Total Physical Response Method and Spanish
Teaching strategies of a foreign language class have evolved from a long history of useless methods that do not fulfill the goal of language acquisition. The main goal of a foreign language class in terms of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards is that the students be able to communicate using the foreign language. Communication refers to the student’s ability to converse with a native speaker of the language that has been studied. In the past, it was assumed that students must first learn the rules of grammar and then use those rules to construct sentences and communicate, but there have been several linguistic theories that have refuted this methodology.
Researchers such as Chomsky and Krashen have presented theories that explain that as adults we learn language the same way a child does when they are first born, through input from another person that speaks the language (i.e. our parents). We do not learn grammar rules when we begin to talk, nonetheless we still learn the language; therefore it is the same when we are adults learning a second language. In applying this to a language classroom; an important duty of the teacher then, is to provide instruction in the target language (Spanish in my case). This input only turns into acquisition when it is comprehensible, interesting, a little beyond their current competence level, and not grammatically sequenced, but understandable through their background knowledge, their use of context, and other extra linguistic cues such as gestures according to Krashen’s input hypothesis (Gilsan and Shrum 3). Once students acquire the language, they are then able to communicate with the language according to Krashen’s acquisition-learning hypothesis (Gilsan and Shrum 3).
The traditional way of teaching a language, through memorization, repetition and focus on grammar, is done with the left brain and puts emphasis on correctness of the language (pronunciation, accent, proper forms of verbs etc.) Where acquiring the language involves the right brain and does not focus on correctness, but rather on the playful aspect of the language encouraging an individual to take a chance and enjoy the new language (Asher). Again referring to Krashen’s hypotheses he states in his affective filter hypothesis that language learning must take place in an environment where learners are “off the defensive” and anxiety is low in order for the input to be noticed and gain (Gilsan Shrum). This is especially important for beginners in the language setting because if the focus is on the correctness of the language, then they will stray away from participating in the classroom activities and communication, thus not meeting the New Jersey Core Curriculum standards.
With acquisition as the main focus in second language learning, Total Physical Response (TPR) was developed in 1974, and continues to be used in the language classroom. It was developed by Asher and...