Oral Approach


Approaches to the Teaching of World Languages

For each approach, answer the following questions:

What is the background for this approach?
The origins of this approach began with British applied linguists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Two of the most notable leaders of this movement were Harold Palmer and A.S. Hornsby. They attempted a more scientific approach to teaching language over the Direct Method. It is based on a structural view of language. A basic vocabulary set along with the structure and speech patterns are seen as the basis or foundation of language teaching.

What underlying theories structure this approach?
The Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching is based on a structural view of language. Speech, structure and a focus on a set of basic vocabulary are seen as the basis of language teaching. A mastery of a set of high frequency vocabulary items is believed to lead to good reading skills.An analysis of English and a classification of its prominent grammatical structures into sentence patterns, also called  situational tables, is believed to help learners internalize grammatical rules.

What are the guiding concepts of this approach? What do its proponents single out as key ideas?
Oral Approach Teaching is characterized by two major features called vocabulary and grammar control. A mastery of a set of high frequency vocabulary items is believed to lead to good reading skills.An analysis of English and a classification of its prominent grammatical structures into sentence patterns, also called  situational tables, is believed to help learners internalize grammatical rules.

What is the role of the teacher in this approach?
The teacher serves as the model and for setting up situations to enable the students to repeat and practice. Then the teacher becomes like a conductor with questions, commands, and cues. The teacher is the essential ingredient and the textbook is seen only far less important.

What is the role of the student in this approach?
Initially they are only required to listen, repeat, and respond to commands and cues. At more advanced levels they will gain more control and freedom in the lessons and are encouraged to more actively participate.

What does a typical class period look like? What strategies are commonly used?
A lesson starts with stress and intonation practice followed by a revision and a presentation of new material (mainly structures or vocabulary). The teacher then proceeds to oral practice  and drilling  of the elements presented. Finally, the lesson ends with reading activity or written exercises.

What seems unique to this approach? What really separates it from the others? (We will answer this together in class after examining all the approaches, but jot down ideas about this as you go. The approaches can tend to run together, and you’ll need to figure out what makes them similar and different from one another.)

Its practicality in the teaching of grammar patterns has contributed to the survival of the approach until recently. Besides, its emphasis on oral practice still attracts support among language teachers. the structural and the behaviouristic approaches to language are simply incorrect as they do not explain the fundamental feature of language learning: the ability to create novel and unique sentences. Children do not acquire their mother tongue through repetition and habit formation. There must be, however, an innate predisposition that lead them to a certain kind of  linguistic competence.

 

NOTES

The Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching is  an approach developed by British applied linguists between the 1930s and the 1960s. While it is unknown for many teachers, it had a big influence on language courses till  the 1980s. Textbooks such as  Streamline English (Hartley and Viney 1979) was designed following the SLT approach principles.

The Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching is based on a structural view of language. Speech, structure and a focus on a set of basic vocabulary are seen as the basis of language teaching. This was a view similar to American structuralists, such as Fries.  However, what distinguishes The  Situational Language Teaching approach is its emphasis on the presentation of  structures in situations.

Vocabulary and grammar control

Situational Language Teaching is characterized by two major features:

Focus on vocabulary and reading is one of the most salient traits of SLT.  In fact, mastery of a set of high frequency vocabulary items is believed to lead to good reading skills.
An analysis of English and a classification of its prominent grammatical structures into sentence patterns, also called  situational tables, is believed to help learners internalize grammatical rules.
Behavioristic background

The behavioristic view of language learning constitutes the cornerstone of Situation Language Teaching. The approach  gives primacy to  the processes over the conditions of learning. The following processes are noted in this approach:

The act of receiving  knowledge or material
Repetition to fix that knowledge or material in memory.
The use of the knowledge or material in actual practice until it becomes a personal skill.
The behaviorist theory of learning is based on the principle of habit formation. Mistakes are banned so as to avoid bad habit formation. Following the premises of behaviorism, a teacher presents language orally then in written form.

SLT objectives

The objectives of  Situational Language Teaching involve accurate use of vocabulary items and grammar rules in order to achieve a practical mastery of the four basic skills. Learners must be able to produce accurate  pronunciation and use of grammar. The ultimate aim is to be able to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations with an automatic control of basic structures and sentence patterns.

The syllabus, techniques and activities

Situational Language Teaching syllabus is designed upon a word list and structural activities. Grammar teaching involves situational presentation of new sentence patterns and drills to practice the patterns. the teacher moves from controlled to freer practice of structures and from oral use of sentence patterns to their automatic use in speech, reading and writing.

Typical lesson

According to Situational Language Teaching, a lesson starts with stress and intonation practice followed by a revision and a presentation of new material (mainly structures or vocabulary). The teacher then proceeds to oral practice  and drilling  of the elements presented. Finally, the lesson ends with reading activity or written exercises.

Advantages

Situational Language Teaching  is still attractive to many teachers who still believe in structural practice of language. Its practicality in the teaching of grammar patterns has contributed to the survival of the approach until recently. Besides, its emphasis on oral practice still attracts support among language teachers.

Disadvantages

Many premises underlying the approach have been criticized. For example  Chomsky (1957) showed that the structural and the behavioristic approaches to language are simply incorrect as they do not explain the fundamental feature of language learning: the ability to create novel and unique sentences. Children do not acquire their mother tongue through repetition and habit formation. There must be, however, an innate predisposition that lead them to a certain kind of  linguistic competence.