Nowadays, English has become the Global language. It is the language of science, technology, economic, etc. As a result, learning English has become an essential need for everyone. While learners try their best to reach their goal of successful communicator in foreign language, teachers find ways to make language teaching effective. In this fashion, considering and choosing the right way in teaching is prior thing for all of teachers and I am not an exception.
We have witnessed the dominance of Communicative Approach with Communicative Language Teaching in the world in general and in Vietnam in particular recent years. For me, I will use the Eclectic Approach to teach English in the future due to its benefits it can bring and suitability for Vietnamese context. First, I will go through some literature about this approach. What is Eclectic Approach? It is an approach “in which the teacher does not use one particular method but includes a mixture of different methods to suit his class” ( Aslam, 2003: 67).
It allows language to absorb the best techniques of all the well- known language – teaching methods into their classroom procedures, using them for the purposes for which they are most appropriate (River, 1981, as cited in Mahmood, 2012). This means the objective of this approach is that the teacher is not limited to only a single method but the teacher can use a selection of appropriate techniques. It is much more flexible than other methods and it can be adapted easily to suit a wide variety of teaching situations (Wheeler 1983:37- 38, cited in Rasri) Today many teachers prefer to use this method.
This was proved by an international survey conducted by Liu in term of the familiarity, use for teaching learners at different proficient level, use for teaching four skills as well as preferences of method (Liu, 2004: 143), because they can adjust to the requirements for achieving the purpose of teaching without the need to face many difficulties as the use of one particular method. In addition, teachers can easily adapt to the needs of teaching so that teaching objectives or goals can be achieved in an activity. Actually, this approach brings a lot of benefits in learning and teaching.
Let’s take a look at some research carried out, which showed that the positive effect of this approach on language learning. In a study, namely A Comparative Study of Direct, Communicative and Eclectic Approaches in Teaching ESL, Mahmood (2012) stated that “Eclectic approach is the most effective approach as the teacher enjoys the freedom to absorb the best techniques of all the well-known methods and approaches”. In addition, Haghighi (2012) showed the success of program when eclectic approach was employed in his school for Iranian Engineering Undergraduates. What’s more?
Iranian Agriculture students can improve reading skill by using this approach in instead of using only Grammar- Translation was improved by Modirkhameneh (2009). Likewise, Khan (2007) shared his experience about an effective way to teach grammar at school: use an eclectic method, which drew in techniques from different methods as varied as the Grammar Translation Method, Direct Method and Communicative Language Teaching Methods. In writing, the genre process approach is recommended as an eclectic approach to Chinese English writing instruction in universities by Shuo (…).
In general, benefits that this approach brings for English learning are obvious, that’s why “the majority of language specialists considers eclecticism a legitimate solution to the lack of universal solutions offered by any single method .. ”(Molina, Canado & Agullo, 2007:34) Besides the benefits that I mentioned above, the suitability of this approach in Vietnam make me choose this for future teaching method. In fact, traditional method- Grammar Translation Method (GTM) has been used in Vietnam for a long time.
And it just was replaced by the new method because it can not develop communicative ability for learner in everyday situation and make students passive due to much focus on form. Another reason is to catch up with globalization of English as well. According to Le Van Canh, Vietnam introduced CA (approach employed by Communicative Language Teaching) into its school system rather late than its neighbors such as China, Hong Kong, or Thailand (Canh, 2009). CLT replaced GMT when The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) organized the design of the new curriculum and the writing of new textbooks for all school subjects in 2002.
However, the application of CA faces many challenges. The challenges are from the teachers, learners, the class constrains, the syllabus. Vietnamese students and teachers are still familiar with GTM that has influence on them for long time, so the change into the new one is not easy at all. In addition, the class size with over forty students per class is one thing that make us concern. Also, the mismatch between the textbook and testing system is another one concern as well.
While textbook focuses on four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, testing still focuses on testing linguistic competences only on that grammar and reading only as Wang 2008 once stated “while curriculum developers and textbook writers emphasize the adoption of a communicative approach to teaching, classroom pedagogy has remained textbook-based, test-oriented and teacher-fronted ( cited in Canh & Barrnard, 2009: 28). So eclectic approach which combines the traditional one and modern one is the solution in this situation. It can meet the aim of people who wrote the text book as well as meet students’ need in fulfilling the test.
Furthermore, the most important challenge is the context in Vietnam as Xiao (2009) referred follow: According to Bax, the context refers to the teacher’s understanding of individual students and their learning needs, wants, styles, and strategies as well as the coursebook, local conditions, the classroom culture, school culture, national culture and so on. By taking into account all these factors as much as possible in each situation, teachers will be able to identify a suitable approach and language focus. (Xiao, 2009: 275) In other words, using just GTM or CLT is not suitable in Vietnam because of what I have shared above.
In fact, I also experienced this eclectic method in teaching for two years. I see that most of Vietnamese students prefer this approach – CLT integrated with GTM instead of just using only one method. That is to say, I can provide students with formal aspects of language via GTM because students with a sound grammatical knowledge progress beyond those who have acquired the language intuitively and that such precision increases linguistic comprehension (Ur, 1996:6, as cited in Canado & Agullo, 2007:34) as well as develop competence of using language for communication through CLT.
As Segalowitz and Lightbown (1999: 54) hold that preventing students from learning the structural features of the language is a clear limitation of CLT, given the evidence which supports the effectiveness of combining focus-on-form and communicative activities. ( cited in Canado & Agullo, 2007:34). Given the situation described above, I think, combination of CLT with the traditional approach can exploit the full potential of strengths of these two approaches: good at reading and writing via GTM and listening and speaking via CLT. We know that any teaching methodology has its own reasons to exist. Everything depends on the specific situations.
The teacher and learner variables determine which methods, textbooks, and teaching styles will fit in with the stated pedagogical goals. As is evident above, it is important that communicative features of CLT should be integrated into the Vietnamese pedagogical practices-GTM as “the traditional approach and the communicative approach are not mutually exclusive” (Harvey, 1985, p. 186, as cited in Xiao, 2009: 286). The thing is to make the traditional method can work well along with modern one in the Vietnamese educational context. The choice of my teaching method, thus, is based on what I have just shared.
Every approach introduced to teach a foreign language like English in Vietnam context has got its merits and demerits. Therefore, the teacher including me should be tactful enough to develop own approach that best suits the students for their effective learning. For this purpose the teacher should try to include in his approach, the merits of various approaches, applied in such a manner that as far as possible no demerit of any particular approach disturbs the effectiveness. I would like to use a sentence from Foley (2012:222) to end my essay “ Context and learners needs should determine the variety to be taught”