Grammar Translation Method

The first concern with language teaching method had to do with the teaching of Latin and Greek grammars. The methods used at that time were mostly designed to enable people to speak, read and write Latin. All of the methods were related to the method which was popularly known as the Grammar Method. With the invention of printing the reproduction of Greek and Latin classics became easy, and, therefore, the Grammar Method was no longer effective to teach the languages. There were a number of atte0mpts to improve the teaching of the languages. One attempt was suggested by Meidenger (1783), who advocated translation into the target language through the application of rules of grammar. Karl Plotz (1819-1881) also improved the teaching method; his method was divided into two parts: (1) rules and paradigms, and (2) sentences for translation into and out of the target language. His method also included rote learning of grammar rules, learning to put grammatical labels on words, and learning to apply the rules by translating sentences. This way of teaching was finally called the Grammar Translation Method (GTM).      

Since Latin was learned based on written language of classical literature, The GTM ignores authentic spoken communication and social contexts of the language. It was also hoped that, through the study of the grammar of the target language, students would become familiar with the grammar of their native language (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 11). The fundamental purpose people learned a foreign language was to be able to read literature that was written in the foreign language so that the students were provided with exercises to read and write in the foreign language. The GTM was widely used in the USA in 1890's. It was also called the Classical Method since it was first used in the teaching of classical languages, Latin and Greek. 

The GTM embraces a wide range of approaches but, broadly speaking, teaching the target language is seen as a mental discipline even though it is often claimed that the goal of the language teaching is to be able to read literature in its original form.  With regard to the nature of language and language learning, GTM has different points of view from modern methods. The following are assumptions about language and language learning that the GTM embraces:

1.    Through the GTM language is believed to consist of written words and of words which exist in isolation; they are individual words which can be translated one by one into their foreign equivalents and then assessed according to grammatical rules into sentences in the foreign language. Vocabulary in the target language is learned through direct translation from the mother tongue. Readings in the target language are translated directly and then discussed in the native language.
2.    In language teaching what should be taught is not the language itself but the faculty of logical thought and provided valuable mental discipline. This is often criticized because IQ of average school children is not high enough to cope with this method. Through this method leaching the target language relies very much on cognitive ability.
3.    The medium of instruction is the mother tongue, which is used to explain conceptual problems and to discuss the use of particular grammatical structure. Using the mother tongue for the purpose of instruction is believed to give language learners a set of clear objectives and a clear sense of achievement. Language learners also need sense of security and the use of the mother tongue provides the security since the language learners can easily understand most of the instruction.   
4.    Learning a foreign language needs feeling secure and this condition may take place whenever language learners know how to say in the target language. This assumption may suggest that grammar teaching is needed in order that learners know how words are arranged to express their ideas. In a situation where English is learned as a foreign language students often do not feel secure when they are not sure whether what they express is right or not.

A fundamental purpose of teaching the target language through the GTM is to be able to read literature written in the target language. This purpose can be reached by learning about the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language. It is also believed that studying a foreign language provides students with good mental exercise which helps develop students' minds.

Principally, the GTM focuses on translating grammatical forms, memorizing vocabulary, learning rules, and studying conjugations.  Even though the method may be considered more as a technique rather a method, to follow Anthony's terms, in the sense that the method is not an overall plan of language teaching, the method also has principles regarding to language teaching. The principles of the GTM are these:
1.    Grammar rules are presented and studied explicitly. Grammar is taught deductively and then practiced through translation exercises.
2.    The primary skills to be developed are reading and writing.
3.    Hardly any attention is paid to speaking and listening skills.
4.    Teacher correction is the only way to make students produce the right forms of the foreign language.
5.    The goal of foreign language learning is the ability to understand the texts written in the foreign language.
6.    Mastering the grammar of the foreign language is essential in order for students to understand the written target language.
7.    Vocabulary is learnt from bilingual word lists.
8.    The mother tongue is used as the medium of instruction.
9.    A paramount use of translation exercises is given.

The procedure of teaching English is simply a combination of activities of teaching grammar and translation. The teaching begins with English rules, isolated vocabulary items, paradigms and translation.  The teacher explains the rules in students' first language and then simple words are put into slots of grammatical rules. The grammar rules are memorized as units. The teacher provides the class with other words and the translation. The students, then, practice using the rules by using the words provided. The students are expected to be conscious of the grammatical rules of the target language. The texts to translate are usually easy classics; this type of texts is used to have students practice understanding the literature in the target language. The students should memorize lists of words.

Language materials are arranged based on grammar of English. Usually, the sequence of the teaching materials is based on the easiness of the rules. Its grammatical syllabus is graded from the easy grammatical rules to more difficult ones. Very little teaching is done in the target language. Even though reading texts are written in the target language and translated directly into the mother tongue, the discussion is conducted in the mother tongue. Vocabulary in the target language is learned through direct translation from the native language.

