The Bilingual Teaching Method


The Bilingual Teaching Method (Advantages & Disadvantages)

  • While learning his/her mother language the child grasps the situation or the concept and learns to express it in the mother language simultaneously.  The advocates of the Bilingual English Language Teaching say that while learning a second or a foreign English language, there is no need to recreate the situation. Instead we should make use of the mother language of the child. This is convenient. However, it is only the teacher who uses the mother language and not the students.

The Bilingual Teaching Method

  • According to William Mackey (1965), ‘Selection’, ‘Gradation’, ‘Presentation’, and ‘Repetition’ are the four cardinal principals of all language teaching methodology. The Bilingual Methods embodies these principals. Besides, according to C.J. Dodson (1963) a good method should have the following features to promote “thinking” in the language:
  1. It must be simple.
  2. It must strike a balance between the spoken and the written word and accuracy and fluency.
  3. Constant revision of what is being taught and learnt
  4. A new method must offer a new approach to the application of translation work.
  5. The method must give the teacher an opportunity to promote inter-communication between himself and individual student.
  6. The method must be sufficiently flexible to cope with various classroom conditions and the students` specific and general abilities.
  7. The method must ensure that the student is given the opportunity of having a large number of contacts with the target language than he receives with present methods.
  8. The Bilingual Method is structured to satisfy the above listed criteria through the following principals.
  9. Controlled, systematic use of the mother language by the teacher in the English classroom
  10. The introduction of Writing / Reading early in the course of language learning
  11. Integration of ‘writing’, ‘speaking’ skills
  • The experiment carried out by Dodson in wales proved that the mother language, when used as a meaning conveyor, facilitates rather than hinders the imitation responses of the students. This sparing use of the mother language also release more time for practice and active contact with the foreign language which is crucial at the beginning stages for acquisition of correct language habits.
  • The Bilingual Method scored a marked improvement upon the Grammar-Translation method and the Direct Method in the second language teaching. The Grammar –Translation method conjures up a system of grammatical rules rather than an image of a real world. Further, the responses are written not a spoken one. The Direct Method, on the other hand, establishes fresh concepts of those already existing, and referred to, by the students in the mother language terms. The Direct Method, then expects the students to associate the concepts with foreign language sounds without recourse to the mother language. Yet, the learner is, all through the process of learning, resorting to mental translation. But it is the ‘situation’ and ‘concept’ that the Bilingual-Method interprets. The meaning contents between concepts don`t vary greatly even though the cultural backgrounds of the two way.
  • The finely graded interpretation-exercise of the Bilingual Method is introduced to help in ‘concept causation’, to block out the mother language sentence and to concentrate on the concept or image in relation to the students` own foreign language response.
  • The Bilingual Method introduces the printed word right from the early stages, while the Direct Method advocates the postponement of the printed word to later stages on the assumption that the process of second language learning is similar to that of first language the early introduction of the printed word the Bilingual Method helps the student develop correct meaningful imitation responses and consolidate sentence patterns more securely than those learnt without recourse to the mother language. Moreover, the early introduction of the printed word which helps in smoother the transition from the spoken to the written word. In the Bilingual Method both the ‘writing’ and ‘speaking’ are well integrated. The grammar –Translation Method aims at accuracy at the expense of fluency, while the Direct Method aims at fluency at the expense of accuracy. The bilingual Method happily combines both and aims at accuracy and fluency in the spoken and written word.
  • There are four steps of presentation involved in the Bilingual Method are as under:

Step 1: Imitation:  The students learn how to speak a small range of basic sentences.

Step 2: Interpretation: This step is to help the students to overcome the difficulty of welding together sound and meaning and to switch rapidly from one language to the other.

Step 3: Sub- situation and Extension: This stage will wean the students away from the fixed sentences of the basic situation by widening the sphere of activity and introducing stimulation concepts chains.

Step 4: Independent Production of Sentences: This is a creative process through the preceding three steps. At this stage the students don`t need a spoken stimulus either in the mother language or in the foreign language.

  • Thus, The Bilingual Method is not a method made up of brand new things. It is a happy synthesis of what is best in the other methods known to us and modified wherever necessary to suit the objectives of the second language learning today. As Carroll (1961:77) puts it: But, then, in these highly advanced times it could hardly be expected that a new method would represent anything more than a new combination of procedure.
  • The Bilingual Method has added a new dimension to second language teaching by making it possible for the quantitative and qualitative acquisition of language skills.


  • Some experiments establish the fact the Bilingual Method is more effective that the Direct Method. The advantages of the Bilingual Method are as under:
  • It saves the state of botheration in explaining the meanings of words through contextualized presentation.
  • It makes use of the student`s knowledge of the mother language.
  •  The meanings of words are explained by the teacher accurately. It is thus that the Bilingual Method, like the Translation Method, ensures accuracy.
  • A lot of stress is laid on speech. Students are made to do a lot of patterns practice. The result is that they become fluent speakers of the language. Thus the bilingual Method, like the Direct Method ensures fluency.
  • The Bilingual Method can be used successfully even by an average teacher of English.
  • It does not require the help of audio-visual aids.


  • The teacher must be fluent in both the languages in order to make the concepts clear. Students may develop dependency on their mother tongue. Slows down learning process and takes longer time to learn and be proficient in the target language.
  • Language Fluency Delay: Most times, speech delay is often confused with language delay. …
  • Mixing Languages: It is a common sight to see people start a sentence with one language and then finish it with another.
  • Bilinguals of different ages and cultural backgrounds have been shown to be faster and more accurate than their monolingual peers when performing cognitive tasks demanding these abilities. It has also been argued that bilingualism may lead to a delayed onset of symptoms associated with dementia

The Bilingual Method and The translation Method

  • The Bilingual Method is not the same as the translation Method. It differs from the translation Method in two important respects:
  1. In the Bilingual Method, it is only the teacher who uses the mother language and that too for a limited purpose, i.e. to explain the meaning in the mother language. In the Translation Method, both the teacher and the student use the mother language liberally.
  2. As the meanings of new words in both these methods are explained in the mother language, they ensure accuracy.In the Bilingual Method, there is a lot of pattern practice, but no pattern practice is provided in the Translation Method.
  • Thus we find that the Bilingual method is better than the Translation Method.

The Bilingual Method and Direct Method

  • The Bilingual Method, like the Direct Method, lays emphasis on speech. Thus both the methods ensure accuracy. But it differs from the Direct Method in the following respects:
  • In the Bilingual method the teacher explains the meanings in the mother language, but in the Direct method the meanings are explained by material association, explanation or using the word in appropriate the mother language.
  • More pattern practice is provided in the Bilingual method than in the case with the direct method.
  • Even an average teacher of English can make a success of the Bilingual method. But highly trained teachers are needed for the direct method.
  • There is no need to use to use audio-visual aids in the Bilingual Method, but aids are a must in the direct method.

The Bilingual Method and the Structural Approach

  • Both the Bilingual method and the Structural Approach lay emphasis on pattern practice. Both stress the importance of speech. The points of differences between the two are as under:
  • In the Bilingual Method the teacher explains the meanings in the mother language; but in the Structural Approach, the meanings are explained by material association, explanation or using the word in appropriate context.


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