However, by the end of the 16th century, French, Italian and English displaced Latin as the languages of spoken and written communication. The study of Latin diminished from the study of a living language to be used in the real world to a subject in the school curriculum. Such decline brought about a new justification for its study. It was then claimed that its study developed intellectual abilities and the study of Latin grammar became an end in and of itself.
"Grammar schools" from the 16th to 18th centuries focused on teaching the grammatical aspects of Classical Latin. Advanced students continued grammar study with the addition of rhetoric.
However, anecdotal evidence for successful second or foreign language learning is easy to find, leading to a discrepancy between these cases and the failure of most language programs to help make second language acquisition research emotionally-charged. Older methods and approaches such as the grammar translation method or the direct method are disposed of and even ridiculed as newer methods and approaches are invented and promoted as the only and complete solution to the problem of the high failure rates of foreign language students. Most books on language teaching list the various methods that have been used in the past, often ending with the author's new method. These new methods seem to be created full-blown from the authors' minds, as they generally give no credence to what was done before and how it relates to the new method. For example, descriptive linguists seem to claim unhesitatingly that before their work, which lead to the audio-lingual method developed for the U.S. Army in World War II, there were no scientifically-based language teaching methods. However, there is significant evidence to the contrary. It is also often inferred or even stated that older methods were completely ineffective or have died out completely when even the oldest methods are still used (e.g. the Berlitz version of the direct method). Much of the reason for this is that proponents of new methods have been so sure that their ideas are so new and so correct that they could not conceive that the older ones have enough validity to cause controversy and emphasis on new scientific advances has tended to blind researchers to precedents in older work.(p5)
The development of foreign language teaching is not linear. There have been two major branches in the field, empirical and theoretical, which have almost completely-separate histories, with each gaining ground over the other at one point in time or another. Examples of researchers on the empiricist side are Jesperson, Palmer, Leonard Bloomfield who promote mimicry and memorization with pattern drills. These methods follow from the basic empiricist position that language acquisition basically results from habits formed by conditioning and drilling. In its most extreme form, language learning is basically the same as any other learning in any other species, human language being essentially the same as communication behaviors seen in other species. On the other, are Francois Gouin, M.D. Berlitz, Elime de Sauzé, whose rationalist theories of language acquisition dovetail with linguistic work done by Noam Chomsky and others. These have led to a wider variety of teaching methods from grammar-translation, to Gouin's "series method" or the direct methods of Berlitz and de Sauzé. With these methods, students generate original and meaningful sentences to gain a functional knowledge of the rules of grammar. This follows from the rationalist position that man is born to think and language use is a uniquely human trait impossible in other species. Given that human languages share many common traits, the idea is that humans share a universal grammar which is built into our brain structure. This allows us to create sentences that we have never heard before, but can still be immediately understood by anyone who understands the specific language being spoken. The rivalry of the two camps is intense, with little communication or cooperation between them.
While sometimes confused, the terms "approach", "method" and "technique" are hierarchical concepts. An approach is a set of correlative assumptions about the nature of language and language learning, but does not involve procedure or provide any details about how such assumptions should translate into the classroom setting. Such can be related to second language acquisition theory.
There are three principal views at this level:
A method is a plan for presenting the language material to be learned and should be based upon a selected approach. In order for an approach to be translated into a method, an instructional system must be designed considering the objectives of the teaching/learning, how the content is to be selected and organized, the types of tasks to be performed, the roles of students and the roles of teachers. A technique is a very specific, concrete strategem or trick designed to accomplish an immediate objective. Such are derived from the controlling method, and less-directly, with the approach.
At school, the teaching of grammar consists of a process of training in the rules of a language which must make it possible to all the students to correctly express their opinion, to understand the remarks which are addressed to them and to analyze the texts which they read. The objective is that by the time they leave college, the pupil controls the tools of the language which are the vocabulary, grammar and the orthography, to be able to read, understand and write texts in various contexts. The teaching of grammar examines the texts, and develops awareness that language constitutes a system which can be analyzed. This knowledge is acquired gradually, by traversing the facts of language and the syntactic mechanisms, going from simplest to the most complex. The exercises according to the program of the course must untiringly be practised to allow the assimilation of the rules stated in the course. That supposes that the teacher corrects the exercises. The pupil can follow his progress in practicing the language by comparing his results. Thus can he adapt the grammatical rules and control little by little the internal logic of the syntactic system. The grammatical analysis of sentences constitutes the objective of the teaching of grammar at the school. Its practice makes it possible to recognize a text as a coherent whole and conditions the training of a foreign language. Grammatical terminology serves this objective. Grammar makes it possible for each one to understand how the mother tongue functions, in order to give him the capacity to communicate its thought.
