Latin. That is what you would have learned if you were learning a second language before the 18th century. In particular, Latin grammar. That’s why they were called “grammar schools”. Not very helpful if you actually wanted to talk to someone in a language other than your own – considering that there were no longer any native Latin speakers to speak with.
In the 18th century, more languages were added. Living languages, like English or French or German and were actually spoken somewhere in the world. But the method was still heavily founded on translation and grammatical analysis. Memorization was key. Language drills, mostly written, were the norm. And to be honest, simply boring!
But something happened in the 20th century. Suddenly linguistics and pedagogy and developmental psychology coalesced to produce a multitude of language learning methods. Suddenly all languages were fair game – even made-up languages (like Esperanto), or minority languages (those spoken by only a few people in the entire world). Methods used in “grammar schools” were replaced with a plethora of educational theories that spawned a multitude of learning and teaching techniques. Methods like the audio-visual approach, or the direct method (talking only in the new language), or language immersion (talking only in the new language in every possible school subject), or the communicative approach (learn by interacting with others in task based situations). Certainly a more active and creative way to learn than before, but you still needed a school, a teacher, books, a way to get there – in short, money and opportunity.
And now we are into the 21st century. Books are being replaced by the internet and mobile revolutions. We don’t need to be in a physical classroom. We can use the cloud. We don’t need to try to decipher strange phonetic symbols in a printed dictionary in order to understand how a word is pronounced – we can hear a recording or a synthetic sample of the desired word right at our finger tips. We don’t need to read dialogs – we can simply play a cool video with optional subtitles. We may even get the translation of it in our own language at the exact moment we want it. We can play language games by ourselves or with the world community. We can interact, globally, with any student or teacher or native speaker in the world – if we know where to find them! In short, we can learn by ourselves, for ourselves, with ourselves (or others), if only we want to, and if only we know how to. So what is the problem now? It is finding what motivates us and what will ‘work’ – but this is for another blog. Remind me for next time, OK?
SpeakingPal is proud to be at the forefront of 21st century language training!