The Grammar Translation method

This is a method to teach foreign languages that are derived from traditional or classical teaching method of Latin and Greek. In their classes, people learn grammar rules and method of their application by translating sentences of the target language as well as the native language. Experienced people may need to translate whole content word to word. The grammar translation method has two goals: one is to enable the learner to read and translate the text written in a source language and second is to develop general intellectual in further students. It has been originated from the method of teaching Latin in the 1500s. People used to learn Latin for communication purpose and after it became a language for academic discipline. Teachers used the translation-based approach in the 1900s.

The concept of the Grammar Translation faced criticism due to insufficient verifiable sources and that supported the presence of method in the 1900s or earlier.


Latin was the widely used foreign language because it was prominent in business, academia and government. However, the Latin language became faded and replaced by Italian, French and English. After the decline, the Latin became purely academic subject.

During the 1800s and 1900s, throughout Europe, the education system was based around a concept “Faculty Psychology”. The theory reveals that the mind and body were separate. The mind consists of three parts: the intellect, emotion and will. It was said that the intellect can be sharpened to control the emotions and will. It can be done through literature of the Romans, Greeks and mathematics. An adult having such education was thought to be prepared for the world challenges.

Goals and Principles:

The grammar-translation classes have two main goals. One is to develop reading ability so that the students can read the literature. The other is to develop general mental discipline in students. The foreign language users wanted to note things in which they were interested, so, the method focuses mainly on reading and writing.


The classes are normally conducted in the native language of the students. Grammar rules are taught deductively; students learn those rules by rote and then practice them by translating in the target languages and doing grammar drills. The sentences being translated needs more attention as compared with their content. When a learner reaches an advanced level of achievement, they can translate whole text from the objective language. Tests contain the translation of classical content. There is no speaking or listening practice, and a very little focus on pronunciation or communicative aspects.


The basis of materials in the classroom for the method is the textbook. In the 19th century, textbooks attempted to provide support for the learner to learn and memorize. The chapter begins with a vocabulary list, then grammar rules and sentences to translate into the target language.


The method has a limited scope. Speaking or any sort of creative output is missing, so the learner would fail at letter writing or speaking. Richards and Rodgers rejected the grammar translation method as a legitimate teaching method.

The method was the standard way of teaching languages from 17th to the 19th century. Theorists like Passy, Berlitz, Jespersen and Vietor began to think what type of foreign language needed and sorting out what is missing in grammar translation method. Despite the drawbacks, the method is the most used method throughout the world in teaching the language.


Maryum is a freelance writer and IT Professional living in Pakistan. Her technical and transcription blogs about software solutions have been published on various websites. With her hands on experience in translation tools like CATMATE, OMEGAt and TRADOS and advisor of technological tools for big transcription and translation projects. Maryum has the capability of delivering high-quality knowledge in just a few words on her articles and blogs.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Brooke Suzy says:

    Great article on grammar translation. I’m glad I took the time to read it. When translating, the grammar is very important to have correct.

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