Language learners are not expected to be able to use the target language for communication. No class time is allocated to allow language learners to produce their own sentences and little time is spent on oral practice. The emphasis on achieving correct grammar with little regard for the free application and production of speech is the greatest weakness of this method. The way of teaching also affects the way of evaluating students' learning. Evaluating or testing of the learners is done almost exclusively through translation. Or, language learners are prepared to have a grammar test only.      

Even though many new methods have been introduced to this day, the GTM remains a standard methodology for teaching English for some teachers.   Prator and Murcia (cited in Brown, 1987: 75) list the major characteristics of the GTM, as follows:

1.    Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the target language.
2.    Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words.
3.    Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given.  
4.    Grammar provides the rules for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.
5.    Reading of difficult classical texts is begun early.
6.    Little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis.
7.    Often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue.
8.    Little or no attention is given to pronunciation.
9.    The focus is on accuracy, and not fluency.

The characteristics mentioned above are not a set of procedures of the GTM. Language teachers may develop their own procedures as long as they are in accordance with the characteristics of the GTM. The following procedure of teaching the target language through the GTM is adapted from Larsen-Freeman (2000: 15-17).
1.    The class reads a text written in the target language.
2.    Students translate the passage from the target language to their mother tongue.
3.    The teacher asks students in their native language if they have any questions, students ask questions and the teacher answers the questions in their native language.
4.    Students write out the answers to reading comprehension questions.
5.    Students translate new words from the target language to their mother tongue.
6.    Students are given a grammar rule and based on the example they apply the rule by using the new words.
7.    Students memorize vocabulary.
8.    The teacher asks students to state the grammar rule.
9.    Students memorize the rule.
10. Errors are corrected by providing the right answers.

Example of lesson planning of the GTM:
Selected Lesson Plan: Simple Present Tense

The teacher introduces the formula of Simple Present Tense and explains (in Indonesian) the usage as well as the importance of Simple Present Tense. The teacher points out differences to Indonesian language.

Formula: Subject (noun)+ Predicate (Verb1st) + Object (noun)

The teacher provides the examples and their translation as well. Or, depending on the level of comprehension, he/she either calls randomly to have students translate the sentences or give them time to work quietly writing out the translations. He/she has to make sure that the students' answers are correct.

I love her (saya mencintai dia).
You watch football every day (kamu menonton sepak bola setiap hari).
We study English (kita belajar bahasa Inggris).                                                

The teacher explains (again in Indonesian) to students the change of the verb of the predicate. If the subject is she, he or it, the verb is added with s, es or ies, depending on the verb. The teacher gives examples of verbs that can be added with s, es and ies.       

He loves rice (dia senang nasi). The verb is added with s.
He watches football everyday (dia menonton sepak bola setiap hari). The verb is added with es.
She studies English every night (ia belajar Bahasa Inggris setiap malam). The verb is added with ies.

The teacher gives an exercise that is related to the change of the verbs. Students should fill in the blanks with the appropriate forms. If necessary, he/she lets students work individually or in pairs to complete the exercise first. He/she walks around and observes the students. He/she answers questions and provides corrections where needed. Again, discussion is conducted in the mother tongue.

1.    The baby …(cry) every night.
2.    My mother …(cook) rice very well.
3.    The students …(study) mathematics.
4.    My father …(laugh) very happily.
5.    We …(live) in Indonesia.

Then, he/she introduces a list of vocabulary and the equivalent translation in order that the students can practice making sentences in simple present tense. This may be done by introducing a matrix as follows.

Kata ganti (untuk subyek)                                     Kata ganti (untuk obyek)
Dia (laki-laki)
dia (laki-laki)
Dia (perempuan)
dia (perempuan)
Benda (tunggal)
benda (tunggal)

Kata kerja  transitif                                             Kata kerja  intransitif
Sit down
Stand up
Terjemahkan kalimat-kalimat di bawah ini ke dalam Bahasa Inggris!
1.    Mereka membenci kita.
2.    Kita makan setiap hari.
3.    Dia tertawa dan kamu menangis
4.    Saya suka Bahasa Inggris.
5.    Kita tidur setiap malam.
6.    Mereka duduk tetapi kita berdiri.
7.    Kita makan nasi setiap hari.
8.    Kamu tersenyum dan saya tertawa.
9.    Mereka suka nasi tetapi saya suka roti.
10. Kita berjalan setiap hari.

The teacher may have students translate sentences from English to Indonesian. This exercise is then continued by introducing a simple reading passage for translation.  No class time is allocated to allow students to produce their own sentences, and even less time is spent on oral practice. The reading is sometimes used to communicate the culture of the target language.
Even though the GTM is regarded an old method, the method is still widely used in Indonesia, particularly, at schools in rural places. Some English teachers still like to teach English through the GTM. It seems that they prefer to use the method to other well-developed methods because it is easier to present language materials in classroom and to evaluate the process of language teaching. Classroom management is also not a problem since language teachers can teach English to a class of 40 students sitting in rows.