According to this method, printed language and text must be kept away from second language learner for as long as possible, just as a first language learner does not use printed word until he has good grasp of speech. Learning of writing and spelling should be delayed until after the printed word has been introduced, and grammar and translation should also be avoided because this would involve the application of the learner's first language. All above items must be avoided because they hinder the acquisition of a good oral proficiency.
The method relies on a step-by-step progression based on question-and-answer sessions which begin with naming common objects such as doors, pencils, floors, etc. It provides a motivating start as the learner begins using a foreign language almost immediately. Lessons progress to verb forms and other grammatical structures with the goal of learning about thirty new words per lesson.
When he returned home, he found that his three-year-old nephew had learned to speak French. He noticed the boy was very curious and upon his first visit to a mill, he wanted to see everything and be told the name of everything. After digesting the experience silently, he then reenacted his experiences in play, talking about what he learned to whoever would listen or to himself. Gouin decided that language learning was a matter of transforming perceptions into conceptions, using language to represent what one experiences. Language is not an arbitrary set of conventions but a way of thinking and representing the world to oneself. It is not a conditioning process, but one in which the learner actively organizes his perceptions into linguistics concepts.
His course was organized on elements of human society and the natural world. He estimated that a language could be learned with 800 to 900 hours of instruction over a series of 4000 exercises and no homework. The idea was that each of the exercises would force the student to think about the vocabulary in terms of its relationship with the natural world. While there is evidence that the method can work extremely well, it has some serious flaws. One of which is the teaching of subjective language, where the students must make judgements about what is experienced in the world (e.g. "bad" and "good") as such do not relate easily to one single common experience. However, the real weakness is that the method is entirely based on one experience of a three-year-old. Gouin did not observe the child's earlier language development such as naming (where only nouns are learned) or the role that stories have in human language development. What distinguishes the series method from the direct method is that vocabulary must be learned by translation from the native language, at least in the beginning.
This approach was developed from the 1930s to the 1960s by British applied linguists such as Harold Palmer and A.S. Hornsby. They were familiar with the Direct method as well as the work of 19th century applied linguists such as Otto Jesperson and Daniel Jones but attempted to develop a scientifically-founded approach to teaching English than was evidence by the Direct Method.
A number of large-scale investigations about language learning and the increased emphasis on reading skills in the 1920s led to the notion of "vocabulary control". It was discovered that languages have a core basic vocabulary of about 2,000 words that occurred frequently in written texts, and it was assumed that mastery of these would greatly aid reading comprehension. Parallel to this was the notion of "grammar control", emphasizing the sentence patterns most-commonly found in spoken conversation. Such patterns were incorporated into dictionaries and handbooks for students. The principle difference between the oral approach and the direct method was that methods devise under this approach would have theoretical principles guiding the selection of content, gradation of difficulty of exercises and the presentation of such material and exercises. The main proposed benefit was that such theoretically-based organization of content would result in a less-confusing sequence of learning events with better contextualization of the vocabulary and grammatical patterns presented. Last but not least, all language points were to be presented in "situations". Emphasis on this point led to the approach's second name. Such learning in situ would lead to students' acquiring good habits to be repeated in their corresponding situations. Teaching methods stress PPP (presentation (introduction of new material in context), practice (a controlled practice phase) and production (activities designed for less-controlled practice)).
Although this approach is all but unknown among language teachers today, elements of it have had long lasting effects on language teaching, being the basis of many widely-used English as a Second/Foreign Language textbooks as late as the 1980s and elements of it still appear in current texts. Many of the structural elements of this approach were called into question in the 1960s, causing modifications of this method that lead to Communicative language teaching. However, its emphasis on oral practice, grammar and sentence patterns still finds widespread support among language teachers and remains popular in countries where foreign language syllbuses are still heavily based on grammar.
