Three different approaches to teaching languages

I decided to present you the three more original ones: the silent way, the Total physical response and suggestopia. To analyse each one of these methods, I ask 3 simple questions: What are the objectives? What’s the role of the teacher? And what’s the role of the students?

The silent way introduction

Let’s start this presentation by doing a prediction, if you would ask to a random person in the street the question ‘where is Bryan’ this person would doubtless answer Bryan is in the kitchen and There is a simple explanation to that phenomenon. For years, language acquisition has been a synonym of habit acquisition. Imagine now that a French person who have learnt English through habit acquisition and who still have a very low English language proficiency is sent 1 year in the United states without having the right to take English class. When that person will come back home, I can assure it will be fluent despite everything.

A linguist studied this phenomenon and ended up with the following conclusion:  learning should not be a simple habits acquisition but a process which the students initiate by themselves by mobilizing their inner resources such as perception, awareness, imagination, and creativity to meet the challenge at hand. This way of learning is known as the silent way method What are the objectives of this method? The fundamental purpose of this method is to give students oral expression and comprehension facility in basic elements of the target language. In other words, make students able to use the language for self-expression to express their thoughts, perceptions and feelings.

What’s the role of the teacher? If this method would have a motto, it would certainly be “’Only the learner can do the learning”. It doesn’t mean we should show English professors the door but rather that teachers should respect the autonomy of the learners in their attempts at relating and interacting with the new challenges. They have to create an environment that encourages student risk taking by resisting their temptations to model, remodel, assist, and direct desired student responses.

The teacher’s role is to be a neutral observer, neither elated by correct performance nor discouraged by error. The teacher may even leave the room while learners struggle with their new linguistic tools. And when the teacher is not drinking its coffee at the cafeteria while students are struggling alone, it has to remain silent. It’s a good

job isn’t it. The teacher indeed can only use nonverbal gestures and tools available to communicate with students. The only moment he can speak is to give clues but not to model the language.

What’s the role of the student? Since the teacher can leave the classroom at any time, Learners are expected to develop independence, autonomy, and responsibility. they can only rely on the group or to themselves as individual to learn which mean they better develop a cooperative way of studying rather than a competitive one.

Total physical response introduction

Let me introduce the next method by a question: when you were still a baby have your parents ever ordered you to talk. I can’t be sure about yours but mine never have. Think about that, a toddler spends months listening to his parent’s language before starting saying its first words. No one ever told a toddler it has to speak before it is 12 or 18 months and yet, all the toddlers of the world, including you 20 years ago, (a bit more for Mr Bloom), started talking. What if the best way to learn languages should simply be teaching students languages the way a baby learn language? What if the right way would be to let the student the time to make sense out of the sound he or she hears and wait for the speaking to appear spontaneously. Guess what, this hypothesis has been materialized in the 60s as the total physical response method.

What are the objectives of this method? The main objective is to teach oral proficiency at a beginning level; in other words, to teach basic speaking skills. As the previous one, this method aims to reduce the stress people may feel when studying a new languages and thus encourage students to persevere in their study beyond a beginning level of aptitude.

What is the role of the teacher? According to the creator of the method ‘the teacher is the director of a stage play in which the students are the actors’. First the teacher gives commands in the target language and performs it with the students. Once the students have learnt the meaning, the teacher sit and let the student performing actions themselves. For instance, If I am the teacher and you are the student, I could say ‘take out a piece of paper, Fold the paper and Put it in an envelope’ and you would perform it You are probably wondering right now what is the link between babies and this method. Here is the link, when giving feedbacks to students, the teacher is expected to behave like a parent giving feedback to its children At first, parents correct very little, but later they tolerate fewer mistakes in speech. In the same way, teachers should abstain from interrupting students too much at the beginning. As time goes on, nonetheless, more teacher interventions and corrections are expected.

What is the role of the student? Learners in Total Physical Response have the primary roles of listener and performer. There are given imperative orders such as ‘walk to the table’ or ‘sit on the chair’, and have to follow them. Once the students are familiar with the orders of a given lesson, the teacher can surprise the group with unfamiliar utterance like ‘sit on table’ so that checking if the students well understood the meaning. I want you all to understand clearly that students, with this method, begin to speak when they are ready. And when they decide to do so, Teacher should be tolerant with them. Students are obviously expected to make errors when they first begin speaking.

Suggestopia introduction

Let me tell you a secret, when I was youngster, English language was not really my best friend. Each time I had class I felt nervous and stress as though I would not be able to learn anything, not able to perform well, as though I would fail. Now that I’m old and wise, I realize that there is no need for students to feel any kind of pressure while being in English class. Unless they use staples instead of glue, but most of the time, they should be all relaxed. I would have been glad to had teachers using the suggestopia method of learning at middle school. The Suggestopia method has been developed to help students eliminate the feeling that they cannot be successful. It has been developed to tackle head on the negative association students may have toward studying to help them overcome the psychological barriers to learning.

What are the objectives of this method? The main objective is to fully harness students’ mental power so that accelerating the process by which students learn. In order to do so, learners’ psychological barriers must be taken down and the Para conscious part of the mind, which is situated just below the fully- conscious, must be activated What is the role of the teacher? The primary role of the teacher is to build up a propitious environment in which the students are more suggestible.

You may wonder what’s a propitious environment, there are two main criteria: First, it has to be bright and colourful so that learning takes place in a cheerful room. Second, many posters have to be hang on the walls of the classroom with several of them containing grammatical information so that students can learn even if their attention is not directed to it as you can guess, a propitious environment is not enough to fully harness students’ mental power.

The teacher also has to put the student’s brains in a state of positive reception and retention. To realize this goal, the suggestopia method instruction are clear: First the teacher has to make Student playing rhythmic instruments as they singing songs in the target language. The assumption is that songs are useful for freeing the speech muscles and evoking positive emotions. But do not expect to play and sing “Despacito” with the suggestopia method. First because this song does no longer evoke any positive emotions and, Joke aside, because infantilization is believed to make students more open to learning. Which mean that most of the songs are children’s songs.

Then, the teacher must integrate indirect positive suggestions into the learning situation. For example, instead of naming a chapter “Chapter 1: How to express the ability” the teacher should name it “Chapter 1: to want to is to be able to” or even “Chapter 1: there is no limit to what you can do” At last, to put the student’s brains in a state of positive reception, the teacher should correct error in a soft and gently voice, not in a direct and confrontational manner. Instead of saying “you are wrong” he should rather say” “you’ve made a little mistake, don’t worry it is not a big deal” To teach language using this method requires teachers to be skilled in acting, singing, and psychotherapeutic techniques.

What is the role of the student? First, learners must avoid mind-altering substances and other distractions which mean smoking and drinking are prohibited before the class during the class and during the break. Then, students must choose new names and identities for the class. The underlying assumption is that a new identity enhances student’s feeling of security and allows them to be more open, less inhibited since their performance is really that of a different person. As you all understand, Students are expected to be committed to the class and its activities, that’s why all the student must volunteer to attend the class.


We have seen three methods very different from one another but with the same objective: making language learning more efficient. What I want you to remember from my presentation is that the way we’ve all been taught foreign languages at school is only one out of a dozen. There are not stupid students, there are unadapted methods.