Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Mrs. Rakhi Maheshwari, M.A. (English)  B.Ed

Research Scholar, Singhania University, Jhunjhunu, India


“…there is, as Gebhard et al.(1990:16) argue, no convincing evidence from pedagogic research, including research into second language instruction, that there is any universally or ‘best’ way to teach. Although, clearly, particular approaches are likely to prove more effective in certain situations, blanket prescription is difficult to support theoretically. The art of teaching does not lie in accessing a checklist of skills but rather in knowing which approach to adopt with different students, in different curricular circumstances or in different cultural settings (Klapper 2001:17).

There are a variety of terms which are sometimes used interchangeably in the same sense. Method and approach are the terms that have created a lot of confusion in the minds of a teacher. We sometimes talk oral approach, structural approach, direct method, grammar cum translation method, natural method etc. in teaching English. Before we discuss different methods and approaches in English teaching it will be essential  to make these terms clear and confusion free.

A method is an overall procedure for an orderly presentation of language material to the students. The order of presentation may be different for different students. The mother tongue of the student, his age, his cultural background as well as objectives of lesson can determine and modify the method to be employed by the teacher. There can be numerous methods within one approach.

In the process of learning and teaching a method of teaching is very important. In a method, the word ‘how’ is important. Thus, in a method we come to know how something is presented. This way, a method determines what and how much is taught (selection), the order in which it is taught (gradation), how the meaning and forms are conveyed (presentation) and what is done to make the use of the language unconscious (repetition). Thus we find that a method deals with form of things, i.e. – selection, gradation, presentation and repletion.

An approach describes the nature of the subject matter to be taught. It is something which we believe in terms of its effectiveness. It denotes to our reach that we are aiming t to realize. It is an assumption or guess which may or may not be accepted as effective. In other words, an approach is axiomatic or self- evident way of reaching the desired gals. It needs no support to justify its effectiveness.  While a method is procedural and definitely not axiomatic.

In attempting to define what ‘method’ is, we can consider Edward Anthony’s tripartite distinction of Approach, Method and Technique (Anthony: 1963).

This distinction was developed and recast by Richards and Rodgers (1982, 1985) as Approach, Design and Procedure, encompassed within the overall concept of Method, “an umbrella term for the specification and interrelation of theory and practice” (Richards & Rodgers 1985: 16) where

Approach refers to the beliefs and theories about language, language learning and teaching that underlie a method

  • Design relates the theories of language and learning to the form and function of teaching materials and activities in the classroom;
  • Procedure concerns the techniques and practices employed in the classroom as consequences of particular approaches and designs.

If ‘Method’ involves a particular set of features to be followed almost as a panacea, it can be suggested that we are now in a ‘Post-Method’ era where the emphasis is on the looser concept of ‘Approach’ which starts from some basic principles which are then developed in the design and development of practice. Accordingly, the Richards and Rodgers model (1985) might be recast as follows, without the outer shell of ‘Method’:

Comparison between Method and Approach

Area Method Approach
Concept An abstract entity, determined by content Process of procedure of education with steps
Nature Teacher centred Content centred/objective centred and learner centred
Objective Memorisation of facts and content Educational and national objectives
Purpose To make effective presentation of content in classroom To realize the goals of education
Components Techniques of teaching, maxims of teaching, devices of teaching and modes of teaching Steps of approach methods, techniques, strategies, devices, models and tactics
Effectiveness Qualitative measurement, achievement test, observations, rating, content analysis Criterion test, attainment test, qualitative and quantitative evaluation
Examples Lecture, question answer, project, storytelling, demonstration, translation, direct method and play way method Evaluation approach, management approach, understanding approach and multimedia approach.

Teaching is a dynamic and well planned process to acquire maximum learning experiences. Thus, teaching methods are directly linked with teaching objectives. Each teaching method decides the direction and speed of the teaching and emphasizes systematic planning of the content. due to the changing form and status of English, many methods have been adopted to teach this language.

Factors affecting a teaching method

Teaching is a tri- polar process. Its first pole deals with instructional objectives. The second, with learning experience and the third one is evaluation.

Teacher and taught are directly related with the second phase as it deals with learning experience. Learning experiences are based on the content analysis and the selection of appropriate methodology.

