Direct method (education)

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The direct method of teaching, which is sometimes called the natural method, and is often (but not exclusively) used in teaching foreign languages, refrains from using the learners' native language and uses only the target language. It was established in Germany and France around 1900 and contrasts with the Grammar translation method and other traditional approaches, as well as with C.J.Dodson's bilingual method. It was adopted by key international language schools such as Berlitz and Inlingua in the 1970s and many of the language departments of the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department in 2012.[1]

In general, teaching focuses on the development of oral skills.[2] Characteristic features of the direct method are:

  • teaching concepts and vocabulary through pantomiming, real-life objects and other visual materials
  • teaching grammar by using an inductive approach (i.e. having learners find out rules through the presentation of adequate linguistic forms in the target language)
  • centrality of spoken language (including a native-like pronunciation)
  • focus on question-answer patterns


Direct method is a method of teaching language directly establishing a direct or immediate association between experience and expression,between the English word,phrase or idiom and its meaning through demonstration, dramatization without the use of the mother tongue[3]


  1. Direct method aims to build a direct relation between experience and language, word and idea, thought and expression
  2. This method intends that students learn how to communicate in the target language
  3. This method is based on the assumption that the learner should experience the new language in the same way as his/her

experienced his/her mother tongue[4]

Essentials of direct method[edit]

  1. No translation
  2. Concepts are taught by means of objects or by natural contexts
  3. Oral training helps in reading and writing
  4. Grammar are taught indirectly[5]


  1. Question answer exercise- the teacher ask questions of any type and the student answer
  2. Dictation-the teacher chooses a grade appropriate passage and reads it aloud
  3. Reading aloud - the students take turn reading sections of a passage, play or a dialogue aloud
  4. Student self - correction- when a student makes a mistake the teacher will offer him/her a second chance by giving a choice
  5. Conversion practice- the students are given an opportunity to ask their own questions to the other students or to the teacher, because, there is a teacher-learner interaction, as well as learner-learner interaction
  6. Paragraph writing- the students are asked to write a passage in their own words[6]

Nature of direct method[edit]

  1. Direct method is also known as natural method, it is developed as a reaction to the translation and grammar method and it take you into the domain of English in most natural manner
  2. The main objective is to impart perfect command of foreign language, it is the crux of the problem make them think in English in the same manner as in learning of his mother-tongue, in the most natural way
  3. it was found that there was very little pupil-participation and the teaching tended to be long,dull and drab nomologue by the teacher[7]

Merits of direct method[edit]

  1. Facilitates understanding of language- it helps to understanding of language becomes easier due to the inhibition of the linguistic interferences of the mother tongue . it establishes the direct bond and helps in understanding directly what he hears and reads
  2. Improves fluency of the speech- if the student gets fluency of speech it results in easy writing and it tends to improve expression incomes speech and expression in writing, it is the quickest way of learning and expanding vocabulary
  3. Aids reading- the reading of language becomes easy and pleasant and helps in promoting a habit of critical study
  4. Improves to develop language sense
  5. This method is based on full of activity so,it is very interesting, exciting
  6. It emphasize on the target language,so it helps the pupil to express their thoughts and feelings directly by the English without the usage of mother tongue
  7. LSRW are developed
  8. It helps in bringing the words of the passive vocabulary into active vocabulary
  9. It helps in proceeding the English language from particular to general,it bridges the gap between the practice and the theory
  10. It makes use of audio-visual aids and also facilates reading and writing
  11. This method facilities alertness and participation of students[8][9]

Demerits of Direct method[edit]

  1. This method ignores systematic written work and reading activities
  2. This method may not hold well in higher classes where the translation method is found suitable
  3. Limited vocabulary- it restricts the scope of vocabulary as all words cannot be directly associated with their meanings
  4. Lacked application- the method aims at active command of a language, only the clever child can profit by this method
  5. Lack of skilled teachers- most of the teachers in Indian schools themselves have poor command of English. The time allotted to English in the school also is limited
  6. This method does not suit or satisfy the needs of individual students in large classes
  7. This method is inconvenient in huge class
  8. It ignores reading and writing aspects of language learning
  9. Grammar are not thought systematically
  10. It is time consuming in creating real life situations
  11. This method finds difficulty for slow learnersy.[10][11]


  1. Classroom instructions are conducted exclusively in the target language.
  2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught during the initial phase; grammar, reading and writing are introduced in intermediate phase.
  3. Oral communication skills are built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.
  4. Grammar is taught inductively.
  5. New teaching points are introduced orally.
  6. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary is taught by association of ideas.
  7. Both speech and listening comprehensions are taught.
  8. Correct pronunciation and grammar are emphasized.
  9. Student should be speaking approximately 80% of the time during the lesson.
  10. Students are taught from inception to ask questions as well as answer them.


The key Aspects of this method are:

I. Introduction of new word, number, alphabet character, sentence or concept (referred to as an Element) :

SHOW...Point to Visual Aid or Gestures (for verbs), to ensure student clearly understands what is being taught.
SAY...Teacher verbally introduces Element, with care and enunciation.
TRY...Student makes various attempts to pronounce new Element.
MOLD...Teacher corrects student if necessary, pointing to mouth to show proper shaping of lips, tongue and relationship to teeth.
REPEAT...Student repeats each Element 5-20 times.

NOTE: Teacher should be aware of "high frequency words and verbs" and prioritize teaching for this. (i.e. Teach key verbs such as "To Go" and "To Be" before unusual verbs like "To Trim" or "To Sail"; likewise, teach Apple and Orange before Prune and Cranberry.)

