In the general academic context of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL), the Grammar- Translation Method (GTM) is supposed not to be followed anymore though it had been practiced for a long time in the English Language Teaching (ELT) context of Bangladesh most probably since the introduction of the curricula of the general education in the sub-continent laid down by the British imperial government during the rule of the British empire. Most recently, the Government of Bangladesh has attributed Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method in the general context of primary, secondary and higher-secondary levels of education in Bangladesh in the present ELT situation through a brand new curriculum for twelve years designed by a group of actively participated thoughtful ELT scholars and educationists. Certain drawbacks of GTM are responsible for this downright transition. Therefore, in this brief paper I would like to endeavor to discuss these drawbacks first and then the effectiveness of adopting CLT methods and techniques to encounter the problems aroused by the GTM.
The Drawbacks of GTM in a Bangladeshi ELT Situation
Historically speaking, the GTM is the most traditional of all the methods of foreign or second language teaching situation all over the world. As I have mentioned earlier, it had been the pivotal method in the ELT situation of the general educational context of Bangladesh. Before discussing its drawbacks let us see what it had been like in an ELT situation of Bangladesh.
Usually, in an ELT situation of GTM, the terminal objective of learning English was used to be the capability of reading and comprehending the literature of the target language only. What the students actually used to learn was the culture of English language only presented via the literature and fine arts of the prescribed written texts. In an ELT classroom of GTM, the students used to learn English through the prescriptive and deductive study of the rules of English grammar followed by the application of these rules in translating isolated sentences and the parts of the given texts from the first language (L1) of the learners (which had been, of course, Bangla) to the target language or TL (which had been, obviously, English) and the vise versa. Accuracy, not fluency, was used to be given the primal importance. Vocabulary was used to be taught basically through the bilingual lists of words, through the references of bilingual dictionaries as well as through the straight memorization of English words with their Bangla complementary meanings and explanations maintaining the obvious and frequent direct interference of L1 in the whole teaching and learning process. Reading and writing were the two language skills fundamentally focused in this method. The text was used to be all literature comprised of prose, poetry, grammar and other written works. Long extracts of great writers used to be the usual materials. The teacher had to depend on the text’s prescriptive lessons, exercises and activities completely and inflexibly. The conduct of the lessons had been fully teacher-oriented where the teacher used to be the authoritative main speaker of the class and the students were supposed to be the passive and silent recipients of the language input until the teacher demanded their response or they asked questions individually in the cases of failure in comprehension or the teacher instructed them to go to the process of collective drillings. Success in teaching had been assumed when the students were found to be able to produce the grammatically accurate written performances of translations from the L1 to the L2 and the reversed including the written answers to the inquiries of the socio-cultural information based on the texts provided to the students as the language learning materials.
Now, I would like to show the drawbacks of GTM in the present EFL context of Bangladesh in the following terms:
- Teaching and Learning Purpose
- Presentation of the Focal Text
- Teaching of Grammar
- Students’ Enabling of the Skills
- Teacher’s Role
- Students’ Role
- Presentation of the Lessons
- Conduct of Activities
- Students’ Output
The terminal purpose of teaching and learning English as a foreign language in the present general context of education in Bangladesh is communication through oral and
written productions in English with the comprehension of its reading and spoken discourse. However, the purpose of GTM is not enabling the students to communicate through the oral and written productions in the TL, which is here, English. Its terminal purpose bounces within the limits of getting acquainted with the culture of the TL through literature that does not present the authentic features of the target culture and language all the time rather presents an artificial simulation of its perfection. Thence, in this era of global communication, the purpose of learning English should be stretched from the grammatically accurate written productions of compositions and translations to the multi-dimensional oral communication in multi-faceted situations.
The focal text of the GTM had been a compilation of different literary genres (prose, poetry, fiction etc.), a detail array of deductive grammatical rules followed by the exercises of translations and grammatical productions, which demanded the utmost grammatical accuracy. These too had been insufficient for achieving the communicative competence of the learners for only the written productions had been emphasized following the text’s instructions with some supplementary practices of reading and listening skills not on the speaking skills.
The deductive approach of grammar of the previously existent GTM method had been thorough and detailed only to be produced in the examinations where the students were used to be instructed to solve the grammatical problems and to translate from L1 to L2 and the vise versa of the isolated sentences or of selected composition. Again, such problem-solving tasks were all centered to the written performances, not to the speaking, listening and reading competence the acquisition of which is necessary to have a compact communicative competence.
