The primary goal of all language learning methodology literature is to help teachers become better at what they do. Better teachers help students learn a second language more efficiently (faster and easier) and more effectively (they do it better) while assuring that the learning process is a pleasant experience (they like learning). Methodology refers to the practices and procedures used in teaching, which are generally based on theories of learning and an understanding of the nature of language. Teachers just want to know what works. Unfortunately, things are never as simple as they appear, and the best attempts at providing guidance have resulted in an excessive wealth of materials, all supported by research as promoting “the best” in curriculum and instructional design. And although some authors insist they are providing a “more empirical footing” for the field (Nunan, 1998, p. 15), that empirical footing comfortably supports many approaches and methods.
It is not enough to provide a menu of alternatives. Successful language learning is measured in a variety of ways and includes mastering skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, pronunciation, vocabulary acquisition, and grammar usage. Each of these skills relies on potentially different cognitive skills which may warrant different teaching approaches or methodologies. On another level, language learning methodology is connected to general principles of learning, and there is no strict consensus on precisely how learning occurs or even what constitutes knowledge (Rowland, 1999, p. 5). To further complicate matters, methodologies are connected to philosophical perspectives that may focus on the learner, the teacher, the nature of language, the nature of learning, or a combination of these. Beyond this, research is embedded in historical trends and cultural influences that affect research design and the interpretation of results. The complex nature of language forces us to consider and apply developments from related fields of inquiry, including the biochemical processes of the brain, motivation theory, the nature of perception and reality, culture and meaning, systems theory, and evolution. So while we attempt to develop the specialized area of linguistic research and apply what we can glean from qualitative and quantitative studies, we must recognize the dynamic web of interdependent disciplines which inform us and influence our search for teaching methodologies.
We need an improved methodology which can address the diversity of learners and transfer knowledge regardless of the particular linguistic skill being taught. It must be consistent with developments in related fields of inquiry and promote a comprehensive language learning philosophy, one that supports language learners in all environments. Given the complexity of interacting considerations and impacting factors, is it possible to provide such a tool for thinking about and teaching language? This paper purports to provide just such a new perspective, which we call Range. Although used herein in a broader context and with a slightly expanded meaning, the term itself as well as its primacy in language learning was consistently referred to by Rod Ellis, whose studies focused on vocabulary acquisition and the understanding of word meanings. Despite the fact that current language learning assumes the necessity of interaction and an appreciation for the “communicative” approach, Ellis tells us that “one of the conclusions based on research reported in previous chapters is that learners do not need to engage in social interaction in order to acquire the L2; they can benefit equally, and perhaps in some cases, to a greater extent by simply attending to non-interactive input.” (Ellis, 248). If interaction is not the primary impetus for language learning and the development of meaning, what is? We propose that the key to language learning is Range, whose definition (in vocabulary acquisition) was proposed by Mackey as “the number of samples or texts in which an item is to be found.” (Ellis 182). The notion that Range is the principal force behind learning vocabulary is repeatedly reinforced and evidenced in research study after research study. In some studies Ellis notes that both in ‘premodified and interactionally modified groups’ the measure of “range” was significantly related (positively) to acquisition scores. (104) And again, “As might be expected, Range figures as a significant predictor in a number of analyses, often in conjunction with Frequency” (111) Although we already know that repetition (frequency) plays a critical role in language learning, Range outdistances even Frequency. In summing up, Ellis states related to the characteristics of input and interaction that were associated with incidental acquisition of word meaning: “Only one factor – Range – figured in significant correlations with vocabulary acquisitions by both premodified and interactionally modified input groups. Hearing words used in a variety of different contexts aids their acquisition. Interestingly, Range emerges as a more important factor than word frequency” (108) And again, “Range was also a strong predictor of follow-up test scores.” (105) Ellis concludes with the following statement: “The most important factor contributing positively to the acquisition of word meaning was Range.” (112). The question that needs to be addressed is why this is so. Ellis provides a hint to the answer when he says, “”I have suggested that researchers adopt a broader view of interaction such as that afforded by sociocultural theory. From this perspective, the key construct is that of scaffolding”…. (251) We shall expand on this point and address the connection between Range and scaffolding further on. For now, suffice to say that Range as we use it refers to the diversity (or variety) of presentations provided which contain the item to be learned. Presentations can be types of sentences when we refer to vocabulary, or types of media when promoting the same discrete learning outcome, or types of activities used to develop a skill. It is the VARIETY or DIVERSITY of presentations that maximizes target item learning efficiency, effectiveness, and maintains learner interest. Range will allow for maximizing “comprehensible input” for the greatest variety of learners in any given learning environment.