Actually, any teaching process irrespective of the subject undergoes a specefic manner, in actual classroom teaching. In the present world of advanced technology, its similarity can be established with computer application:-

The selection of appropriate teaching methodology is influenced by four factor areas-

  1. Factor relating to objectives

An objective is a point or end view of something towards which actions are directed.

Naturally, in teaching as well, all the actions are directed towards the achievement of objectives. Generally, the following factors related to the objectives are to be taken into account while selecting an appropriate teaching method.

  1. Factors relating to teacher

The most active person in the entire teaching process is a teacher. His/ Her qualities determine the selection of the appropriate method.


  1. Factors relating to  students

In the entire teaching process, a student holds a central position. His entering behaviour determines the selections

  1. Factors relating to Content

The contents are the means to achieve the objectives. They are based on the communication, As the content possess its specific nature, it directly influence the appropriateness of the teaching method.

Methods are never ends in themselves, no method is good or bad in itself. The shortcomings of one method gives worth to another method. In order to achieve the objectives of English Teaching, The teacher must adopt the adequate method. For this, sound knowledge of various methods, their merits and demerits are essential.

Methods and Approaches to Language Teaching

Where there was once consensus on the “right” way to teach foreign languages, many teachers now share the belief that a single right way does not exist .How a method is manifest in the classroom will depend heavily on the individual teacher’s interpretation of its principles.
Some teachers prefer to practice one of the methods to the exclusion of others. Other teachers prefer to pick and choose in a principled way among the methodological options that exist, creating their own unique blend.

Grammar-Translation Method

This method was historically used in teaching Greek and Latin. Classes are taught in the students’ mother tongue, with little active use of the target language Learning is largely by translation to and from the target language. Grammar rules are to be memorized and long lists of vocabulary learned by heart. There is little or no emphasis placed on developing oral ability.

. Vocabulary is taught in the form of isolated word lists. Elaborate explanations of grammar are always provided. Grammar instruction provides the rules for putting words together; instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.The Grammar-Translation Method focuses on developing students’ appreciation of the target language’s literature as well a teaching the language. Students are presented with target-language reading passages and answer questions that follow. Other activities include translating literary passages from one language into the other, memorizing grammar rules, and memorizing native-language equivalents of target language vocabulary. Class work is highly structured, with the teacher controlling all activities. . Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis. Often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue, and vice versa. Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.

Direct Method

This method was developed initially as a reaction to the grammar-translation approach in an attempt to integrate more use of the target language in instruction. In this method the teaching is done entirely in the target language. The learner is not allowed to use his or her mother tongue. Grammar rules are avoided and there is emphasis on good pronunciation.

The Direct Method allows students to perceive meaning directly through the language because no translation is allowed. Visual aids and pantomime are used to clarify the meaning of vocabulary items and concepts. Students speak a great deal in the target language and communicate as if in real situations. Reading and writing are taught from the beginning, though speaking and listening skills are emphasized. Grammar is learned inductively. Lessons begin with a dialogue using a modern conversational style in the target language. Material is first presented orally with actions or pictures. The mother tongue is never used The culture associated with the target language is also taught inductively. Culture is considered an important aspect of learning the language.

Audio-Lingual Method

This method is based on the principles of behavior psychology. The theory behind this method is that learning a language means acquiring habits. There is much practice of dialogues of every situations. New language is first heard and extensively drilled before being seen in its written form.

New material is presented in the form of a dialogue. Based on the principle that language learning is habit formation, the method fosters dependence on mimicry, memorization of set phrases and over-learning. Structures are sequenced and taught one at a time. Structural patterns are taught using repetitive drills. Little or no grammatical explanations are provided; grammar is taught inductively. Skills are sequenced: Listening, speaking, reading and writing are developed in order.Vocabulary is strictly limited and learned in context. . Great importance is given to precise native-like pronunciation. Use of the mother tongue by the teacher is permitted, but discouraged among and by the students.

The teacher directs and controls students’ behavior, provides a model, and reinforces correct responses.

The Silent Way

This is so called because the aim of the teacher is to say as little as possible in order that the learner can be in control of what he wants to say. No use is made of the mother tongue.

