Direct method (education)

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 England 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:

Direct method in teaching a language is directly establishing an immediate and audio visual association between experience and expression, words and phrases, idioms and meanings, rules and performances through the teachers' body and mental skills, without any help of the learners' mother tongue[3].

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.
MOULD...Teacher corrects student if necessary, pointing to mouth to show proper shaping of lips, tongue and relationship to teeth.

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.)

SAY & REPEAT...Teacher states a phrase or sentence to student; Student repeats such 5-20 times.
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.
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.
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:
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"
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.
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.

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 employs organic variables common in the culture and locale of language use.[6]

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.[7]

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