The primary focus is therefore on hearing and speaking, while reading forms a part of the advanced stages of this approach. While the direct approach might be somewhat daunting for the introductory language student, culture is an aspect that makes language teaching meaningful and enjoyable. This aspect can therefore be included at all stages of the learning process.
The Reading Approach
This approach, as its name suggests, focuses mainly on reading, grammar and comprehension. According to Dr. Mora, this approach is used if the purpose of the target language is mainly academic. As mentioned earlier, not all textbooks are in English, and students in a specific field may wish to access texts in the original foreign language. In such a case, the Reading Approach is useful.
The approach comprises two priorities: the first being reading ability and secondly knowledge about the country associated with the target language. Grammar is taught sufficiently only for reading comprehension and fluency, while conversational skills - in other words, speaking - are minimally important. Vocabulary is controlled by means of reading texts.
In terms of the introductory Slavic class, this approach is extremely narrow in terms of the language arts apart from reading. Since academic reading is the target of this approach, it is unlikely to be appropriate at the introductory level of college. An useful aspect is however controlling vocabulary through reading and also providing information about culture via the reading text.
The Silent Way
In the Silent Way, the focus is primarily on students' speaking patterns. Features such as colored rods and verbal commands are used to encourage students to participate from the beginning of the language course. There is great emphasis upon pronunciation and speech patters. In effect, listening is also emphasized, as errors are corrected orally, guiding students to the correct pronunciation and melodic sequences of the target language. The idea is that the teacher remains silent for as long as possible to create a gap in which students then react to the miming demonstrations of the teacher.
In terms of an introductory college-level course, this approach may be somewhat inappropriate in terms of maturity level. It may therefore be more appropriate for younger learners, who will respond better to colors and miming. Furthermore, like the Reading Approach, the Silent Way focuses primarily on a single aspect of language, which is speaking. Listening is minimally included only insofar as it is necessary to guide students towards correct pronunciation and inflection. For the introductory college level, this is far too narrow and not appropriate.
The Community Language Learning Method
This approach is widely different from the others discussed above. This method is based upon establishing a warm, supportive relationship between student and teacher. In fact, students and teachers enter into a client-counsellor relationship instead of the traditional student-teacher one. Teachers act as counsellors whose role it is to alleviate the students', or 'clients," anxiety and uncertainty regarding the target language. Acquisition then occurs via a progressive series of steps in this relationship. Clients and counsellors meet on an individual basis, with the rest of the group listening to the discussion between them. The native language is used at the beginning and then gradually phased out as the student and the group gain confidence in the target language. This is a highly communicative approach, in which listening and speaking appear to enjoy precedence. The aim of the client-counselor relationship is then accurate speech, as errors are also corrected orally during the exchange.
The Community method is useful for an introductory level college course in terms of speaking accuracy, maturity level and confidence building. The relationship of the couselor with the clients serves to help students overcome their anxiety regarding performance in the target language. They are gradually led to an understanding of the target language by initially simple utterances that gradually increase in complexity. The client and counselor then also become increasingly equal with regard to their relationship, which is not often the case in a formal student-teacher relationship. This further facilitates the acquisition of the target language.
In the light especially of its maturity level, this approach appears very appropriate for introductory college level students learning Slavic for the first time. Such students are at a stage of life at which they can form mature relationships with adults. An approach such as the Community method can then also help them build personal confidence as students, which they can then transfer to their other courses and lecturers during their college career.
Speaking and hearing are the only points of focus of this approach, and therefore, if a balanced learning experience is to be achieved, one or several of the other approaches should be integrated with this one.
At the very least, determining the appropriate, best methods for teaching an introductory level Slavic course at a college, presents the teacher with a considerable challenge. This can be largely attributed to the fact that students at this level of life have established widely different learning methods, and also bring with them a widely different set of life and learning experiences. The teacher should therefore be creative in selecting teaching methods in order to ensure that at least most of the needs represented in the classroom are met. The best way to do this in a language course is to integrate a variety of different approaches.
In the light of the discussions above, it is perhaps best to start with the simple approaches and raise their complexity as students become more confident in the target language. The Total Physical Response and Audio Lingual methods are for example good approaches to start the course. They introduce the language to students in a non-threatening way. The wider range of speech patterns from the Audio Lingual method can be used to supplement the Total Physical Response method. Once students have mastered basic speech patterns, more complex approaches such as the Communicative, Functional Notional, and Community Learning approaches can be introduced to increase the complexity of learning. At this stage, reading and writing skills can also become more targeted and complex. For these, the Grammar Translation and Reading methods will be useful.
At the college level, it is important that students receive balanced language instruction (American Education Research Association, 2006). In a language course, speaking, listening, reading and writing can all be integrated with learning about the culture and country connected to the target language. Methods particularly concerned with this is the Reading and Direct approaches. These can then be incorporated throughout the course of language instruction.
In conclusion, in any language course, and indeed, in any subject, it is important to keep in mind the students' needs. The teacher should monitor these needs on a continual basis. At college level this becomes easier, as more mature students tend to be in better touch with their needs and requirements than children. Being aware of this will help the teacher determine the best course of action for the teaching process, while also keeping in touch with the most effective methods for the specific group of foreign language students.
American Education Research Association. (2006, Spring) "Foreign Language Instruction: Implementing the Best Teaching Methods" in Research Points, Vol. 4, Iss. 6. https://www.aera.net/uploadedFiles/Journals_and_Publications/Research_Points/AERA_RP_Spring06.pdf
Mlikotin, Anthony M. (1967, Oct.) "Soviet Methods of Teaching Foreign Languages." In the Modern Language Journal. Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 337-343. Retrieved from Jstor database:
Mora, Jill Kerper. (2002). "Second-Language Teaching Methods." http://coe.sdsu.edu/people/jmora/ALMMethods.htm
Novotna, Jarmila & Hofmannova, Marie. (2007) "Teacher training for content and language integrated learning." st www.weizmann.ac.il/G-math/ICMI/Novotna_Jarmila-Hofmannova_Marie_ICMI15_prop.doc
Pufahl, Ingrid, Rhodes, Nancy C., and Christian, Donna. (2001, Sept.). "What we can learn from foreign language teaching in other countries." Center for Applied Linguistics. http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/0106pufahl.html