The Direct Method and Foreign Language Instruction
The Direct Method is not new. It has been appreciated and used by language teachers for many years. This approach came up with the idea that learning a foreign language means to communicate; that is why it has become popular. The Direct Method has one basic rule: no translation is allowed in a language classroom. The Direct Method derives its name from the fact that meaning has to be connected directly with the target language. Therefore, students should learn the language without going through the process of translation, because they have to think in the target language.
The teacher and students according to this approach should be part of the learning process; they are partners. The teacher believes that the students should make associations between the meaning and the target language directly. That is why, when a teacher introduces a new word, he/she demonstrates the meaning through pictures, realia, mimics, videos, power point presentations… etc. Students, without having resort to translation, learn the target language and use it in communicative situations.
The syllabus used in the Direct Method is based upon themes. For instance, one unit consists of the langue used at the bank, another of the language used in a restaurant, school, hospital…etc. Language functions are very important in order to help students use the langue and communicate in different sittings. When it comes to grammar, it is taught inductively. Students are presented with dialogues, reading or listening passages in order to study the langue and the structure presented. Then they have to come up with the rule. What is interesting about this method is that students are always encouraged to interact with the teacher. So, it goes both ways, from teacher to students and from students to teacher. The teacher also makes students learn about the culture of the target langue through integrating some historical aspects, such as: the history of the country, its weather and geography as well as the customs, traditions and lifestyle of the people they speak the language.
Though, this method works on the four skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), the oral form of the language is emphasized over the written one. That is why pronunciation and fluency receive much attention from the very beginning.
Finally, students can be tested through activities that evaluate how they use the language and not their knowledge about the language, such as role-plays, interviews and writing paragraphs about something they learned. Thus, they are assessed to use the language both in its oral and written forms.