Svetlana Avagyan

Svetlana Avagyan

National Technical University of Ukraine “KPI”


Psychological bases in methods of teaching foreign languages


Foreign language teaching methods, as it is known, vary under the influence of research in the basic sciences in methodology, one of which is psychology. The purpose of the article is to give a brief overview of the main psychology schools which have influenced and still influence the development of linguistics that has recently become synonym of “methods”.

Behaviorism, which was formed in 40-50th years, parallel with structuralism in linguistics, has been impact so seriously on the methodology that audiolingual learning method occurred as a result of the influence has dominated in learning foreign languages starting from more than twenty years ago up to nowadays. In fact, behaviorism since its classical representative Pavlov I.P. and ending with Skinner B.F. focused on the external manifestations of human behavior (hence the name), and brought it to a chain of R/S ratio and the critical role of “reinforcement” succeeded each reaction. In the same way audiolingual method brought the language acquisition to the process of forming the skills due to confirmed responses in case of positive reward. The language samples like drilling i.e. mechanic training through transformational exercises, which provide language material memorizing, was mainly used in this method. These method responses reached us through exercises where students learn grammar through speech samples drill.

Meanwhile in the beginning of 60th behavioral approach and audiolingual method based on it were seriously criticized by their opponents, cognitive scientists. Unlike behaviorists, describing behavior including speech in its external manifestation, cognitive psychology was concentrated on deep operation of the mind, which is not subject to an external examination. Instead of answering the question “what?” they looked for the reply to the question “why?”. Thus, cognitive theory code, which occurred in the depths of cognitive psychology, emphasizes the language knowledge with the help of operations of the mind with the use of different teaching styles and strategies as a cognitive activity. Robert Gagne is the founder of the theory, who underlined 8 types of learning from signal activity and R/S ratio till problem-solving. Another representative of cognitive psychology is Ausubel D.P. in 1968, who suggested styles characterizing people’s behavior in their knowledge: reflective, impulsive field dependence, field independence, tolerance of ambiguity.

As researches stated, cognitive styles bring into the world certain learning strategies. Rubin J. and Stern H. who studied and used these strategies in foreign language teaching named 7 specifications for good language knowledge:

·        desire to guess and guess accuracy;

·        a strong motivation to communicate;

·        risk-taking;

·        attention to linguistic form;

·        communication/interaction partner search;

·        speech self-control;

·        attention to meaning.

Subsequent studies of O’Malley J.M. showed up 24 strategies of learning a foreign language as a second language, which can be divided in 3 groups.

·        metacognitive strategies including learning preplanning, learning process realization, results assessment and so on.

·        cognitive strategies directly related to educational material handling (revision, grouping, deduction, note-taking, key words memorizing, etc.)

·        socio-emotive strategies, involving collaboration,  also compensating strategies for clarification (repetition, paraphrasing, examples, etc.)

It must be noted that the last group of strategy was underlined in the result of new psychology development. This is humanistic psychology which is the next topic of this article. In addition to the strategies developed in cognitive psychology doctrine new methods of learning foreign languages appeared. Suggestopedia, which is called Silent Way as well, is one of them. The founder of suggestopedia is Bulgarian psychiatrist George Lozanov in 1979 based on the assumption that the human brain is able to absorb much larger volume of new language material due to learning conditions change, particularly relaxation sympathetic atmosphere creation by including Baroque music in the learning process. This is the kind of music that stimulates the mental processes and makes students more perspective to the assimilation of the new speech material.

Rogers humanistic concept relating to teaching foreign languages has found its development in the works of Curran and many other researchers who called motivation, the level of anxiety, self- esteem, inhibitedness, risk-taking, empathy, being an extravert among relevant language learning characteristics. Motivation is one of the most studied success factor in learning foreign languages. Different researches have shown that all types of motivations like internal and external, global, situational and instrumental are necessary in learning foreign languages. Motivation as need reduction linked to the behavioral theory of reinforcement very closely. Reinforcement occurs whenever the need is satisfied and this increases motivation.

Similar to motivation self- esteem can be global, situational and instrumental. Adelaide H. studies have shown a positive correlation of all three types of self- esteem with the quality of spoken producing; moreover the largest correlation was between quality and instrumental motivation. However as the scientists note it is an eternal question: Does high self- esteem success in mastering the language or success is self-esteem?

Taking into account the mutual influence of mentioned factors, foreign language teachers should form communicative competence first, the high level of which will have a positive effect on self-esteem.





  1. O'Malley J.M., Chamot A.U. Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition /J.M. O’Malley// - Cambridge: CUP, 1994.
  2. Rubin J. Improving Foreign Language Listening Comprehension Research /J. Rubin// Georgetown University Press. - 1990.
  3. Stern H.H. What can we learn from the good language learner? / H.H. Stern// Canadian Modern Language Review. – 1975. P. 304-318.
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