People have been learning second languages for ages.
English hasn't always been the popular choice. Once upon a time those who were considered “cultured” learned Latin and/or Greek. Soon after French was the popular choice where second languages were concerned. English as a second language gained importance not so long ago, in the mid nineteenth century. Before the late nineteenth century, second-language instruction followed what was called a Classical Method of teaching. Latin and Greek lessons were based on repetition drills and students were asked to read translations of ancient texts. Since the 1940s, communicative skills gradually became more and more important to those who wanted or needed to study other languages and that's when many of the different Theories of second-language acquisition began to appear.
Find Your Teaching Method
The Direct Method
Teachers have been using the Direct Method for years. The benefit of using this method is to immerse the students in English. This is done by providing demonstrations on how to use the language with the the help of realia and visual aids. The teachers who use this method teach grammar inductively, in other words, the rules of grammar are not taught directly. Grammar rules are avoided as much as possible and there is emphasis on good pronunciation.Teaching with this method is performed entirely in the target language and students are discouraged from using their native language.
This method became very popular in the 1960s and was based on the behaviorist theory of learning. It held that language learning is a kind of behavior, similar to other types of human activity. According to the behaviorist theory, teachers elicit responses through stimuli. The response is reinforced by the teacher and if this reinforcement is positive, it encourages the repetition of the response in the future. In essence, it relies on the idea that learning a language is like acquiring habits. For audiolinguism, language learning requires students to master the building blocks of the language and learn the rules they need to know to successfully combine these basic elements. Typically, there is a great deal of practice through dialogs and conversations. New language is first heard and extensively drilled before being seen in its written form. Dialogs and drills are central to the approach. Accurate pronunciation and control of structure are of paramount importance.
Total Physical Response (TPR)
TPR or Total Physical Response, developed by James Asher in the 1960s, is based on the theory that the memory is enhanced through association with physical movement. It is also closely associated with theories of mother language acquisition in very young children, where they respond physically to parental commands. TPR as an approach to teaching a second language is based, first and foremost, on listening and this is linked to physical actions which are designed to reinforce comprehension of particular basic items.
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
Our knowledge of second language learning has changed a lot. Before, language learning was based on how well students knew and could manage grammar and the learning was under the teachers' control. Views on language learning have changed a great deal in recent years. It is now seen as interactions of the learner and those who use the language. Language is used to create purposeful and meaningful interactions. Also, learners are able to experiment with different ways to say something. The focus of communicative language learning is to enable learners to communicate effectively and appropriately in the various situations they would likely find themselves in.
Task-based Language Learning
In Task-based learning the main focus of the teaching is on completing a task. The task in itself is interesting to the learners and they need to use the language they already have to complete it. More attention is placed on the use of the language and not much on accuracy. Language is the instrument the students use to complete the task . It is an activity in which students use language to achieve a specific outcome. The activity reflects real life and learners focus on meaning, they are free to use any language they want. Some great examples of tasks are playing games, finding information and even solving problems. By using them, students will generate their own language and create an opportunity for language acquisition
The Natural Approach
It is a language teaching approach which claims that languages are learned the same way people naturally acquire their native language. It focuses on the similarities between learning the first and second languages and adheres to the communicative approach to teaching. In this approach, students learn by being exposed to language that is comprehensible or made comprehensible to them.In this approach communication is considered the primary function of language therefore it focuses on teaching communicative abilities. In other words, language is viewed as a vehicle for communicating meaning and messages and vocabulary is very important to achieve this. So, this means that language acquisition takes place when the learner understands messages in the target language and has developed sufficient vocabulary. In fact it, according to the Natural approach, should be easier to reconstruct a message containing just vocabulary items than one containing just the grammatical structures.
Second-language teaching has definitely come a long way and considering how much we know now, it has a long way to go still.
It is hard to say which method or approach is the best. Different students and needs may require you use more than just one, even at a time. The trend has been toward combining different methods and approaches, and this is probably the healthiest approach for it accommodates many styles of learning. Also, it allows teachers to decide which elements are most effective and which of them really work in the classroom. If you combine methods, you take the best that each has to offer, after all, teaching languages is not easy. In the end, its all about providing our students with the tools they need to function in the target language.