The grammar-translation method of foreign language teaching is one of the most traditional methods, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies. It was originally used to teach 'dead' languages (and literatures) such as Latin and Greek, and this may account for its heavy bias towards written work to the virtual exclusion of oralproduction. As Omaggio comments, this approach reflected "the view of faculty psychologists that mental discipline was essential for strengthening the powers of the mind." (Omaggio 89) Indeed, the emphasis onachieving 'correct' grammar with little regard for the free application and production of speech is at once the greatest asset and greatest drawback to this approach.
The major characteristic of thegrammar-translation method is, precisely as its name suggests, a focus on learning the rules of grammar and their application in translation passages from one language into the other. Vocabulary inthe target language is learned through direct translation from the native language, e.g. with vocabulary tests such as:
the house = das Haus
the mouse = die Maus
Very little teaching is done inthe target language. Instead, readings in the target language are translated directly and then discussed in the native language, often precipitating in-depth comparisons of the two languagesthemselves. Grammar is taught with extensive explanations in the native language, and only later applied in the production of sentences through translation from one language to the other, e.g.
Do you havemy book? = Hast du mein Buch?
Ich weiß nicht, wo dein Buch ist. = I don't know where your book is.
As Omaggio describes is, testing of the students is done almost exclusively through translation:"students had learned the language well if they could translate the passages well." (Omaggio 90)
Obviously, there are many drawbacks to the grammar-translation approach. Virtually no class time is...