Response to “An Eclectic Method?” By John F Haskell

In the article “An electric method?” by John F. Haskell, the author gives a summary of the various methods that are used in teaching the English language as well as a summary of how these methods have evolved over time. The author makes “eclectic” conclusions on each method discussed. The point of consideration is which of these methods is the most effective.

The first method that this article addresses is Grammar-translation method. According to the author, this article, grammar-translation method of language teaching can be done in five different models. This includes where a teacher reads words or sentences in the target language then translates into a language that the students understand. The second mode is where the teacher explains the rules of the target language into the student native language. In the third model, the teacher helps the student memorize some vocabulary, and then defines these vocabularies in the native language of the students. In the fourth model, the student uses the words and rules they have memorized to create sentences. In the final model, the learners are allowed to learn by reading complex literature in the learner target language.

Whereas I agree with the author that this method of teaching a foreign language was intended to enable the learner write and read the target language, I think the learners in this method where in effect able to speak the target language as well. According to me, the continuous reading practice leads to proficiency in speaking.

The second method that this article addresses is the direct method. According to the author, this method was devised in the in nineteenth century but most people were unable to use it and hence abandoned it. According to the author, this method consists of six basic elements. The first one is where the target language is used exclusively in classrooms. The teacher does not translate the target language in the students’ native language. The second element is the progressive exposure of students to material in the target language from easy to difficult. The third element involves the learner exercising the target language. The fourth element has to do with writing in the target language while the fifth involves the learner in correcting the mistakes they make. The final element is the formation of rules.

I agree with the author of this article that the direct method has formed a greater part of the methods of teaching extensively used in the twenty first century.

The third method of teaching explained in this article is the audio lingual method. According to this article, this method of teaching developed in 1940’s in response to the then growing need non English speakers both in the US armed forces as well as diplomacy fields. The method, according to the author, resulted from interplay between the direct method, behavioral psychology and structured linguistics. According to the author, structured linguistics depicts language learning as a three stage process; listening, speaking, reading then writing. This process of learning, according to me, is subject to debate since some learners may not necessarily observe that chronological order. Some learners have been observed to write and read languages concurrently. He further makes an interesting statement saying, “language appropriateness is determined by usage and not by prescription”. I choose to disagree with this statement to some extent. Whereas I agree that informal conversations may show variation in conventional rules of the language, other formal forms of communications have to adhere to language guidelines and rules. The appropriateness of the language is therefore in the adherence to the language conventional rules.   

The article further addresses Transition as a method of teaching language. This method, the author argues, was developed based on researches carried out in the field of linguistic, Cognitive mentalist psychology, sociology as well as pedagogy. In view of the discussions on the findings of the research in the various fields, the author seems to bring out the similarity of these findings that led to the transition method of teaching. To begin with, most of these research findings point to the fact that the process of learning a language involves thinking and use of brain and is not about habit forming. In addition, the research points out the similarity in structures between deferent languages. Given this similarity, the method used in learning the first language can be utilized during second language acquisition.

Finally, the article discusses the Eclectic method of teaching. This method, according to the author, involves choosing the most appropriate method of teaching from the ones discussed above.    This in my opinion is the best approach to take. This is because each individual learner has a unique background, first language structure as well as level ability to grasp concepts. The teachers, therefore, need to assess his learner and decide which method suits them most. It is this understanding that makes the author concludes that learning needs not only to be real but meaningful as well. Such leaning must be centered on the student needs and best approach. In conclusion, the author of the article has clearly demonstrated to us the various methods of teaching English language and has given us the freedom to choose the best.

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