other type o speech. This method started to be applied both in Europe and Russia from the beginning o the 90s and showed that the learning process at these stages was extremely slow, but very effective from the point o view of its quality. Children turned out to be able to avoid interference of their mother tongue and the new material much more successfully than adults. The knowledge is becoming more and more systematized and it becomes possible to track down the expected progress of a learner and define the level of them with the help of a test. There appear 6 stages of language mastering beginning from the beginner lever to the proficiency one. At the late stages of a language-mastering content and language integrated learning is popular, which is a type of approach combined of the foreign language and another discipline. Thus there appear lessons in geography, history, biology, literature, technique, politics and many others in the foreign language in schools and universities. During such classes the language is simply a means of committing information. However the aim of boosting the vocabulary, learning other culture and phonetic aspect are improved. The inner dialogue is initially built in the foreign language, thus learners skip the stage of translation, which speeds up the process of communication and makes it natural to pronounce new words in a much better and fluent way.
- There is a direct connection between language and cognition. Every development of historical importance finds its reflection in the language. Speech and lifestyle are closely interconnected. Analyses of a people’s speech brings results connected with its culture.
- Cognition is performed on the base of a language or that cognition and language are the same. Hence changes in one of them automatically triggers off changes in the other.
- Every language brings along different type of logical contemplation.
- People’s behavior is based on linguistic factors. - Historical development of Indo-European group of languages had the same priorities and objectives.
- In the first half of the 20th century learning of a foreign language than at the end of it.
- Foreign languages used to be means of written translations rather than means of international communication.
- Expressing one’s thoughts was not the priority of linguistic activity.
- Methods o teaching of a foreign language in both countries o research changed due to the change of the social order. - Old approaches failed to meet the requirements of the new time.
- New approach had the main shift from grammar to communicational skills, which showed greater demand in international communication.
- The new approach is still not complete and requires application of additional methods.
- The application o additional methods differs on the base of age, sex and purpose o language learners.
- The first steps to mastering a foreign language were made earlier which demonstrates future needs o communication skills and future development o demand in international communication. Typical for young learners is the fact that the Concept is the mix of teaching a foreign language and aspects of behavioral rules with the elements of social play. They learn social norms of behavior and simultaneously other type o speech, thus growing up habitual understanding of multilingual speaking.
- The appearance of 6-stage system o language learning/language teaching shows more precise systematization of the approach.
- The new communicative method is still not perfect and being worked on.
IPK im WS 2010/2011Bearbeiten