Francois Gouin Series Methods – Methodology of FLT

May 18th, 20117:13 am

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Francois Gouin Series Methods – Methodology of FLT

Francois Gouin Series Methods

Francois Gouin (German teacher of Latin) traveled to Germany to learn German but he had to go through a certain painful set of experiences to drive his insights into the learning of FL.

Having decided in his mid-aged life to learn German he took his residence there for a year. But instead of attempting to converse he engaged in a rather peculiar sequence of attempts to master the language. He felt that he should learn German grammar and a table of 248 irregular verbs. He did this in ten days and hurried to the academy to test his new knowledge but “alas”, he wrote later on “I could not understand a single word”. He was not discouraged.

He returned to the isolation of his own room. This time to memorize the German roots and rememorize the Grammar book and irregular verbs. Again he emerged at the academy with the expectation of success. But the result was the same a before.

During his first year in Germany he memorized books, translated Goethe and Shiller and then memorized 30000 words only to be crushed by his failure to understand German.

Only once he tried to make conversation but this caused people to laugh but he was too embarrassed to continue that method.

At the end of the year he having reduced the classical method was forced to return home with the failure. But there is a happy ending. On returning home he discovered that his three-years-old nephew during that year had gone through the wonderful stage of child language acquisition in which he went from saying virtually nothing to become a veritable chatter-box of French.

He was interested to know how this little child succeeded so easily in a first language, in a task that Francois Gouin in the second language had found impossible. If the child might hold the secret to learning a language?!

So Francois Gouin spent a great deal of time observing his nephew and other children and he came to the following conclusion: language learning is primarily a matter of transforming perception into conception. Language is a means of thinking of representing the world to oneself.

So Francois Gouin set about devising a teaching method that would follow from these insights and thus a series method was created. A method that taught learners directly (without translation and conceptually without grammar rules and explanations) the series of connected sentences which are easy to perceive. The first lesson of a foreign language would thus teach the series up to 15 sentences:

I walk towards the door.
I draw near to the door.
I draw nearer to the door.
I get to the door.
I stop at the door.
I stretch out my arm.
I take hold of the handle.
I turn the handle.
I open the door.
I pull the door.
The door moves.
The door turns on its hinges.
The door turns and turns.
I open the door wide.
I let go of the handle.

The 15 sentences has a large number of grammatical proportions, vocabulary items, word order and complexity. This is not simply “a table lesson”. Yet Francois Gouin was successful with such lessons, because language was easily understood, stored, recalled and related to the reality. Unfortunately he was a mad ahead of his life and his insights were largely lost in the shuffles of Berlitz’s direct method.

But as we look back now more then a century of language teaching history we can appreciate the insights of this language teacher.

Thus Francois Gouin advocated a situationally-based teaching strategy in which a chain of action words served as a basis for introducing and practicing new language items.

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