The Grammar-Translation Method

The Grammar-Translation Method is not new. Earlier in this century, this method was used for the purpose of helping students read and appreciate foreign language literature. It was also hope that, through the study of the grammar of the target language, students would become more familiar with the grammar of their native language and that is familiarity would help them speak and write their native language better.

According to the teachers who use the Grammar-translation Method, a fundamental purpose of learning a foreign language is to be able to read literature written in the target language. To do this, the students need to learn about the grammar rules and vocabulary of the target language. In addition, it is believed that studying a foreign language provides students with good mental and exercise which helps develop their minds.

Strategy Grammar-based Approaches

English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Advanced
Grade Level: Upper Elementary to Adult

  • The teacher presents the grammatical structure or rule.
  • Students practice of the structure.
  • Students use the structure in a holistic, authentic manner (in contemporary grammar-based approaches).
Applications and Examples of The Grammar-Translation Method
Teaching the Present Perfect Verb Tense

  • Students read a passage that makes use of the present perfect. Students are asked to recognize the present perfect. Students may also be asked why they think the present perfect is used in the reading.
  • The teacher then orally and visually explains the present perfect. One way to do this is to write the following on the board or overhead:

How to make: subject + has/have + past participle
Example: He
Example: They
When to use:
his homework over.
visited Chicago several times.
For actions that began in the past and continue in the present.
I have lived in New York for five years.
For repeated actions.
John has seen that movie five times.
For an action that happened at an unspecified or unknown time.
She has already eaten lunch.
For an action that was just completed.
Jane and George have just finished painting their house.

  • Students then do exercises to practice the tense. These exercises may be spoken or written exercises. Students may begin with exercises in which they only need to write in the correct form. Students may then do exercises practicing adverbs that often go with the present perfect such as recently, until now, and so far. In addition, they may practice exercises that ask them to recognize the difference between the simple present and the present perfect tense.
  • Students then do expansion and application exercises in which they practice writing or speaking about a topic that encourages them to make use of the present perfect. For example, students may write or speak about places they have visited or activities they have done since coming to the country they are in now.

Strengths of The Grammar-Translation Method

  • Students who are analytical learners may need to know the grammar to make sense of a language.
  • Students who have learned other languages through grammar-based approaches may find it easier to learn through this approach.
  • Students, especially older ones, may need to know some grammar to reproduce the language correctly.

Weaknesses The Grammar-Translation Method

  • If grammar isn’t taught as part of a whole, students may find that they know the grammar rules but not how to use the language. It must be emphasized to students that grammar is a tool to help learn a language, not a means to an end.
  • Students may focus so much on grammar that they don’t learn the other aspects of language.
  • Students who are more holistic learners may find grammar lessons boring or even confusing.