Grammar Translation
Explanation of Main Features

The grammar-translation methodology was used throughout the middle ages. It is considered to be a traditionalist’s form of behaviorism. It was primarily used to teach Latin but is still incorporated today though the teaching of English Language Learners.
According to Wright (2010), it was predominant from the 1840s to the 1940s (p. 44). “Students were required to analyze and memorize rules of grammar, then translate sentences between the two languages” (Wright, 2010, p. 44). “Students learn only what is required and are rewarded for precisely defined goals such as memorizing word lists or correct translation” (Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2010, p. 50). Therefore in English speaking schools, the main focus is on learning grammar rules and translating words from the native language into the English language.

Díaz-Rico, L. T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook, Fourth Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson

Wright, W. (2010). Foundations for teaching English language learners: Research, theory, policy, and practice. Philadelphia: Caslon Publishing


As stated in Diaz-Rico & Weed (2010), one of the drawbacks to this method of learning is that all the focus is on reading and grammar instruction eliminating the need for contact with speakers of the target language. Therefore, this method does not help in facilitating language use in a social context. Taking out the social aspect of language can become boring leading to a lack of motivation for acquiring the second language.
In discussing “new” mainstream SLA theory, Swain & Deters (2007) remind us of the
following, “…we must pay balanced attention to social, cognitive, and affective aspects that bear on the ways we learn an L2.” As with many things, balance is key. Sometimes students need the explicit grammar teaching, but most likely not at the expense of doing away with all other instruction. Grammar drills and translations do not lend themselves to partner activities such as turn-and-talk, which is a great strategy for allowing ELLs to practice their oral skills in a non-threatening environment. By lowering the affective filter students gain confidence in their L2 language abilities reinforcing their motivation for the target language for the purpose of using it in a social context.

Díaz-Rico, L. T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic
Development Handbook,Fourth Edition.Boston, MA: Pearson.
Swain, M., & Deters, P. (2007). “New” mainstream SLA theory: Expanded and enriched. Modern
Language Journal, 91(5), 820–836.