The basic and rather simple proposal of this paper is that Range is to language learning as complexity is to systems and evolution. It is where “learning” occurs. The concept of Range can be applied at any level, it can direct specific activities in a particular learning mode such as reading or writing, it can direct the choice and variety of instructional methods such as group work versus teacher “input”, and it can direct the choice and variety of media such as computer based multimedia and paper and pencil exercises. This paper will take the reader through a path of understanding based on current models and theories in the related fields of evolution, neural networks, computer dynamics, information systems, learning, and motivation. It will connect Range to traditional and current methodologies in language learning, and to the critical commonalities in language learning (age, the affective domain, L1, metacognition, repetition, and multiple intelligences). On the practical side, it will provide examples of how Range can be implemented in addressing each skill (reading, writing, etc…). Hopefully, with an understanding of Range, teachers will be able to better appreciate and draw upon the potpourri of possibilities offered by the research and theories in applied linguistics, while feeling more empowered than ever before to engage in situational decision making (action research) regarding what they choose to do within their classrooms.
Review of Methodologies
A brief overview of the history and definition of Language Learning Methodology is warranted. Today’s focus on the learner has changed the officially promoted title of the field from Language Teaching to Language Learning, but both express concerns about how teachers influence language learning (acquisition) and both are part of applied linguistics. A few statements are in order before we begin with the most often cited and reviewed methodologies. When we review a current field of specialization (methodology), we use the lens of today’s perspective, current technical terms (buzzwords), and make judgments and distinctions based on the categories of knowledge and research that have recently developed. Language teaching and learning did not begin at a particular time that we can pinpoint with accuracy. Linguistics was a word used already by Plato, despite the fact that we consider “modern linguistics” to have begun in the 17th century. Our criticisms of past practices must be made with extreme caution, and the span of generations always ends up being too wide an area to cover with justice and depth, so we grossly gloss over the varying trends that did exist. While “official” study in linguistics as a field unto itself may have begun in a particular decade, practitioners in various countries and from antiquity may have initiated and used many of the methods we consider “modern” and new. Even our newest focuses, be they “communicative”, “learner-centered”, or “postmodern”, are NOT new. All that we have done is created new systems to categorize different approaches based on newly created “fields of study”. There really is “nothing new under the sun” beyond our classifying and re-ordering things into “models”. Language teaching in antiquity had its own heroes, many of whom used the same “methods” based on the same underlying “ideas” we consider “modern approaches.” Some had common sense or intuition, and some perhaps had experience on which to base their efforts. What they did not have, and what most of our current researchers write about is “officially sanctified” approaches based on “scientific theories”. These theories belong to the realm of “formal linguistics”, where the structure and process of language is studied. But as we move into the future, we see that our most scientific theories, and the scientific approach itself, is in question. As we continue to borrow from the many fields of study we have arbitrarily created, we see signs of the growing “complex” web of interactions among them, all of which point to an underlying deeper unity. Leonardo da Vinci was a generalist, in more recent history we have promoted specialists in narrow academic fields. It may take the reintegration of those many specialized fields of study to re-express what was known by some (like da Vinci) before we segmented knowledge into fields of specialty. The growth of the internet and the exponential growth of interaction among researchers is leading us back to knowledge that has been presented to us for ages, albeit not under the guise of an academically sanctioned theory. Information, knowledge and understanding evolve no less than biological systems over time, and they do so in a complex spiraling growth pattern which is reflected in the Fibonacci series and fractals. We will simply rediscover (as we have done in physics) that the powerful oak tree truly exists within the seed. To return to the ensuing historical accounts, note that there is no “true” beginning point, that each methodology in use overlaps with the one before and the one after, and that the methodologies we use today are mostly reinterpretations of earlier methods. Methodologies today are essentially borrowed from the past with new labels and an expanding scope of application. This is important to know because an understanding of Range and Complexity will allow us to borrow with freedom and license, and support theoretical study as well as teacher pragmatism.
