Language Teaching Methods

Language education may take place as a general school subject or in a specialized language school. There are many methods of teaching languages. Some have fallen into relative obscurity and others are widely used; still others have a small following, but offer useful insights.

While sometimes confused, the terms "approach", "method" and "technique" are hierarchical concepts. An approach is a set of correlative assumptions about the nature of language and language learning, but does not involve procedure or provide any details about how such assumptions should translate into the classroom setting. Such can be related to second language acquisition theory.

There are three principal views at this level:

    The structural view treats language as a system of structurally related elements to code meaning (e.g. grammar).
    The functional view sees language as a vehicle to express or accomplish a certain function, such as requesting something.
    The interactive view sees language as a vehicle for the creation and maintenance of social relations, focusing on patterns of moves, acts, negotiation and interaction found in conversational exchanges. This view has been fairly dominant since the 1980s.

A method is a plan for presenting the language material to be learned and should be based upon a selected approach. In order for an approach to be translated into a method, an instructional system must be designed considering the objectives of the teaching/learning, how the content is to be selected and organized, the types of tasks to be performed, the roles of students and the roles of teachers. A technique is a very specific, concrete stratagem or trick designed to accomplish an immediate objective. Such are derived from the controlling method, and less-directly, with the approach.