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Situational Language Teaching



Situational language teaching is a term not commonly used today, but it is an approach developed by British applied linguists in the 1930s to the 1960s, and which had an impact on language courses which survive in some still being used today.

Theory of language

The Structural view of language is the view behind the Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching. Speech was viewed as the basis of language and structure as being at the heart of speaking ability. This was a view similar to American structuralists, such as Fries, but the notion of the British applied linguists, such as Firth and Halliday, that structures must be presented in situations in which they could be used, gave its distinctiveness to Situational language teaching.

Theory of learning

The theory of learning underlying Situation Language Teaching is behaviorism, addressing more the processes, than the conditions of learning. It includes the following principles:

  • language learning is habit-formation
  • mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they make bad habits
  • language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form
  • analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis
  • the meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context

Here are some of the objectives of Situational Language Teaching

  • a practical command of the four basic skills of a language, through structure
  • accuracy in both pronunciation and grammar
  • ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations
  • automatic control of basic structures and sentence patterns.
The syllabus

Situational Language teaching uses a structural syllabusand a word list

Types of learning techniques and activities
  • A situational presentation of new sentence patterns
  • drills to practice the patterns

Here is a typical procedure in Situational Language Teaching

  • Procedures move from controlled to freer practice of structures
  • Procedures move from oral use of sentence patterns to their automatic use in speech, reading and writing.

Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 21 March 1999

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