Most historical accounts of LL Methodology begin with a look at the Grammar-Translation Method, credited to the Germans from the mid 1800’s through the mid 1900’s. In those years, education was primarily geared toward the upper classes, who studied classical languages such as Latin and Greek, and focused on reading literature (Richards & Rodgers, p. 3) Since these languages were not in common use, students studied grammar rules and vocabulary, translated texts and wrote sentences or essays in the targeted language. The end purpose of this teaching was to promote a certain mental discipline through memorization, develop analytical ability in comparing underlying rules of the L1 and L2, and contribute to what was considered part of the rigorous academic nature of a “good education”. To the degree that memorization (knowledge) forms the base of Bloom’s Taxonomy and that translation forces pattern recognition (analysis), and that such ability demonstrates some problem solving skill (application), the Grammar-Translation Method contributed to developing intellectual capacity. If the more complex behavior of synthesis requires a hierarchical approach to teaching and learning, then this approach did successfully address the first steps needed for attainment of higher order thinking skills. Given that the method was teacher oriented and relied on repetitious routines, it did not address the affective domain, or take the learner’s perceived needs into account. There are still occasions when the Grammar-Translation Method may be the most appropriate instructional technique, such as when reading is the primary goal, when there are few resources available, and when Adult Learners desire to focus on grammar rules. To the degree that this method assumes a “real” world out there, that knowledge is organized, and that learners have to recall information, it is part of the cognitivist orientation toward learning. To the degree that it focuses on grammar and rules, it belongs to the structuralist tradition pioneered by Saussure. And finally, to the degree that this method highlights the historical and comparative aspects of language it belongs within the framework of diachronic and historical linguistics, Although there are positive aspects to using this method, it fails to address individual learner differences in motivation, ability, learning style or preference. In terms of linguistics, it focuses on translation (language comparison) and grammar (language structure) rather than discourse (interaction) and communication (meaning). A few learners enjoy the challenge of successfully mastering requirements, but most recall this type of language study with distaste and their stories of success sound like the stories of survivors of war. In summary, Grammar Translation was neither efficient (it was the opposite of fast and easy), nor effective (fluency was not even the goal), nor pleasant (learning was not meant to be enjoyable).
Political realities, shifting national borders, and increased travel created the need to communicate in foreign languages around the turn of the century. This allowed for the acceptance of ideas in Language Teaching methodology which had been espoused by earlier reformers, of whom the best known was Francois Gouin. Gouin focused on naturalistic principles of language learning, namely, observing how children learn languages. (Richards & Rodgers, 9). This resulted in the development of the Natural Method, also known as the Direct Method, which was successfully applied in schools by Berlitz and Sauveur. The Direct Method was developed in opposition to the Grammar Translation Method and had already been used, but was not popular until other reformers joined in publishing and promoting a more “natural” way. Using the principles of child L1 acquisition, the Direct Method consisted of teacher directed conversation in the target language, the use of demonstration and mime, and an inductive approach to grammar learning. While this method employed effective techniques, it depended heavily on teacher fluency in the L2, demanded intense individual interaction that could not be realized in larger classrooms, and lacked a distinct connection to principles in applied linguistic theory or a sound methodological base (R&R, 11). In American society, there was less perceived need for verbal fluency than what this method promoted, and hence, within decades, this method’s popularity declined. Although communicative, the Direct Method was teacher directed and failed to take into account learner differences. It worked better for lower levels of proficiency and laid the groundwork for TPR (Total Physical Response), a still popular and effective approach to introducing vocabulary at the early L2 learning stages. To the degree that this method assumes that learners “build” their knowledge with limited explanation (translation), it adopts a constructivist approach to learning. To the degree that it focuses on language use in the “here and now”, it is synchronic although it does not belong within Saussure’s structuralist framework of linguistics. In summary, however, the Direct Method was simply not efficient (never allowing for L1 use can be counterproductive), not effective (complete fluency may require “understanding” of structures), and not necessarily pleasant (complete immersion isn’t comfortable).