II. Syntax, the correct location of new Element in sentence:

SAY & REPEAT...Teacher states a phrase or sentence to student; Student repeats such 5-20 times.
ASK & REPLY IN NEGATIVE...Teacher uses Element in negative situations (e.g. "Are you the President of the United States?" or "Are you the teacher?"); Students says "No". If more advanced, may use the negative with "Not".
INTERROGATIVES Teacher provides intuitive examples using 5 "w"s (Who, What, Where, Why, When) or How". Use random variations to practice.
PRONOUNS WITH VERBS Using visuals (such as photos or illustrations) or gestures, Teacher covers all pronouns. Use many random variations such as "Is Ana a woman?" or "Are they from France?" to practice.
USE AND QUESTIONS...Student must choose and utilize the correct Element, as well as posing appropriate questions as Teacher did.

III. Progress, from new Element to new Element (within same lesson):

A. Random Sequencing:
1. After new Element (X) is taught and learned, go to next Element (Y).
2. After next Element (Y) is taught and learned, return to practice with Element (X).
3. After these two are alternated (X-Y; Y-X; Y-Y, etc), go to 3rd Element (Z).
4. Go back to 1 and 2, mix in 3, practice (X-Y-Z; Z-Y-X; Y-Y-Z, etc.) and continue building up to appropriate number of Elements (may be as many as 20 per lesson, depending on student, see B.1), practicing all possible combinations and repeating 5-20 times each combination.
B. Student-Led Limits:
1. Observe student carefully, to know when mental "saturation" point is reached, indicating student should not be taught more Elements until another time.
2. At this point, stop imparting new information, and simply do Review as follows:
C. Review: Keep random, arbitrary sequencing. If appropriate, use visuals, pointing quickly to each. Employ different examples of Element that are easy to understand, changing country/city names, people names, and words student already knows. Keep a list of everything taught, so proper testing may be done.
D. Observation and Notation: Teacher should maintain a student list of words/phrases that are most difficult for that student. The list is called "Special Attention List"

IV. Progress, from Lesson to Lesson:

LESSON REVIEW The first few minutes of each lesson are to review prior lesson(s).
GLOBAL REVIEW Transition from Lesson Review to a comprehensive review, which should always include items from the Special Attention List.

V. Advanced Concepts:

Intermediate and Advanced Students may skip some Element introduction as appropriate; become aware of student's language abilities, so they are not frustrated by too much review. If Student immediately shows recognition and knowledge, move to next Element.
Non-Standard Alphabets: Teaching Student to recognize letters/characters and reading words should employ same steps as in above Aspect I. and alphabet variations may be taught using Aspect III. Writing characters and words should initially be done manually, either on paper or whiteboard.
Country Accents: Any student at intermediate stages or higher should be made aware of subtle variations in pronunciation, which depend on geography within a country or from country to country.

It should be noted that an integral aspect of the Direct Method is varying the setting of teaching; instructors try different scenarios using the same Element. This makes the lessons more "real world," and it allows for some confusing distractions to the student and employ organic variables common in the culture and locale of language use.[12]


Direct method of teaching English can be applied in the lower classes where less explanatory devise in teaching English is required, the method is good at laying a firm basis for acquiring linguistic habit .however, the direct method of teaching can create problems as sometimes the students fail to follow what is being taught properly,however many teachers did modify the direct method to meet practical requirements of own schools, implemented main principles, teaching through oral practice and banning all translation into target language. obviously compromise was needed. direct method did pave the way for more communicative, oral based approach, and as such represented an important step forward in the history of language teaching.[13]

Historical context[edit]

The direct method was an answer to the dissatisfaction with the older grammar translation method, which teaches students grammar and vocabulary through direct translations and thus focuses on the written language.

There was an attempt to set up conditions that imitate mother tongue acquisition, which is why the beginnings of these attempts were called the natural method. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Sauveur and Franke proposed that language teaching should be undertaken within the target-language system, which was the first stimulus for the rise of the direct method.[14]

The audio-lingual method was developed in an attempt to address some of the perceived weaknesses of the direct method.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See
  2. ^
  3. ^ naik, hemavathi .s. content cum methodlogy of teaching english. sapna book house in2013. p. 68. 
  4. ^ muthuja, babu. teaching of english (2009 ed.). centrum press. p. 87. 
  5. ^ teaching of enghlish (2005 ed.). aph publishing corporation. p. 66.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  6. ^ muthuja, babu. teaching of english (2009 ed.). centrum press. p. 87. 
  7. ^ teaching of enghlish (2005 ed.). aph publishing corporation. p. 66.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  8. ^ muthuja, babu. teaching of english (2009 ed.). centrum press. p. 87. 
  9. ^ naik, hemavathi .s. content cum methodlogy of teaching english. sapna book house in2013. p. 68. 
  10. ^ muthuja, babu. teaching of english (2009 ed.). centrum press. p. 87. 
  11. ^ naik, hemavathi .s. content cum methodlogy of teaching english. sapna book house in2013. p. 68. 
  12. ^ Société internationale des écoles Inlingua (1999), Inlingua Teacher Manual (3rd Edition), Berne Switzerland.
  13. ^ muthuja, babu. teaching of english (2009 ed.). centrum press. p. 87. 
  14. ^ Chomsky, N. (1975). Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon Books.


  • Bussmann, Hadumod (1996), Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics, London/New York, s.v. direct method
  • Krause, C. A. (1916), The Direct Method in Modern Languages, New York.
  • Societe Internationale des Ecoles Inlingua (1973), Inlingua English First Book, Berne Switzerland.
  • Societe Internationale des Ecoles Inlingua (1999), Inlingua Teacher Manual (3rd Edition), Berne Switzerland.