What is the grammar translation method

The grammar translation method (GÜM)

Many roads lead to Rome and a variety of methods lead to good teaching. In language teaching, the learning objective and the learning group ultimately determine the path.

As the name suggests, the grammar translation method (GÜM) focuses on translation. Individual text passages through to complex literary texts are translated into the mother tongue, but also individual sentences from the mother tongue into the target language. Reading literary texts in the target language, their written summary and retelling are also practiced. The literary reading texts are also used for dictations, since the dictation has an extremely important function in this method.

The GÜM originated in the 19th century and goes back to the translation of texts practiced in monasteries. It is a deductive method where grammar is presented in the introductory phase. In the following exercise phase, example sentences are created and in the final application phase texts on the subject matter are read, written or translated.

The aim of this method is to learn grammar, as well as to train reading skills. It is only practiced on texts. Reading texts of literary value in the target language is something like the trademark of this method and a subordinate goal of the GÜM is "training the mind".

So it is not primarily about the practical mastery of the language. This is important to distinguish it from other methods. This method includes a cognitive learning concept based on the mechanical memorization of grammar rules and vocabulary lists. The main focus is on reading comprehension and the ability to translate (primarily from the target language into the mother tongue). Finally, subordinate to this, the writing skills are trained. So speaking is not the focus at all. Accordingly, the lessons also take place in the mother tongue and not in the target language.

Common forms of exercise in GÜM are grammatically correct additions to clauses in the gaps or transformations of sentences (e.g. from the present tense into the perfect tense and past tense) up to translations. Unknown words are presented in a bilingual vocabulary dictionary. These vocabulary lists are designed to help you read, write, and translate. Translating back and forth is something like proof of correct command of the language.

The ideal learners for this method must have a uniform mother tongue and be as homogeneous as possible in terms of age and level of education, but above all, they must be efficient.

With the change towards communicative language teaching, the aim of which is oral communication skills, GÜM is no longer practicable in foreign language teaching. Pure grammar is also outdated from a neurodidactic point of view. However, depending on the learning objective and the learning group, this method contains practicable approaches that can be consciously used in the classroom. Because: Many roads lead to Rome.

Our blog author: Anke Kuhnecke