Language learning is evaluated by giving items of grammatical units to the class and scores are based on right answers of the test. Many teachers believe that their teaching should be test oriented; they expect that their students will do their best in a test, which is sometimes grammar oriented. This is understandable since many standardized tests of languages still do not tap into communicative abilities so students have little motivation to go beyond grammar analogies, translation and rote learning (Brown, 1987: 75).

The reason why the method is still widely practiced is that through the method teachers with a little English proficiency can teach the language. Fluency in English is not required to language teachers since through the GTM the teachers teach English in students' first language. English is taught as knowledge like other subjects of the school. Since the method emphasizes on grammar rather and translation, students are not expected to use the language as means of communication. Translation is taught to accompany the grammar of English.

It can also be argued that without knowledge of grammatical basis of the target language learners are in possession of nothing more than a selection of communicative phrases which are perfectly adequate for basic communication but which will be found wanting when they are required to perform any kind of sophisticated linguistic task (Macmillan, 2002). The combination of the principles of the GTM and the principles of the Communicative Approach, which will be discussed in chapter 8, will be the perfect combination. On one hand language learners are encouraged to learn to communicate in the target language and, on the other, they also acquire a sound and accurate basis in the grammar of the target language. This combination may be closely related to the concept of the weak version of communicative approach (Howart in Richards and Rodgers, 2000: 155), which stresses the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use their English for communicative purposes and attempt such activities arranged in a structural syllabus. The structural syllabus does not necessarily mean that the language learning is grammar oriented but the syllabus only tells us how the learning materials are arranged.

By emphasizing the accuracy and then continuing on the fluency of using English, the combination of the GTM and the weak version of the communicative approach is likely to be a solution to the problem of learning English as a foreign language in Indonesia. Indonesian learners of English still need the mastery of the English grammar in order for them to feel secure in using English for communication. The fluency building can be emphasized after the students have been provided with enough practice of mastering the English grammar for the purpose of accuracy. The typical procedure of the GTM addressed earlier can be continued with the activity that emphasizes the use of English communicatively. The activity for emphasizing the fluency after the students have learned the pattern of simple present tense may be done by working in-groups or in pairs. The teacher may ask the students to take turns talking about their daily activities. The following instruction may be used to build the fluency of the target language.

Get into groups of two. Tell your partner what you do everyday and make up questions to ask your partner. Ask questions using the cues below.
1.    To get up at …
2.    To eat … for breakfast
3.    To have breakfast at…
4.    To go to school by …
5.    To arrive home from school at …
6.    etc.

Even though the GTM is often considered as an "old-fashioned method", it is claimed that the GTM has had a remarkable success (Macmillan: 2002). Millions people have successfully learnt foreign languages to a high degree of proficiency and, in numerous cases, without contact with native speakers of the target language. This success might have been the role of the combination of the GTM and the weak version of the communicative approach. The GTM can give learners a basic foundation upon which language learners can then build their communicative skills through the communicative approach. The GTM may function as a method which encourages the accuracy of the target language while the communicative approach emphasizes the fluency of the target language, which has been learned through the GTM.

As its name suggests, the major characteristic of the GTM is a focus on learning the rules of grammar and their application in translation passages from one language into the other.   The GTM is simply a combination of the Grammar Method and the Translation Method. The main principles of the method are as follows: The grammar taught is formal grammar. Vocabulary in the target language is learned through direct translation from the native language. The vocabulary depends on the texts selected. The teaching begins with rules, isolated vocabulary items, paradigms and translation. Easy classics are then translated. Vocabulary is divided into lists of words. The words are to be memorized. Pronunciation is not taught. Grammar rules are also memorized as units and illustrative sentences are often provided.

Fluency in English is not very required to language teachers since through the GTM the teachers teach English in students' first language. English is taught as knowledge like other subjects of the school. Consequently, language learning is evaluated by giving items of grammatical units to the class and scores are based on right answers of the test. Language learners are often prepared to have a grammar test only. Testing of the learners may be done through translation, either form the target language to their mother tongue or vice versa.

The GTM has produced generations of students who can master the grammar of the target language, yet can not engage in simple conversations. Even though the method is believed to be ineffective to teach the target language communicatively, the method is still in use in some parts of Indonesia. It is believed that the method can develop students' writing skill. For students who respond well to rules, structures, and error correction, the GTM can provide a challenging learning process but for those students who do not respond well to such a learning process, the language class taught through this method may be boring.   However, combining the principles of the GTM with the Communicative Approach may well be the perfect combination for many language learners. They will learn to communicate in the target language and also acquire a sound and accurate basis in the grammar of the target language.

2 komentar:

  1. Pak, referensi dari assumption about language and language learning boleh tau gk?
    thank's :)

  2. I thought haven’t read such distinctive material anywhere else on-line.Grammarly