The Direct Method is a method “in which a new word or expression is connected in the pupil’s mind directly with what it stands for and not through the medium of vernacular.” According to Webster’s New International Dictionary, “Direct Method is a method of teaching a foreign language, especially a modern language through conversation, discussion and reading in the language itself without use of the pupil’s language, without translation and without the study of formal grammar. The words are first taught by pointing to object or picture or by performing action.”
(a) Main Features of the Direct Method. The main features of the Direct Method have been described by H.E. Palmer. These are
1. Translation in any shape or form is banished from the classroom, including the use of the mother-tongue and of the bilingual dictionary.
2. Grammar, when it is taught, is taught inductively.
3. Oral teaching precedes any form of reading and writing.
4. The use of disconnected sentences is replaced by the use of connected texts.
5. Pronunciation is to be taught systematically on more or less phonetic basis. The meanings of new words and forms are taught by means of direct objects, actions or in natural contexts.
6. The vocabulary and structures of the language are inculcated to a large extent by questions asked by the teacher and answered by the pupils.
(b) The Principle of the Direct Method. The Direct Method is a method of teaching a foreign language directly. It emphasises language learning by direct contact with the foreign language in meaningful situations. The principle underlying this method is to establish a direct bond between English word, phrase or idiom, and its meaning. The principle on which this method works may be shown in a diagrams as follows:
From the above it is clear that the mother-tongue does not come between the foreign word and the meaning it conveys.
(c) How to Secure the Direct Bond? For the successful working of the Direct Method, the following means are used:
1. Oral work.
Speech is very important. The Direct Method lays tress on the oral aspect of English. The child should first listen and hen speaks. This will develop a language sense among the children. Oral teaching will also form the basis of reading and writing.
2. Minimum use of the mother-tongue.
Make as little a use of the mother-tongue as possible. The sounds of the mother-tongue should not interfere with English sounds. This will ensure the direct bond between experience and expression between word and meaning. Use mother-tongue only when it is most essential to use it.
3. The sentence and not the word becomes the unit of speech.
The Direct Method follows the principle that the unit of speech should be sentence and not the word. We talk and think in sentences or “sense-group”. We do not think in single words. So, sentence is made the unit of speech. The teachers make use of different types of sentences such as affirmative, negative, interrogative, exclamatory, etc.
4. The teaching of descriptive grammar.
Grammar is not taught for the sake of grammar. The Direct Method aims at teaching the grammar of language-or the grammar that describes the language in action. The grammar taught is not the “grammar of rules” but the “grammar of use”. Grammar is taught indirectly.
5. Progressive teaching of new vocabulary.
The Direct Method stresses the need of using only limited words and phrases. The words and phrases are taught at definite stage through spoken language. Thus teaching of vocabulary is progressive.”
(d) Advantages claimed by the Direct Method
1. English is taught in the medium of English and not in the medium of the mother-tongue.
2. The child gets many opportunities to listen to spoken English. This is very important for language mastery.
3. The Direct Method follows the natural way of learning a language. The child listens and speaks. He acquires fluency in English speech.
4. The Direct Method lays stress on oral work. The child gets to improve his speech habits, including pronunciation.
5. The Direct Method helps the child to think in English without the aid of the mother-tongue. This strengthens his ability of self-expression.
6. There is an ample scope for the use of audio-visual aids. These aids make the teaching work easy, interesting and more concrete.
7. The method is the quickest way of getting started in English.
8. The Direct Method prepares an easy ground for written English.
9. There is good scope for activity. The teaching work becomes interesting.
10. It is the method of a living language, not of a dead one.
(e) Limitations of the Direct Method
1. The method is no doubt, very useful for the early stage. It does not work well in higher classes. Certain aspects of language-study are neglected. It is an incomplete method.
2. Speech is given importance at the cost of reading and writing.
3. Every teacher cannot be expected to teach with the Direct Method. It requires teachers who are skilled in handling language material.
4. It is an expensive method. Aids have an important place in this method. But many schools cannot afford to buy such aids as projector, linguaphone, etc.
5. The method is more suitable for small-sized classes. In Indian schools, we have over-crowded classes. The use of the method may give out undesirable results.
6. All vocabulary items cannot be taught through direct association. The teacher may feel some difficulty when he wants to explain the difference between, say, ‘beautiful’ and ‘pretty’.
7. The success of the Direct Method depends upon Direct Method Readers. But such Readers are not available.
8. It is likely to prove a time-consuming method. Indian students have weak language sense or weak background. They will pose to have understood what is taught when actually they have not.
9. It lays stress on student’s command on language without systematic reading lessons and written work.
(f) Conclusion. Though the Direct Method has a number of drawbacks, yet it is a useful method. Its use has shown very good results, especially in case of beginners. Start with oral work, drill and graded structures and you prepare a sound language background for the learner.