The Grammar-Translation Method

The Grammar translation method, or classical method emerged when people of the western world wanted to learn "foreign" languages such as Latin and Greek. Its focus was on grammatical rules, the memorization of vocabulary and of various declensions and conjugations, translations of texts, doing written exercises.
The method requires students to translate whole texts word for word and memorize numerous grammatical rules and exceptions as well as enormous vocabulary lists. The goal of this method is to be able to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics.
Classes were conducted in the native language. A chapter in a typical textbook of this method would begin with a massive bilingual vocabulary list. Grammar points would come directly from the texts and be presented deductly in the textbook, to be explained elaborately by the instructor. Grammar thus provided the rules for assembling words. Tedious translation and grammar drills would be used to exercise and strengthen the knowledge without much attention to content. Sentences would be deconstructed and translated, for example. Eventually, entire texts would be translated from the target language into the native language and tests would often ask students to replicate classical texts in the target language. Very little attention was placed on pronunciation or any communicative aspects of the language. The skill exercised was reading, and then only in the context of translation.


A class working with the Grammar translation Method would look like that:
1. Classes are taught in the mother tongue, with little active use of the target language.
2. Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words.
3. Long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given.
4. Grammar provides the rule for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words.
5. Reading of difficult classical texts is begun early.
6. Little attention is paid to the content of texts,which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis.


1. Translation of a Literary Passage:
-Students translate a reading passage from the target language into their native language.
2. Reading Comprehension Questions
-Students answer questions in the target language based on their understanding of the reading passage.
3. Antonym/synonyms
-Students are given one set of words and are asked to find antonyms in the reading passage.
4. Fill-in-the-blanks
-Students are given a series of sentences with words missing.
5. Deductive Application of Rule
-Grammar rules are presented with examples. Once students understand a rule, they are asked to apply it to some different example.

By Fali