Situational language teaching

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Situational language teaching relies on the structural view of language. Promoted mainly by A. S. Hornby, then "Linguistic Adviser" to the British Council, and editor of the ELT Journal, the method was influenced by the ideas of the British linguists Firth and Halliday and their concern with naturally occurring language in actual contexts of use. It led UK-based EFL teaching until the advent of communicative language teaching in the 1970s.[1]

The method aims to ensure a practical command of the four basic skills of a language, through structure, accuracy in both pronunciation and grammar, ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations and an automatic control of basic structures and sentence patterns.

Key elements are "vocabulary control" and “grammar control”. The first of these was the outcome of research showing that many languages have a core basic vocabulary of about 2,000 words that occur frequently in written texts. Teachers such as Palmer and Hornby assumed that mastery of this core vocabulary would greatly aid learners’ reading comprehension. The second element emphasises the sentence patterns most commonly found in speech.

The teaching methods used by followers of this method are similar to the question-answer techniques of the Direct Method, though applying a more systematic approach to the selection of vocabulary and grammar. It shares with the audio-lingual method great emphasis on accuracy and avoidance of repeated errors, and also values drilling, though in a context of situation. More attention is given to procedures that move from controlled to freer practice of structures than with the audio-lingual method.

The advantages and disadvantages of the method are very similar to those of the audio-lingual method, which is unsurprising as both methods were influenced by structural-behavioural theories.

Many teachers agreed intuitively with the method's strong emphasis on oral practice, grammar and sentence patterns, and the approach influenced many teaching materials from the 1940s into the 1960s and beyond. It is still used by teachers in countries where foreign language syllabi are based largely around structures.

References[edit]

  1. Smith, Richard C. "The origins of ELT Journal" (click on "Read the full article on The origins of ELT Journal")

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