The theoretical basis of Gattegno’s Silent Way is the idea that teaching must be subordinated to learning and thus students must develop their own inner criteria for correctness. To avoid the use of the vernacular. To create simple linguistic situations that remain under the complete control of the teacher To pass on to the learners the responsibility for the utterances of the descriptions of the objects shown or the actions performed. To let the teacher concentrate on what the students say and how they are saying it, drawing their attention to the differences in pronunciation and the flow of words.

All four skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – are taught from the beginning. Students’ errors are expected as a normal part of learning: the teacher’s silence helps foster self-reliance and student initiative. The teacher is active in setting up situations, while the students do most of the talking and interacting.


Lozanov’s method seeks to help learners eliminate psychological barriers to learning. The theory underlying this method is that a language can be acquired only when the learner is receptive and has no mental blocks. By various methods it is suggested to the student that the language is easy – and in this way the mental blocks to learning are removed.

The learning environment is relaxed and subdued, with low lighting and soft music in the background. Students choose a name and character in the target language and culture, and imagine that person. Dialogs are presented to the accompaniment of music. Students just relax and listen to them being read and later playfully practice the language during an “activation” phase.

Community Language Learning

The focus of this method is to enable the learner to communicate effectively and appropriately in the various situations she would be likely to find herself in. The content of CLT courses are functions such as inviting, suggesting, complaining or notions such as the expression of time, quantity, location.

In Curren’s method, teachers consider students as “whole persons,” with intellect, feelings, instincts, physical responses, and desire to learn. Teachers also recognize that learning can be threatening. By understanding and accepting students’ fears, teachers help students feel secure and overcome their fears, and thus help them harness positive energy for learning. The syllabus used is learner-generated, in that students choose what they want to learn in the target language. This methodology created by Charles Curran is not based on the usual methods by which languages are taught. Rather the approach is patterned upon counselling techniques and adapted to the peculiar anxiety and threat as well as the personal and language problems a person encounters in the learning of foreign languages.

Total Physical Response Method

Asher’s approach begins by placing primary importance on listening comprehension, emulating the early stages of mother tongue acquisition, and then moving to speaking, reading, and writing. Students demonstrate their comprehension by acting out commands issued by the teacher; teachers provide novel and often humorous variations of the commands. Activities are designed to be fun and to allow students to assume active learning roles. Activities eventually include games and skits. James J. Asher defines the Total Physical Response (TPR) method as one that combines information and skills through the use of the kinesthetic sensory system

The student is not forced to speak, but is allowed an individual readiness period and allowed to spontaneously begin to speak when the student feels comfortable and confident in understanding and producing the utterancesThe method follows the following steps.

Step I The teacher says the commands as he himself performs the action.

Step 2 The teacher says the command as both the teacher and the students then perform the action.

Step 3 The teacher says the command but only students perform the action

Step 4 The teacher tells one student at a time to do commands

Step 5 The roles of teacher and student are reversed. Students give commands to teacher and to other students.

Step 6 The teacher and student allow for command expansion or produces new sentences.

TPR works by having the learner respond to simple commands such as “Stand up”, “Close your book”, “Go to the window and open it.” The method stresses the importance of aural comprehension.

The Natural Approach

This approach, propounded by Professor S. Krashen, stresses the similarities between learning the first and second languages. There is no correction of mistakes. Learning takes place by the students being exposed to language that is comprehensible or made comprehensible to them.

The Communicative Approach

The Communicative Approach stresses the need to teach communicative competence as opposed to linguistic competence; thus, functions are emphasized over forms. Students usually work with authentic materials in small groups on communicative activities, during which they receive practice in negotiating meaning.

Structural method

This method sees language as a complex of grammatical rules which are to be learned one at a time in a set order. So for example the verb “to be” is introduced and practised before the present continuous tense which uses “to be” as an auxiliary

The Lexical Syllabus

This approach is based on a computer analysis of language which identifies the most common (and hence most useful) words in the language and their various uses. The syllabus teaches these words in broadly the order of their frequency, and great emphasis is placed on the use of authentic materials.

A glance through the past century or so of language teaching will give an interesting picture of how varied the interpretations have been of the best way to teach a foreign language. As disciplinary schools of thought – psychology, linguistics, and education, have come and gone, so have language-teaching methods waxed and waned in popularity. Teaching methods, as “approaches in action,” are of course the practical application of theoretical findings and positions.

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