Recognizing the problems with the Direct Method, British applied linguists Palmer and Hornsby developed the theoretical foundations for an offshoot of this method called the Oral Approach, alternatively known as Situational Teaching. This methodology was similar to the Direct Method in that it used speaking activity to teach language, it differed significantly, however, in that it followed a structural system which provided direction and order for teaching and learning activities. This development of “content” and structure came by means of research in linguistics which created principles for vocabulary selection and grammar acquisition via “sentence structure”. The difference between the Direct Method and the Oral Approach are not too different from those between proponents of “immersion” (total) and ESL classroom instruction. In each case the first allows for more free practice and exposure, albeit at the expense of content control, while proponents of the second believe that control and structure of content increase learning. The British structuralists promoted “situationalism” in which oral practice was linked to the situations in which such speech could be practically used. (R&R, 35). The Oral Approach already relied on components of behaviorism and viewed language learning as “habit formation”, practicing progressively more difficult sentences until enough knowledge of the L2 had been acquired to allow for freer form expressions initiated by the student. The focus on situational learning expressed an interest in the cultural context and as with the Direct Method, the Oral Approach uses an inductive approach to learning grammar. This method and variations thereof are still widely used, in part because it bridges aspects of earlier and current language teaching philosophies. Focusing on speech within given situations, this method resembles the “communicative” approach used today, and yet incorporates the practice and repetition which formed the bedrock of the audio-lingual approach. By now we can see the trends in the evolution of language learning and teaching methodologies. The pattern is repeated everywhere in evolution. Each trend (thesis) creates an opposing trend (antithesis), which highlights the trend’s deficiencies and promotes an alternative approach. A new thesis emerges, which borrows some from each trend and becomes a new trend (thesis), and is really a synthesis of what was before. These pendulum swings create new adherents of “schools of thought”, new terms, and in this oppositional method, slowly expand and “complexify” the field of research. Evolution and learning exemplify this Hegelian dialectic. Increasing complexity is driven by this dialectic, and increasing complexity (Range in LL) drives adaptation and growth (learning). Although the Oral Approach was both effective and efficient, and not unpleasant, the evolution of Methodology began to incorporate elements of research in Psychology, which focused on more efficient learning, based on behavioral aspects of conditioning.
Politics influenced the development of the Audiolingual Method. World War II created a need for Americans to develop rapid fluency in foreign languages, and the U.S. Government took it upon itself to provide funding for language research and training. These programs focused on conversation rather than reading or grammar, tenets of previous methods. Structural linguistics , using contrastive analysis to establish a syllabus, combined intensive imitation and repetition (the result of behaviorist techniques borrowed from the field psychology based on the stimulus-response nature of learning), to form the body of audiolingualist teaching methods. Contrastive analysis, promoted by Fries and Lado, looks at different languages to see which elements they have in common and which differ, in order to assess where learners will have difficulties based on transfer. Structural linguistics emphasized the oral nature of language and sought to identify sentence structure, based on phonetic, phonemic, and morphological entities of increasing sequential difficulty. (R&R, 49) In using this methodology, learners repeat simple phrases until they have been reinforced in memory, using dialogues as the basis for developing contextual, situational, and cultural understanding. The emphasis here is on proficiency, not grammar or literature, and instruction is teacher centered, not learner driven. Although, as with each earlier methodology, this method created a backlash which reasserted the cognitive versus habit-formation nature of language, it’s efficiency and effectiveness warranted its continued use in the classroom. The decline of this approach’s popularity in the late sixties was influenced by two serious criticisms. First, behaviorism and Skinner fell dramatically out of favor, in part based on fears of how his theories could be used against various ethnic groups, a lesson learned from the political realities in Europe. Secondly, this method dismissed affective learner aspects as irrelevant, guaranteeing success in learning only for the most self motivated of students. Students did not tell war stories, they simply got bored to death.
