Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

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Direct versus indirect methods

Read and Reflect

Recent debate in second language teaching on communicative language teaching (CLT) has asked how best to develop communicative competence among learners.  Proponents of direct methods suggests that aspects of pragmatic and sociolinguistic competence can be taught directly, rather as grammar is taught directly in the grammar-translation approach.  Others, however, claim that such competence will emerge naturally, as Krashen predicted would be the case for grammatical competence, given sufficient comprehensible input.  These alternatives are discussed in the articles by Celce-Murcia, Dörnyei and Thurrell cited below.  Other teacher trainers and materials developers such as Thornbury contest this analysis of CLT, claiming that direct grammar instruction has never been abandoned in second language classrooms.

If you have access to the second language teaching journal TESOL Quarterly, you can read this exchange between these writers on direct versus indirect instruction of grammatical and communicative competence.

Celce-Murcia, M., Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1997). Direct Approaches in L2 Instruction: A Turning Point in Communicative Language Teaching? TESOL Quarterly, 31 (1).

Thornbury, S. (1998). Comments on Marianne Celce-Murcia, Zoltan Dörnyei, and Sarah Thurrell’s “Direct Approaches in L2 Instruction: A Turning Point in Communicative Language Teaching?” TESOL Quarterly, 32 (1).

Celce-Murcia, M., Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1998). On Directness in Communicative Language Teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 32 (1).

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