THE READING METHOD IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING
“The reading method was a theory of language teaching which deliberately restricted the goal of language instruction to one of practical attainable utility.”
Michel West was convinced that the total adoption of the Direct Method was not suited to the conditions as they obtained in Pakistan. As far back as 1921 ‘West’ realized the importance of “Reading” in second language learning. He recommended an emphasis on reading not only because he regarded it as the most useful skill to acquire in a foreign language but also, as Stern(1983:460) points out, “It was the easiest skill with the greatest surrender value for the student in the early stages of language learning”. West viewed language teaching programme as a whole and gave each skill its legitimate place. He believed that “the initial stage of learning a foreign language should, we believe, be to learn to read it—even in the case of the student who aims at complete mastery (reading, writing, and speech)” (west 1960:5). His compilation of the new method readers paved the way towards a method based primarily on reading and it came to be known as The Reading Method.
Michel West realized that, by and large, most Pakistani`s required only the receptive skills of English. Besides, learning and teaching how to read and comprehend written English is easy and not affected by the size of the class. The Reading Method was well supported by the psychological principle that listening and understanding proceed speaking and writing. This method had a strongly pragmatic basis.
To prove the efficacy of his method and to achieve his professed aim west prepared a series of readers containing interesting reading matter with graded vocabulary. New words were evenly distributed in the lessons to facilitate reading with understanding. The aim of the series was to awaken in the students the desire to read more and more.
In Michel West`s view plenty of exercises in reading comprehension would make for later progress in speech and writing. Here he overestimated the value of the passive work as an aid to active work. West`s assertion that silent reading is a key to speech and writing is not corroborated by modern investigations into language learning. One may say that there is a general consensus among the experts in the field of language learning and teaching that the best way to learn a new language is through speech.
H.H. Stern has offered the following assessment of the Reading Method:
(The reading method grew out of practical educational considerations, not from a shift in linguistic or psychological theory… it introduced into language teaching some important new elements;
The possibility of devising techniques, of language learning geared to specific purposes, in this case the reading objective;
The application or vocabulary control to second language texts, as a means of better grading of texts;
The creation of graded “reader”; and
Thanks to vocabulary control, the introduction of techniques of rapid reading to the foreign language classroom. Stern 1983 : 462)
Objective: the reading method was a theory of language teaching which deliberately restricted the goal of language instruction to one of practical attainable utility.
Techniques: the techniques were not radically different from those developed under previous methods. As under grammar translation the use of the first language as not banned in language instruction. The instruction of the second was oral as in the direct method because facility in pronunciation and inner speech were regarded as an important aid in reading comprehension. Several techniques were adopted from native language reading instruction. Above all, vocabulary control in reading texts was regarded as of prime importance and so was the distinction between intensive reading for detailed study and extensive rapid reading of graded “readers” for general comprehension.
Theoretical assumptions: this method had a strongly pragmatic basis. Its educational assumptions were similar to those current in the Pakistani school curriculum of the twenties one namely to gear educational activities to specified ultimate practical uses.
Assessment: the reading method grew out of practical educational considerations, not from a shift in linguistic or psychological theory. It introduced into language some important new elements:
The possibility of devising techniques of language learning geared to specific purposes, I this case the reading objective;
The application of vocabulary control to second language text, as a means of better grading of texts;
The creation of graded “readers” and
Thanks to vocabulary control, the introduction of techniques of rapid reading to the foreign language classroom.