The sixties was a time of radical change in many spheres, and past practices in most fields were challenged, primarily by a new orientation in education which was learner-centered and humanistic. As language teaching and learning evolved, it became wedded to principles and practices coming from psychology. In psychology and education, the ideas of Carl Rogers, Piaget, and Vygotsky took hold; in linguistic theory, the ideas of Noam Chomsky reversed the notion of habit-formation back toward a cognitive approach. While Chomsky insisted that children have an innate ability for languages, which supports an underlying basic Universal Grammar, Piaget linked cognitive development to underlying biological development, Vygotsky focused on the social interaction aspects such as scaffolding, and Carl Rogers promoted the underlying self-worth of the learner (humanism) These authors, along with Dewey and Bruner, form the foundation of constructivism in education. Communicative Language Teaching incorporates, therefore, a focus on meaning and the learner’s interests and abilities, rather than just focusing on language in abstract or the teacher’s role as instructor. It was not the product of one specific reformer, but the result of influences by researchers in different countries and fields, including British functional linguists Firth, Halliday, and Wilkins, American sociolinguists Hymes, Gumperz, and Lamperz, and philosophers Austin and Searle. (R&R, 64-65) It highlights the functional, interactional nature of language, and the learner’s desire for meaning in communication. The syllabus is of central concern in this methodology, and a variety of language theories are compatible with it, which include both cognitive and behavioral aspects. (R&R, 73) The focus of this methodology is creating “communicative competence”, and while practice involves repetition and imitation, it takes place within the context of natural interaction, and includes both structural and functional aspects of language. Communicative Language Teaching is more of an approach to teaching than a strict methodology and embraces habit formation, grammar instruction, and translation, all under the umbrella of developing communication ability. The orientation toward communication and the emphasis on the learner’s desire for “meaning” sets this method up to be a more pleasant means of acquiring language fluency, since it relies on learner motivation and attempts to create environments where learners will be motivated by their desire to understand and to be understood. Communicative Language Teaching empowers the learner, promotes social interaction, and moves the teacher into a facilitator role.
The historical evolution of methodologies (dialectic), coupled with new developments in other fields, is now noticeably creating an ever widening array of acceptable activities for classroom instruction. Thus the co-evolution of systems of inquiry (fields of knowledge) is creating a growing complexity in the structure and design of language education. This development, while creating a wider net of possible solutions and strategies, does not lend itself as well to the analysis and control traditionally advocated by a strict science. Becoming more inclusive in theory results in a loss of precision. Recognizing that learning involves the whole body and not just the brain, and that communication is expressed through and reinforced by the body’s expressions led the way for the reintegration of body and mind in the work of James Asher, the psychologist who introduced Total Physical Response. This methodology traces its roots back to teaching procedures espoused as early as 1925 by Harold and Dorothy Palmer. (R&R, 87) Although rooted in theories of comprehension and affective factors in learning, and supported by language theorists such as Krashen, it fails to include some levels of language learning and has an inadequate base in the theory of language. If methodology is in some sense a broader or more inclusive term than technique, then TPR is more of a technique than a strict methodology and works best with learners at the early stages of Second Language acquisition. Its premise is that the learning of a second language is similar to that of learning the first language, that comprehension precedes usage, and that learner stress should be minimized, particularly in the early stages of language learning. Although considering affective factors, it is teacher directed and makes use of habit formation, the underlying principle of the audiolingual method. It supports Vygotsky’s scaffolding strategy by creating support for the learner through feedback and prompting by the teacher. TPR assumes a a nativist stance in that it presupposes a natural or innate language learning ability. Learners carry out simple commands, repeat and imitate teacher initiated words, sentences, and actions. The focus, based on child language learning, is on learning through listening, then imitating, then initiating original expressions. The end goal is developing speaking skills, and grammar is taught inductively. It is constructive in that it assumes the teacher merely sets the stage for learning, “natural” both because it is based on the way an infant learns language and because it allows language to develop at the learner’s pace. In reality, TPR is mostly a valid set of teaching practices that effectively supplements rather than replaces any other methodology. As we have seen with each preceding methodology, TPR reinvents and expands upon earlier theories, while incorporating aspects of other methodologies. TPR is effective and efficient for early language learning, but much less so as skill increases. While it purports to minimize affective filters, this is more true for kinesthetic learners than any other learning style. Although TPR belongs to the “nativist” family and the “natural approach” to language learning (innate bio-program much like the LAD), it uses primarily behaviorist (stimulus-response) teaching pedagogy to stimulate comprehension.