The Army Specialized Training Program only lasted a few years, but it gained a lot of attention from the popular press and the academic community. Charles Fries set up the first English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, to train English as a second or foreign language teachers. Similar programs were created later at Georgetown University, University of Texas among others based on the methods and techniques used by the military. The developing method had much in common with the British oral approach although the two developed independently. The main difference was the developing audio-lingual methods allegiance to structural linguistics, focusing on grammar and contrastive analysis to find differences between the student's native language and the target language in order to prepare specific materials to address potential problems. These materials strongly emphasized drill as a way to avoid or eliminate these problems.
This first version of the method was originally called the oral method, the aural-oral method or the structural approach. The audio-lingual method truly began to take shape near the end of the 1950s, this time due government pressure resulting from the space race. Courses and techniques were redesigned to add insights from behaviorist psychology to the structural linguistics and constructive analysis already being used. Under this method, students listen to or view recordings of language models acting in situations. Students practice with a variety of drills, and the instructor emphasizes the use of the target language at all times. The idea is that by reinforcing 'correct' behaviors, students will make them into habits.
Due to weaknesses in performance, and more importantly because of Noam Chomsky's theoretical attack on language learning as a set of habits, audio-lingual methods are rarely the primary method of instruction today. However, elements of the method still survive in many textbooks.
In recent years, Task-based language learning (TBLL), also known as task-based language teaching (TBLT) or task-based instruction (TBI), has grown steadily in popularity. TBLL is a further refinement of the CLT approach, emphasizing the successful completion of tasks as both the organizing feature and the basis for assessment of language instruction.
The Proprioceptive Method virtually stands alone as a Second Language Acquisition (SLA) method in that it bases its methodology on a speech pathology model. It stresses that mere knowledge (in the form of vocabulary and grammar memory) is not the sole requirement for spoken language fluency, but that the mind receives real-time feedback from both hearing and neurological receptors of the mouth and related organs in order to constantly regulate the store of vocabulary and grammar memory in the mind during speech.
For optimum effectiveness, it maintains that each of the components of second language acquisition must be encountered simultaneously. It therefore advocates that all memory functions, all motor functions and their neurological receptors, and all feedback from both the mouth and ears must occur at exactly the same moment in time of the instruction. Thus, according to the Proprioceptive Method, all student participation must be done at full speaking volume. Further, in order to train memory, after initial acquaintance with the sentences being repeated, all verbal language drills must be done as a response to the narrated sentences which the student must repeat (or answer) entirely apart from reading a text.
Some people, though, use the phrase 'Blended Learning' to refer to learning taking place while the focus is on other activities. For example, playing a card game that requires calling for cards may allow blended learning of numbers (1 to 10).
When talking about language skills, the four basic ones are: listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, other, more socially-based skills have been identified more recently such as summarizing, describing, narrating etc. In addition, more general learning skills such as study skills and knowing how one learns have been applied to language classrooms.
In the 1970s and 80's the basic four skills were generally taught in isolation in a very rigid order, such as listening before speaking. However, since then, it has been recognized that we generally use more than one skill at a time, leading to more integrated exercises. Speaking is a skill that often is underrepresented in the traditional classroom. This could be due to the fact that it is considered a less-academic skills than writing, is transient and improvised (thus harder to assess and teach through rote imitation).
More recent textbooks stress the importance of students working with other students in pairs and groups, sometimes the entire class. Pair and group work give opportunties for more students to participate more actively. However, supervision of pairs and groups is important to make sure everyone participates as equally as possible. Such activities also provide opportunties for peer teaching, where weaker learners can find support from stronger classmates.
In fact, even in 1974, at least one foreign language was compulsory in all but two European member states (Ireland and the United Kingdom, apart from Scotland). By 1998 nearly all pupils in Europe studied at least one foreign language as part of their compulsory education, the only exception being the Republic of Ireland, where primary and secondary schoolchildren learn both Irish and English, but neither is considered a foreign language although a third European language is also taught. Pupils in upper secondary education learn at least two foreign languages in Belgium's Flemish community, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia.
On average in Europe, at the start of foreign language teaching, pupils have lessons for three to four hours a week. Compulsory lessons in a foreign language normally start at the end of primary school or the start of secondary school. In Luxembourg, Norway, Italy and Malta, however, the first foreign language starts at age six, and in Belgium's Flemish community at age 10. About half of the EU's primary school pupils learn a foreign language.
