When learning a foreign language there are many different ways to learn or be exposed to it. However, most professionals with experience will agree that there is no magic method or perfect method, in fact, most good teachers will actually use a mix of different methods they have come across throughout their professional life.
When language professionals talk about the traditional method, this conjures an image of a very serious prep school teacher in a tweed jacket asking their students to recite by heart long lists of words. However, this is not what we mean when we talk about the traditional method. The same way that the communicative method does not mean the students just chat in the language, Spanish, for instance, without having to write anything or memorise anything.
Both methods have many things in common, and a good lesson would actually draw on those commonalities, as well as on those aspects that make each method good for students.
The communicative method is essentially a reminder for teachers of the main reason why students want to learn a language, that is to communicate with others. So, a good tutor will build the activities and teaching around useful communication situations, be it, going into a shop, describing that person you are meeting for the first time face to face after chatting on email for a a while, etc.
All of this brings us to the most important question, which is, how do we get to that stage where we can actually put different words together in the right order so they make sense to our listener. The only way to get here is actually learning the words and the order first. Here is where the traditional method comes in. What the traditional method simply means is that in order to learn something we will have to do a certain amount of written exercises, of reading, learning at home to commit vocabulary to long term memory, etc.
Again, the type of exercises and activities will depend on the topic and the teacher. But, fortunately we have moved on from the times where language teaching was reduced to translating texts and memorising lists of vocabulary. To help you learn new words and how to use them effectively, your teacher will device class activities that will tie in with the communicative method, but there will also be exercises in written and oral form. The key is achieving the right balance.
In our lessons we aim to strike this balance. We don’t just use the communicative method, because this would mean that if can’t teach you the words and the grammar first, you will just be repeating phrases like a parrot and you would be limited to the situation created in the classroom. Again, asking you to just study grammar and do exercises would not help you to learn how to use these in real life.
So a little bit of everything is the secret, let’s have fun chatting away in Spanish, confident that we are revising our grammar.