The Silent Way was developed by Caleb Gattegno, who insisted it was not a method, but simply a common sense approach to learning. His background was originally in mathematics, and his method of teaching focused on learner self-discovery. As a scientist, Gattegno embraced evolution and as a philosopher, he explored spiritual truths in Eastern traditions. His own desire to learn and to teach others how to learn formed the underlying philosophy of this “non-method”. Just as the borders between science and spirituality began overlapping in second half of this century, the synthesis of these opposing realms began expressing itself in an ever increasing and unapologetic manner in language teaching methodology. The Silent Way included principles from structural linguistics, going from easier to more difficult sequences and sentence structures. It assumed that learners must address learning language in the same open, self-discovering, and self-directed manner they learned as a child. This method minimized the directive role of the teacher, maximized learner enjoyment and responsibility, and assumed that evolution in learning is a natural and ongoing process which simply needs to be encouraged through the acceptance of the learner’s desire for self-fulfillment through self-awareness, which leads to discovery and growth. As with evolution, the learner is provided with a variety of tools to address levels of sensory input, including visual, oral, and physical stimuli. The study of linguistics now imported ideas from physics and mathematics, and these disciplines will continue to increasingly affect teaching and learning methodologies. Originally a physicist and influenced by the works of many who were seeing connections between discoveries in physics and theology, Gattegno emphasized the inner transformation that occurs in learning, and placed a high priority on involving learners in the process and in an awareness of the process rather than focusing on outcomes. He believed that the inner self already has the knowledge of how to learn language since it had done it once before in learning the first language, and that by allowing learners to become aware of the natural process they once employed, they would apply the same knowledge to learning a new language. It incorporates aspects of complexity, introducing materials on various levels, ie. written and oral, and emphasizes the sound (melody) of language. It introduces the most functional vocabulary first (color coded and on a chart), so learners may begin exploring usage quickly to communicate. In this sense, the method is, at least initially, very controlled in terms of activity and materials, which include colored wooden rods and word charts. The teacher is guided by what the student needs to learn, which is prescribed by the student. Correction is indirect via feedback on the nature of the language and the area of the error, grammar is learned inductively, and practice provides for the internalization (automaticity) of what has been learned. The Silent Way is more of an approach based on a philosophy which places learning above teaching, than a method, if method allows for no contradiction and must be procedural. Its goal is to develop an increasing awareness within the learner of their own learning processes and inner knowledge, by using very distinct tools that minimize the teacher’s need to explain and “teach”, while relying on the learner’s problem solving skills and natural drive to learn (evolve).
The cycle of evolution in research and the increasing overlapping and complexification of fields of study led to Community Language Learning, whose founder, Fr. Charles Curran, came from the field of psychology. This method is humanistic in approach, recognizing the interactive nature of learning, and the primacy of the learner. It borrows from previous methodologies which concern themselves with the “whole person” (The Silent Way), and derives its underlying philosophy from the work of Carl Rogers, who developed client-centered therapy and was influenced both by his early training in theology and by John Dewey. Community Language Learning promotes group interaction, which became popular as a means of therapy in the 70’s and 80’s, and rests on ideas about learner’s “self-actualization“, a term initially promoted by Abraham Maslow and Erich Fromm, and embraced by Rogers. The teacher is now more than just a facilitator, he/she is a counselor, purposely working on diminishing learners’ fears and expressing understanding and concern, while allowing the learner to discover solutions to problems. It assumes that learning is a creative process in which equals engage to promote well-being and growth, and that the foremost need is to remove “fear” (the affective filter) which hinders cognitive development. This idea is congruent with Krashen’s ideas in language learning. It views language learning as a social process, and the teacher’s function is to create an atmosphere of warmth and understanding which is conducive to developing security and the willingness to take risk. (R&R 122) This methodology does not precisely address an underlying theory of language, but is framed around a counseling theory and a theory of the learner. Most syllabi are topic based, and learning progresses either structurally, with an introduction to grammar and phonetics, or less systematically, with instructional points developed as a result of classroom interaction. Textbooks may be used, but are not a necessary component of this methodology. (R&R, 123) Both Gattegno’s Silent Way and Curran’s Community Learning continue to have enthusiastic adherents, however, neither has been widely adopted in school systems, in part because both depend more on a teaching personality and style than on any, particularly well defined technique, and both are based more on the general learning atmosphere conducive to learner participation than on studies related to nature of language.
