The Direct Method

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The Background of the Emergence of Direct Method

The method appeared initially in language teaching is Grammar Translation Method (GTM). The focus of this method is text-based-comprehension. When foreign language teaching was enclosed in European school curriculum in the nineteenth century, most teachers used GTM in the classroom teaching learning process.

In the last middle of the nineteenth century, as soon as the increasing interaction between countries in Europe, the attention to the more communicative language teaching was inevitable. GTM got many challenges and critics along with the emergence of new approaches in language teaching by the individual linguists such as C. Marcel, T. Prendergast, and F. Gouin. Marcel, for instance, emphasized the importance of meaningful learning and offered a rational method referring to the children language acquisition as the model of language learning. Then, T. Prendergast was one of many linguists who researched how children speak a language. The most influential linguist among them was F. Gouin who proposed that the need to oral skill is more important than any other skills e.g. reading and writing. He was also interested in the discourse how a child acquires a language. Unfortunately, as these works were done individually and the influence of GTM was still too strong, they failed to take people’s attention. However, what they strove was a steppingstone to the emergence of what is called Reform Movement.

In the end of the nineteenth century, GTM got many critics from ‘Reform Movement’ linguists such as Henry Sweet (1845-1912), Wilhelm Vietor (1850-1918) dan Paul Passy. They argued that this method didn’t bring language teaching into the practical use of the target language, so it wasn’t sufficient enough to make students able to speak the target language. Richards, Jack C. and Theodore S. Rodgers (2001: 10) said that the reformers at least released these six beliefs:

  1. the spoken language is primary and that this should be reflected in an oral-based methodology
  2. the findings of phonetics should be applied to teaching and to teacher training
  3. learners should hear the language first, before seeing it in written form
  4. words should be presented in sentences, and sentences should be practiced in meaningful contexts and not to be taught as isolated, disconnected elements
  5. the rules of grammar should be taught only after the students have practiced the grammar points in context – that is, grammar should be taught inductively
  6. translation should be avoided, although the native language could be used in order to explain new words or to check comprehension

The principles proposed by the reformists then produced the theoretical foundations for language teaching approaches based on scientific approach towards the study of language and language learning. It was a preliminary effort from the applied linguistics discipline which tried to give the scientific foundations for the study of the second and foreign languages. This study which was done systematically through a professional scientific organization then produced the naturalistic principle of language learning. This principle laid the foundation of the natural method or direct method. (Richards, Jack C. and Theodore S. Rodgers 2001: 11).

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