Alternative English Teaching Methodologies

Manila Bulletin, June 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

Alternative English Teaching Methodologies


Over the last six to seven decades, a wide range of approaches to teaching English to speakers of other languages have evolved.

This week, six additional and different methods are briefly considered.

* LEXICAL APPROACH contends that the knowledge of words and phrases is a far better foundation to build a new language than learning grammatical structure.

Emphasis is given to the studies of lexemes, the fundamental units of English. Learners are taught how an English word can sometimes represent one or more than one lexeme, e.g. oxygen = one lexeme (one meaning, one use - a colourless, odourless gas); bank = more than one lexeme, e.g. a bank of computers; an investment bank; the bank of a river, etc.

* NOTIONAL-FUNCTIONAL APPROACH focuses on notions, i.e. time, place, cost, person, quantity, emotional attitudes, beliefs - and emphasizes the use of language for a specific function, i.e. asking, questioning, enquiring, describing, applauding, criticizing, requesting, explaining, etc.

This approach is common in basic conversational language courses and publications where everyday, notional words and functional sentences are used, e.g. What time is it? Is this the train to Paris? My name is Maurtia.

* DIRECT APPROACH places its teaching focus on speech with a major emphasis on phonetics for pronunciation proficiency. Using the principles of visualization, association and learning through the senses, the Direct Approach teaches with pictures, activity and play in a similar way that a child learns their native language.

Grammar is learned by practice rather than by rules or precepts to develop natural, automatic responses. While the Direct Approach advocates that teaching be conducted by a native speaker, it contends that the mother tongue should be avoided in the learning situation as much as possible.

* PHONIC APPROACH teaches the relationship between particular sounds and symbols (letters) or symbol combinations (clusters). A characteristic of the English language is that symbols and symbol combinations can often make more than one sound just as different symbols and symbol combinations can make the same sound, e.g., the sound k- can be made by "c", "k". "q" and "ck".

Phonics is widely used for teaching how to decode written words for pronunciation purposes and spoken words for spelling and writing purposes. While different phonics methods vary in what they teach, their commonality is their teaching how the sounds and symbols of sub-parts of words are connected to form spoken and written words.

The 4S Approach To Literacy And Language is also a phonic-based, teaching methodology but is one that goes to greater heights in imparting literacy and language-related skills. …

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