Finally, in the late 1970’s, Krashen (an applied linguist) and Terrell (a practicing teacher) joined forces and combined everything that they had learned from all previous methodologies, buffered it with new linguistic concepts proposed by Chomsky, and expanding on the Direct Method, introduced The Natural Approach. The Natural Approach borrows from Curran by insisting that the affective filter must be taken into consideration for learners to be willing to engage in learning, and that meaning is central to communication acts. It borrows from the Gattegno by providing for learner initiated speaking rather than forcing output, especially early on in language learning, as well as by promoting the use of visual aids and hands-on activities, and by engaging the learner in self directed problem solving (negotiation of meaning in interaction). It also borrows from and promotes Asher’s concepts by utilizing mime and action routines, especially during the beginning stages of learning. The Natural Approach, like its predecessor, The Oral Approach, is structural, situational (topic driven), and communicative (group activities). And like the Direct Method, The Natural Approach insists it conforms to the “natural” way that language is successfully learned by children, although it provides greater variety and less repetitious routines than its predecessor. Although this method proposes to be in contrast to the Audiolingual Method, it also views language learning as the mastery of structures by stages (R&R, 130). And while insisting that grammar need not be taught directly, this method does borrow from the earliest Grammar-translation Method by providing two levels of learning called acquisition and learning, the latter being the sole ability of adults, for whom grammar instruction can be helpful. In addition to borrowing from previous methodologies, Krashen and Terrell adapted notions from Piaget and Vygotsky, by creating the idea of the input hypothesis, which is analogous to the zone of proximal development. Next is a very brief overview of this method’s basic ideas. Language competence is directed in two distinct ways, through acquisition and/or learning. Acquiring a language is what children appear to do naturally (perhaps because we simply don’t quite understand how they do it), without regard to structures and grammar, while learning is what adults can do, by bringing their problem solving ability and previous knowledge into play and consciously examining the rules underlying a language (the part of language learning we do understand). The conscious learning of adults takes place through “monitoring” their expressions and self-correcting based on the known rules. Since there is a natural, universal order to structures and their acquisition (Chomsky‘s LAD and UG), learners progress through stages which can be predicted regardless of their L1. Emotional states are critical to receptivity of instruction (Rogers and Curran), and the affective filter must be lowered for language learning to occur. The teacher is responsible for helping create and open, warm environment. Input must fall within the zone of proximal development, which means learning cannot take place unless it is “comprehensible input”. This method addresses the nature of the learner, the interactive nature of language, the situation, and the nature of language and language learning. It allows for variety and spontaneity in syllabus and activity selection, for teacher and learner responsibility and influence, and promotes a flexible system rooted in both linguistic and learning theories. It is a system resulting from the evolution of methodologies and research in many fields, and allowing for the evolution (learning) of language through a guided complexity which balances chaos (too many possibilities and too little control) and order (limited possibilities excessively controlled). This Method has been attacked by those, like Swain, who insist “production” or “output” is required as well as comprehensible input, and by others who disagree with the distinction between acquisition and learning, and by those who insist on a higher priority for grammar instruction. Some have even argued against the necessity of comprehensible input. The Natural Method belongs to cognitivist, connectionist, and constructivist frameworks, depending on which aspect we look at, and refers to itself as a comprehension-driven methodology with a communicative view of language. Although Krashen has been criticized by both sides (rational scientists seeking stricter research based guidelines and post-modernists seeking complete learner freedom), his Natural Method has been both popular and successful.
