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An Evaluation of the Communicative Approach and Audio-Lingual Method in Teaching Grammar in a Private High School in TurkeyMuhlise Cosgun Ögeyik, Ph.D. and Sinem Dogruer, M.A.
Finding out efficient ways for grammar teaching in second language learning has always been a great concern. Therefore, in this study, the benefits of teaching grammar through communicative approach and audio-lingual method are discussed in terms of their effects on the proficiency levels of target language learners.
This study was carried out through classroom observations by participating in two classrooms in a private high school in Turkey.
Sixteen students in both classes of all whom were ninth grade were observed. Although they were ninth grade students, their linguistic levels were different: ten elementary students and six intermediate level students. For the elementary level students, grammar teaching was implemented through audio-lingual method, while communicative teaching was applied for the intermediate level students. Data collection was accomplished through observation and interview reports. General findings of this research displayed that applying communicative approach and audio-lingual method in grammar teaching resulted in promising conclusions at different linguistic levels.
Key words: teaching grammar, communicative approach, audio-lingual method
Grammar has been one of the fundamental aspects in second language learning and teaching environments. Grammar is usually assumed to be a guide through which words are put together to make correct sentences (Ur, 1996). Although most people agree with the idea that knowing grammar of a language means building grammatically correct sentences, grammar deals with combining not only units of a language but also their meaning for communicative purposes (Ur, 1996).
Due to the fact that many language learners know the grammar rules of a language well, but they cannot communicate effectively in that language (Hinkel and Fotos, 2002), the 1980s experienced a movement that grammar can be acquired naturally from meaningful input and opportunities in a classroom environment so as to interact efficiently in the classroom (Demircan, 2001; Richard and Rogers, 2002). If a focus on grammar is a desirable part of classroom language learning, the question that how grammar teaching should be integrated into language classes regarding the needs of target groups needs to be answered.
Second language learners may not always be conscious about their learning styles, but the learners, mostly adult learners, may have strong feelings and opinions about which type of instruction is the best way for them to learn; these beliefs and opinions are mostly based on learners' previous learning experience (Lightbown and Spada, 1999).
Moreover, second language researchers and methodologists generally think that attaining high levels of language competence and performance require instructed learning (Hinkel and Fotos, 2002). In this context, a growing concern about accuracy in learners' language has resulted in a reassertion of the role of grammar in syllabus design and the content of the lessons, and even explicit attention has been attached to grammatical forms and rules (Ellis 1994).
Furthermore, the methodology chosen to teach grammatical system of a language is expected to be fit usefully with learners' needs and expectations. Whatsoever the methodology, grammar teaching is generally instructed in foreign language teaching classes. Of these methods and approaches, teaching grammar through audio-lingual method and communicative approach is discussed in the present study.
1.1. The Audio-lingual Method and Grammar Teaching
The roots of the audio-lingual method can be traced back to structural linguistics where language is seen as a structured system of discrete units and teachers' job is to introduce the grammatical patterns of the foreign language in the learner (Richard and Rogers, 2002). Textbooks for this method are written by structural linguists, who divided language into subsystems (phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics) and tried to describe the structures within each system.
Therefore, in audio-lingual method, structures are presented initially and students drill those structures until they have mastered them orally. The drills are varied in nature and complexity such as repetition, substitution (inflection), replacement, completion, expansion, contradiction, transformation, combination (integration), formation (restoration), question-and-answer, and pronunciation drills (Richards and Rogers, 2002; Demircan, 2001).
In an audio-lingual classroom, teachers treat learners as passive learners, and learning is accomplished in a teacher-centred classroom where students are led through repetitious drills and exercises to form correct habits of pronunciation and sentence word order (Freeman and Freeman, 1992). Therefore, this method is assumed as an application that does not enhance students to create their own plans and leaves the responsibility to teacher until the final exploitation phase when students, having developed correct habits, can now practice using them with full attention on purposeful communication (Cook, 1991).
On the other hand, it favours the spoken form of language as well as graded structure points. The patterns of dialogues are taught to learners through the variety of drills applied in classroom so that they can become habitual. In other words, repetition of the pattern is the key to automaticity in this method (Keskil: 2000). In this sense, learners' attention is oriented towards form, rather than meaning, for its own sake as a separate body of knowledge which may lead to failure in learning how to use it.1.2. Communicative Approach and Grammar Teaching
The traditional methods have been disregarded on the grounds that teaching grammar does not correlate with acquiring grammar (Ellis, 2002). On the other hand, the communicative approach, which has been common in language teaching environments since the mid-1970s, has created the question whether it is necessary to teach grammar or not, because, according to this approach, the aim of language course is to facilitate language acquisition by giving learners positive feelings towards the instructional process and lowering the affective filter in the classroom (Richards and Rogers, 2002).
Moreover, there exists meaning focused input containing target forms and vocabulary rather than formal grammar instruction in the classroom; thus, learners acquire the forms and vocabulary naturally, during the process of comprehending the input, which is a similar way a child learns the first language (Hinkel and Fotos, 2002).
Although communicative approach has been readily accepted by many experts and language teachers, it has never been totally applied and there are some opposing ideas to the approach. One of the opposing ideas is that the approach poses that explicit grammar teaching is not needed for communication; however, second language researchers and methodologists comment that grammatical competence is essential for communication (Freeman and Freeman, 1992; Richards and Rodgers, 2002).
In addition, grammar instruction should not be dismissed altogether, for there is at present, no convincing evidence that to do so would ultimately be beneficial to second or foreign language learners, especially those who need to achieve a high level of proficiency and accuracy (Celce-Murcia, 1991). Furthermore, functions of language specified to be practiced in class may not prepare students to work with academic content they need in schools (Freeman and Freeman, 1992).
There exist other opposing ideas about communicative syllabuses, which are acknowledged to be equally inadequate because of their neglect of grammar instruction, tending to produce fossilization and classroom pidgins and lower levels of accuracy than would be the case under formal instruction (Skehan and Foster, 2001). In this case, integrating grammar instruction with communicative language learning may be supportive. Thus, learners can recognize the properties of target structure in context and develop accuracy in use (Hinkel and Fotos, 2002).
In other words, students may learn grammatically correct structures but the crucial point is whether they are appropriate for different situations. Hence, just memorizing the structures cannot be satisfactory for using the target language, but what is important is to be able to use the language in natural situations by performing the linguistic forms, meanings, and functions.
Although both communicative approach and audio-lingual method do not focus on grammar teaching as a primary goal, in this study the implementation of grammar teaching through them in real classroom environments was observed and evaluated.
The purpose of the study is to examine and discuss how grammar teaching is implemented in language classes in a private high school in Edirne, Turkey. For observation, two ninth grade classes were chosen. Despite their same grade levels, linguistic levels of the students were grouped as elementary and intermediate. Such an application in the language classes has been implanted in the mentioned private high school regarding the students' language performances. The aim is to educate the students according to their linguistic levels efficiently.
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Muhlise Co?gun Ögeyik, Ph.D.
Faculty of Education
Sinem Dogruer, M.A.
Faculty of Education