What is the direct method of language teaching? At first glance it may seem like a very simple and intuitive teaching method, since it consists of a course in which only the target language is used. But the direct method must be accompanied by appropriate techniques and tools.
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The direct method is a set of foreign language teaching techniques based on the centrality of the spoken language. The mantra of the direct method is "demonstrate, don't translate".
In the direct method, the teacher must transfer meanings directly in the target language through demonstrations and visual aids. In other words, this method involves teaching a foreign language without translations and grammar studying. The latter is learned through induction: from particular situations the learner draws general rules about the target language.
It is identified as a direct method because students are immersed in the learning environment without filters, precisely, directly.
In the 1880s a movement to reform modern language teaching took hold mainly in Germany and Scandinavia. This movement was called the Direct Method and was a response to the Grammar Translation Method.
Soon the direct method spread to the rest of Europe and the United States.
Among the early adopters in the USA was German linguist Maximilian Berlitz (1852-1921). He became convinced of the effectiveness of this method when he fell ill and was forced to entrust French teaching to one of his assistants who did not speak a word of English. Returning to the classroom a few weeks later, he found that students were conversing semi-fluently in French.
The main objective is to teach how to use a foreign language to communicate. This is achieved by immersing the student in a "natural" learning environment, which simulates the environment in which a language is learned by native speakers.
The key features of the direct method are
Do these features make the direct method an effective method for language learning?
As you can easily imagine, the direct method is great for learning how to handle ordinary situations quickly. In the classroom you concentrate in everyday language, and therefore your students should be able to interact in the new language in no time.
The direct method promotes learning naturally, encourages learners to think in the foreign language already as they learn, and their pronunciation improves quickly.
The weakness of the direct method is its starting assumption: that a foreign language can be learned as one learns the first one. The conditions in which we find ourselves when learning a foreign language are in fact very different. The monolingual classroom can be problematic for learners who know little or nothing of the new language.
This is not to say that the direct method is not effective, but that to master it as a language teacher, one must be aware of the pros and cons.
Direct method is suitable for: small classes, developing comprehension and pronunciation, developing speaking and listening skills, teaching concepts that can be taught with visual aids.
Translation method is suitable for: large classes, low-level students, teaching complicated concepts, comparing language structures between target language and native language.
Common direct method techniques are: question-answer exercises, dictation, example proliferation, listening activities, oral exercises and tasks (reading aloud, speaking practice), student self-correction.
A general technique to be employed in any language teaching method (but even more important in the direct method) is the creation of a non-threatening environment in which students feel safe and stimulated to learn.
Creating a direct method course can be complicated, especially if learners are not physically in the classroom. In this type of teaching, learners' attention must be constantly stimulated, and the teacher traditionally has a very active role conducting the lesson, which must be carefully planned.
To create a direct method language course, you have to apply the relevant techniques by adapting them to the needs of learners.
Although it is quite challenging, the direct method can give a lot of satisfaction to both teachers and learners.
How to easily integrate the direct method within your course? One way is to use our artificial intelligence-based language course generation system.
Within our platform, in fact, we have included a list of activities developed around the direct method such as:
By choosing one of these activities during the lesson creation, you can make an interactive, gamified experience for your students.
Knowing the direct method thoroughly can help you implement it effectively in your courses.
The other names of the direct method are the natural method and conversational method. These different ways of defining it all highlight a different aspect of this method, which can take on different nuances depending on the teacher's style. In any case, they all emphasize the profound difference with the indirect method and the Translation method.
In the direct method, teachers and learners are partners in the learning process. The teacher directs the class activities. He or she keeps the level of participation of all students high by asking them questions and encouraging them to self-correct when they make a mistake.
The principles of the direct method do not change from language to language. However, the characteristics of this method make it particularly effective for English teaching, a language used a great deal for oral communication.
The direct method also enables you to teach English to students whose native language you do not know.