Studies in other fields of research had been ongoing during the evolution of Language Learning Methodologies. Much of what was learned in other arenas eventually was incorporated in the framework of methodologies and specific linguistic research. Humanism brought the learner to center stage, and with it, came studies into the role of affective (emotional) aspects, along with interest in the connections between the mind and body. The Unconscious was seen as a resource for conscious knowledge, and environmental and sensory stimuli were known to impact on the brain’s chemistry and resulting thought. Neural patterns and their interconnectivity with visual, auditory and physical stimuli resulted in parallel processing of information (simultaneously), all of which influenced learning. The emotions were not just stimulated by pleasant interpersonal situations, but were seen to be highly receptive to inputs from music and art. Building primarily on the receptivity of learners to suggestion (hypnosis) and the phenomenal impact of rhythm and music on learning, Bulgarian psychiatrist Lozanov introduced yet another approach to language learning which focused on the need to remove impediments to learning while maximizing unconscious influences. (R&R, 142) Although its initial founder did not promote a particular theory of language, current research into language does indicate a strong rhythmic pattern underlying languages, and studies of learning had historically connected language and music, a successful pedagogical technique in teaching nursery rhymes to children. Suggestopedia promotes the primacy of vocabulary and the act of communication, using intonation, rhythm, a musical background, and drama to encourage language competence. Unlike previous approaches, this method insists on the teacher’s role as an authority figure, recognizing that learners must depend on and trust the superior knowledge and ability residing within the instructor in order to be receptive to his/her direction. This is reminiscent to psycho-therapy, where the counselee seeks help from one who is more knowledgeable in solving problems. The choice of music is strictly limited to classical music, which has been known to stimulate neural connections in pre-born infants, and lately been indicated in higher resulting mathematical ability. Class size is limited and homogeneous, with learners sitting in circles, activities include role playing, memorization and dialogue, while materials are comprised of texts and audio-tapes. Central to this approach is the need for learners to “relax” and allow themselves to be overtaken by teacher and environment, in a manner that minimizes resistance to the learning process. Critics of this method resist the need for intensive teacher training by master teachers, and the strict adherence to only Lozamov’s techniques. While this method has been sometimes labeled a “pseudo-science”, it has been highly successful, and more recent research has supported its basic tenets.
Labels can be confusing and history is the story of what we choose to emphasize and what we choose to forget (not to mention whom we credit or blame). Have we addressed the methodologies that were most popular, most effective, or most in line with current ideas? Certainly we have not included all of them, and while we included some that were neither popular nor strictly “methodologies”, we omitted others of equal import. These include the “Reading Method”, which focused on language learning for the purposes of scientific or graduate study, where discourse in the target language is not emphasized. As its title indicates, it provided heavy emphasis on reading materials, with a graduated difficulty level in vocabulary and grammatical structures. For this method, translation is acceptable, and the goal is to create rapid reading comprehension. We also omitted some current methodologies, including Project Based Language Learning, which focuses on language development through group activities. This method is community oriented, and promotes social interaction with the purpose of accomplishing meaningful, common goals. It is in line with current ideas about constructivism and connectionism, and highlights teamwork and negotiation of meaning through collaborative efforts, while allowing for creative applications of multiple intelligences. It was developed in line with Goals 2000 and the recognition of the importance of skills and workplace competencies in the emerging economy. And lastly, I mention Theme and Task based methodologies, which emphasize learner interests and needs, while incorporating situational contingencies and allowing for more eclectic selection of materials and techniques. These newer frameworks combine ideas about systems design, affective learner variables, feedback (metacognition – focus on form), and approach language teaching in a holistic manner, whereby teachers and students together determine goals and needs and determine what tasks and themes are most conducive to reaching the learning-instructional goal. The latest discoveries in many fields preclude the proposal and any new methodologies which are “tight-knit”, systematic, or grounded in defined certainties about language acquisition or ideal techniques to the exclusion of any other techniques. This is in part because we are finally moving away from the pre-eminence of the scientific method and our understanding of the nature of learning and development is changing. We are moving from static toward dynamic models which are holistic, integrative, and fluid. As we recognize the dynamic and integrated nature of all that is, we are forced to be very careful about prescriptive conclusions drawn based on the observations made using the scientific research models of the past. Each development in the evolution of knowledge about language learning and all other fields has increased compflexification of each field, and noted the relatively seamless interwoven nature of all life and learning. We are losing the ability to “define” things as they are or to prescribe things as they “should be” in an “ideal” situation. Our perspectives are changing in an evolutionary manner, resulting in a “paradigm shift” in all fields of study. It is this paradigm shift which has precipitated the rise of “communicative language teaching” and driven education towards learner autonomy, integrated curriculum, authentic assessment, and a focus on “process” rather than “products”. SLA is impacted by this paradigm shift as well, and many pragmatic, situational, and eclectic styles have evolved as a result. Many of these new styles and methodologies incorrectly focus on completely self-directed or fragmented learning and misinterpret the underlying implications of complexity. Before randomly or pragmatically choosing any approach, it is important to look at the foundation and progression of the discoveries that have led us into the direction of the new paradigm, for although the new ideas have a certain “fuzziness”, they present a distinct and cohesive pattern, which is vital in choosing the most appropriate “patterns” for teaching and learning languages.