The ultimate outcome of the GTM in the ELT situation had been proved unsatisfactory by all means. The total ELT process of GTM could not make the most of the students proficient users of English communicatively achieving equal competence in reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. In the cases of professional and other communicative grounds most of the students having been learned English in GTM fail to communicate successfully resulted from the immediate forgetting of the deductively memorized grammatical rules right after the pass of the examinations.
The teacher’s role had been outright authoritative in the GTM method. Such a teacher-oriented authority used to make the students completely dependent on the teachers and devoid of the practice of speaking skills resulting the students to be tongue-tied during their spoken communicative production.
The students’ role in the overall GTM in the ELT situation of Bangladesh had been by no means passive and a kind of inactive. They were supposed to remain silent during the instruction of the lessons and were to be active in a limited way only during the written production of grammatical problem solving tasks and translations when they were used to be instructed to do so. Such inactivity during the maximum time of the lesson was used to make the students incompetent in communication in English.
The teachers used to present the lessons in lecture-based ways. As it is already mentioned, the participation of the students was very limited during the lessons. They used to get an opportunity of participation by directly asking the teachers only when they used to fail to understand certain things. The more the class had been found silent the more the teacher used to be satisfied of having been conducted a successful class. Peer discussions as well as other kind of activities of peer co-operation had been far beyond the expectations. Thus, a gap between the students and the teachers and also gaps at the levels of competence and proficiency among the peers were used to be created of which the teachers and the students used to remain oblivious during the conduct of the lessons.
The output of the students in the ELT situation under GTM was used to be examination-oriented. Moreover, the examinations were used to be all written testing only how skillfully the students had learned to translate from L1 to L2 or from L2 to L1 and how accurately they were able to solve the grammatical problems of the isolated sentences. In fact, such epitomes of linguistic output are practically insufficient for the communicative competence of a foreign/second language where integration of the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) is rudiment.
CLT to Encounter the Problems of GTM
If the GTM is the most traditional one of all the approaches of ESL/EFL teaching, CLT is the latest one worldwide. The purpose of it is using the target language or the TL (here, it is English) communicatively with the integration of the four basic linguistic skills of
reading, writing, listening and speaking. Therefore, the goal of every instruction of this approach is the communicative competence in the TL. The activities of it are meant to establish an interactive connection between the users of the TL and the phenomenon they are belonging to right at the moment of their use of TL using the process of strategically making of sense as well as negotiation of meaning. In brief, it is the method of SL/FL teaching comprising all the effective techniques of the methods of all approaches ever proposed in order to enable the learners efficient communicators of the TL.
Considering the drawbacks of GTM, which I have mentioned already, CLT techniques and activities seem to be the most effective step of implementation in the current ELT context of Bangladesh for a number of reasons:
Whereas the purpose of GTM had been delimited only in having the students acquainted with the culture and fine arts of the TL, CLT attempts to make the students able to communicate in the TL with the integration of four fundamental language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Whereas the textbook of GTM had been the compilation of different literary genres and extensive deductive rules of grammar to be translated and to be solved as the isolated syntactic pieces, the CLT text book is supposed to contain not only different literary genres but also authentic, factual and realistic samples of TL discourse with the context-based exercises of relevant inductive grammar and various listening, speaking, reading and writing tasks and activities.
Whereas in GTM, grammar had been taught deductively emphasizing on the meticulous rules and the grammatical output of the students were used to be considered based on the problem-solving tasks of the isolated sentences, in CLT, only the essential grammatical elements are taught through the context-based inductive tasks and activities emphasizing not on the meticulous accuracy but on the overall linguistic negotiation of meaning.
Whereas in the GTM, the students were expected to produce the written performances of grammar and translation, in the CLT the students have to practice the receptive skills of reading and writing as well as the productive skills of writing and speaking simultaneously almost during all the lessons.
Whereas in the GTM, the teacher’s role had been authoritative providing for the students the next to nil opportunity to have an interactive participation during the lessons, the CLT provides a teacher for the students who is the facilitator opening all the doors of interactive communication between the teacher and the students and so among the students during the lessons.
Whereas the students were to be passive and silent during the lessons of GTM, the students including the shyest ones are imperative to participate actively in various tasks and activities during the lessons.
