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The Weight of Tradition in Language Teaching

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In order to understand the weight of tradition in today’s foreign language textbooks, one needs to return to the way Latin was taught in schools during the Renaissance period. Five hundred years ago, the Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) was the preferred method for foreign language instruction. When the time came to teach the oral aspects of the new spoken languages derived from Latin (such as Italian, French, Spanish), the only available model was the way Latin was taught, that is, a method devised for the teaching of a ‘dead’, or primarily written, language.

Even now, people believe that it is necessary to translate, learn grammar rules and do written exercises in order to learn the oral aspects of a foreign language. However, recent research in the neurosciences, mainly in neurolinguistics, indicates that this is not the case. 

Claude Germain has Ph.Ds in linguistics (1970) and philosophy (1989). He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Language Pedagogy (Département de didactique des langues) at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). He has written several books about teaching second languages: Évolution de l’enseignement des langues : 5 000 ans d’histoire (1993), Le point sur l’approche communicative (1993) et Le point sur la grammaire (1995). He created a neurolinguistic approach to improve foreign language teaching with Joan Netten (Memorial University of Newfoundland).




Recorded live Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at Alliance Française de Chicago

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