Friday, September 17, 2010

Language Method Evolution

In the past few days I have begun teacher training provided by NELTA - the Nepal English Language Teacher's Association. We were given a very interesting overview of the history of English language education methods in Nepal - which can be broken down to a focus on grammar-translation, followed by oral-structural-situational in the 1970s and then a communicative approach in the 1990s.

At the same time I've been reading On the Mortality of Language Learning Methods by Wilfried Decoo (from a recent post on Language Log), which wonderfully summarizes the history of language education in the past 200 years or so and explains why language teaching seems beset by quick revolutions in methodology that do not provide substantial increases in learning ability.

Additionally, Decoo examines the relationship between language acquisition linguists, teachers, bureaucrats, and language product publishers.

I personally believe that this short article should be required reading for TEFL teachers, even if it may be controversial. Maybe some of you will disagree with me.


  1. They keep getting better! Keep up the good work Dude.


  2. When you read this "Mortality of Language Learning Methods," is it ultimately depressing? I would find the idea that there is a certain limit to the efficacy of any new language learning method an oppressive concept. I suppose another implication of the historical turnover in learning methods is that the quality of language learning is ultimately up to the amount of work the teacher and learner invest, and not the method used. A pair-'o'-dimes for your thoughts?

  3. For my purposes it is ultimately empowering. It means that I have a lot of methods available to me, and it is up to me as a teacher to find out what is effective in the particular situation of my students in my class (also, I personally am spared from choosing between all available methods because I am semi-constrained by the techniques endorsed in the Nepali government curricula). And, as both you and the article point out, the most important aspect of language learning ability is the motivation of the student to learn the language.