Learning is largely by translation to and from the target language. Grammar rules are to be memorized and long lists of vocabulary learned by heart. There is little or no emphasis placed on developing oral ability. The grammar–translation method originated from the practice of teaching Latin. In the early 1500s, Latin was the most widely-studied foreign language due to its prominence in government, academia, and business. However, during the course of the century the use of Latin dwindled, and it was gradually replaced by English, French, and Italian. After the decline of Latin, the purpose of learning it in schools changed. Whereas previously students had learned Latin for the purpose of communication, it came to be learned as a purely academic subject.
In this method the teaching is done entirely in the target language. The learner is not allowed to use his or her mother tongue. Grammar rules are avoided and there is emphasis on good pronunciation.
The direct method of teaching, which is sometimes called the natural method, and is often (but not exclusively) used in teaching foreign languages, refrains from using the learners’ native language and uses only the target language. It was established in Germany and France around 1900 and contrasts with the grammar–translation method and other traditional approaches, as well as with C.J.Dodson’s bilingual method. It was adopted by key international language schools such as Berlitz and Inlingua in the 1970s and many of the language departments of the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department in 2012.
In general, teaching focuses on the development of oral skills. Characteristic features of the direct method are:
- teaching concepts and vocabulary through pantomiming, real-life objects and other visual materials
- teaching grammar by using an inductive approach (i.e. having learners find out rules through the presentation of adequate linguistic forms in the target language)
- centrality of spoken language (including a native-like pronunciation)
- focus on question-answer patterns