Whereas in the GTM the lessons used to be the lecture-oriented, in the CLT the lessons are action-oriented. Thus, in GTM, there had been only isolated written grammatical and problem-solving tasks and activities of translations to be individually done by the students and in CLT, activities like pair-works, group-works as well as collective works besides individual performances are to be conducted in almost every lesson ensuring the integration of four major language skills.
Whereas in the GTM the output of the students were expected only in their written performances in their examinations, the output of the students in CLT are expected beyond the threshold of the examinations. It is to be displayed in the real life situations of using the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of the TL as much proficiently and communicatively as the students can.
An Implementation Plan of CLT
On the 1st of April 1998 with the objective of improving the quality of ELT through the CLT approach in the general academic levels of primary, secondary and higher-secondary levels of Bangladesh the English Language Teaching Improvement Project (ELTIP) had been established. Eventually, in the academic years of 2001 and 2002 ELTIP (jointly funded by the Government of Bangladesh and the DFID of UK Government) produced two new textbooks for the higher-secondary and secondary ELT situations respectively.
These two new textbooks are:
- 1. English For Today FOR Classes 11-12
- 2. English For Today FOR Classes 9-10
The producers and advocates of the books claim that these new textbooks are the reflections of ‘Up-to-date’ programs of ELT following the techniques and activities of the CLT method for the Bangladeshi students of secondary and higher-secondary levels ‘designed to meet the needs and wants of Bangladeshi learners of English as they move into the twenty-first century’ (Teacher’s Guide for English For Today for Classes 11-12; p-i). A team of writers was trained to write these textbooks in the United Kingdom under ELTIP. Having been trained for more than one and a half-year, the respective team had finally produced these two textbooks. The procedure of compose, trial and evaluation of the manuscripts had been carried out by some national and expatriate consultants of ELTIP in co-operation with the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NTCB). The underlying basic principal of these textbooks is ‘communication’, which is ‘learning the language by actually practicing it through the four main language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing usually in an interactive mode’ (English For Today for Classes 11-12; p-I). Therefore, they present programs of multi-dimensional syllabuses for secondary and higher secondary ELT situations of the Board of Education authorized by Bangladesh Government having the all-inclusive integration of various themes/topics, functions, skills and grammatical structures in each lesson of the books. Here, I enclose the photocopies (as some samples of CLT materials) of the book maps of two units of English For Today for Classes 9- 10 and two units of English For Today for Classes 11-12 respectively along with lesson 4 of unit 1,lesson 2 of unit 2,lesson 3 of unit 7 and lesson 2 of unit 19 of the English For Today for Classes 11-12 including their corresponding lesson plans proposed by the Teacher’s Guide for English For Today for Classes11-12 (TG) for the ELT teachers of higher secondary level.
Until the introduction of the proposed CLT syllabus, the college teachers of the higher secondary level of education under NCTB in Bangladesh had been used to deal with a collection of literature by teaching those in the GTM. Therefore, it is naturally probable that they have little experience and knowledge of teaching the language skills under the light of the completely new CLT approach. ELTIP, in association with the British Council has published the TG for higher secondary English teachers to facilitate them to use the new textbook in an effectively communicative way. It offers a compact package of CLT tools providing ‘the rationale for the tasks and activities’ (TG: p-1); ‘a detailed suggestion of techniques that can be employed in the class’ (TG: p-1); suggestions for the teachers ‘to plan their lessons ahead’ ((TG: p-1) and ‘to devise interesting ways of classroom teaching’ (TG; p-1) which would be attractive and enjoyable for the students; open-ended sample answers; suggestions ‘to frame the test items within the new format of the NCTB syllabus’ (TG: p-1) and to assess the ‘students’ language skills during class activities'(TG: p-1).The producers of TG claim that the book ‘if used judiciously can play an important role in the teacher development and training’ (TG; p-1).
Students of the academic session of 2001-2003 having been passed the H.S.C examination in the academic year of 2004 are the first higher secondary batch of the ELT situation of CLT of the Board of Education of Bangladesh Government. New CLT textbooks are also being followed in all classes of the primary and secondary levels of the Board of Education of Bangladesh. ELTIP, BRAC and UKBET (United Kingdom and Bangladesh Education Trust) have run several training programs for the secondary English teachers to conduct effective CLT classes (Billah, 2005). Hence, the debut of the implementation of the CLT with a well-thought implementation plan in the ELT context of Bangladesh has in a way happened to encounter the problems of GTM in the ELT context of Bangladesh. Now, it is the time to investigate how pragmatically it is being applied in the ELT context of Bangladesh.
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