English is the language taught most often at lower secondary level in the EU. 93% of children there learn English. At upper secondary level, English is even more widely taught. French is taught at lower secondary level in all EU countries except Slovenia. A total of 33% of European Union pupils learn French at this level. At upper secondary level the figure drops slightly to 28%. German is taught in nearly all EU countries. A total of 13% of pupils in the European Union learn German in lower secondary education, and 20% learn it at an upper secondary level.
Despite the high rate of foreign language teaching in schools, the number of adults claiming to speak a foreign language is generally lower than might be expected. This is particularly true of native English speakers: in 2004 a British survey showed that only one in 10 UK workers could speak a foreign language. Less than 5% could count to 20 in a second language, for example. 80% said they could work abroad anyway, because "everyone speaks English." In 2001, a European Commission survey found that 65.9% of people in the UK spoke only their native tongue.
Since the 1990s, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages has tried to standardize the learning of languages across Europe (one of the first results being UNIcert).
In some countries, learners have lessons taken entirely in a foreign language: for example, more than half of European countries with a minority or regional language community use partial immersion to teach both the minority and the state language.
In the 1960s and 1970s, some central and eastern European countries created a system of bilingual schools for well-performing pupils. Subjects other than languages were taught in a foreign language. In the 1990s this system was opened to all pupils in general education, although some countries still make candidates sit an entrance exam. At the same time, Belgium's French community, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland also started bilingual schooling schemes. Germany meanwhile had established some bilingual schools in the late 1960s.
The most popular language is Spanish, due to the large number of recent Spanish-speaking immigrants to the United States (see Spanish in the United States). Other popular languages are French, German, and Japanese. Latin used to be more common, but has fallen from favor somewhat. During the Cold War, the United States government pushed for Russian education, and some schools still maintain their Russian programs Other languages recently gaining popularity are Chinese (especially Mandarin) and Arabic.
Waves of European migration after World War II brought "community languages," sometimes with schools. However, from 1788 until modern times it was generally expected that immigrants would learn English and abandon their first language (Clyne, 1997). The wave of multicultural policies since the 1970s has softened aspects of these attitudes.
In 1982 a bipartisan committee of Australian parliamentarians was appointed and identified a number of guiding principles that would support a National Policy on Languages (NPL). Its trend was towards bilingualism in all Australians, for reasons of fairness, diversity and economics.
In the 1990s the Australian Languages and Literacy Policy (ALLP) was introduced, building on the NPL, with extra attention being given to the economic motivations of second language learning. A distinction became drawn between priority languages and community languages. The ten priority languages identified were Mandarin, French, German, Modern Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Aboriginal languages.
However, Australia's federal system meant that the NPL and ALLP direction was really an overall policy from above without much engagement from the states and territories. The NALSAS strategy united Australian Government policy with that of the states and territories. It focused on four targeted languages: Mandarin, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean. This would be integrated into studies of Society and Environment, English and Arts.
By 2000, the top ten languages enrolled in the final high school year were, in descending order: Japanese, French, German, Chinese, Indonesian, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese, Spanish and Arabic. In 2002, only about 10% of Year 12 included at least one Language Other Than English (LOTE) among their course choices.
With the increasing prevalence of international business transactions, it is now important to have multiple languages at one's disposal. This is also evident in businesses outsourcing their departments to Eastern Europe.
From the user's perspective, the effectiveness of such websites in learning a language from the start is very questionable. Attempts like "I want to learn Japanese" do not frequently elicit any positive reaction from seasoned users of the site.
There is also the view that these services provide a good tool to aid language learning at a language school, rather than act as alternatives to real world language schools. Users typically contact each other via chat or email.
In 2007 Second Life started to be used for foreign language tuition . English (as a foreign language) has gained a presence through several schools, including the British Council, which has focused on the Teen Grid. Spain’s language and cultural institute “ Instituto Cervantes” has an island on Second Life. A list of educational projects (including some language schools) in Second Life can be found on the SimTeach site.
In general, language education on the Internet provides a good supplement to real world language schooling. However, the commercial nature of the Internet, including pop-up and occasionally irrelevant text or banner ads might be seen as a distraction from a good learning experience.