Main Teaching Approaches Used in Language Teaching

Noel Perera
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You need a hammer to pound a nail into wood. You need a saw to cut wood into pieces.

No single approach can answer all of learners’ difficulty. 

Time to time various types of teaching approaches have been introduced in order to address one or more issues learners deal with. However, it is likely that the approaches have some interesting relationships with each other. They overlap, support, complement and sometimes even contradict each other.

As no single approach is perfect, they all do share their own pros and cons. 

The following is a quick glance over most common teaching approaches used in language teaching.


Activity-Based Learning

A way of learning by doing activities. The rules of language are looked at either after the activity or not at all.


Communicative Approach

A way of teaching which is based on the principle that learning a language successfully involves communication rather than just memorising a series of rules. Teachers try to focus on meaningful communication, rather than focusing on accuracy and correcting mistakes all the time. Content-based learning.


Functional Approach

A way of teaching which uses a syllabus based on functions rather than on grammatical structures.


Grammar-Translation Method

A way of teaching in which students study grammar and translate words into their own language. They do not practise communication and there is little focus on speaking. A teacher presents a grammar rule and vocabulary lists and then students translate a written text from their own language into the second language.


Guided Discovery

A way of teaching in which teachers provide examples of the target language and then guide the students to work out the language rules for themselves.


Lexical Approach

A way of analysing language that is based on lexical items such as words, multi-word units, collocations and fixed expressions rather than grammatical structures. Some ELT books and materials organise their syllabuses around the Lexical Approach.


Presentation, Practice and Production (PPP)

A way of teaching new language in which the teacher presents the language, gets students to practise it in exercises or other controlled practice activities and then asks students to use the same language in a communicative way in their practice.


Situational Presentation

A way of presenting new language through a simple story or situation. The teacher may use pictures or other aids to help them create the situation.


Structural Approach

A way of teaching which uses a syllabus based on grammatical structures. The order that the language is presented is usually based on how difficult it is thought to be.


Task-Based Learning (TBL)

A way of teaching in which the teacher gives students meaningful tasks to do. The teacher may ask students to thinkabout the language they have used to do the tasks, but the main focus for students is on the task itself. Project workis task-based.



A way of teaching new language. The teacher asks students to do a task without giving them any help, to see how well they know a certain piece of language (this is the first test). The teacher then presents the new language to the students (teach), then asks the students to do another task using the new language correctly (this is the second test).


Total Physical Response (TPR)

A way of teaching in which the teacher presents language items as instructions and the students have to do exactly what the teacher tells them, e.g. Open the window! Stand up! This method is very meaningful and good for beginners when they start to learn a new language, as they have a silent period and can make fast progress.

Noel Perera

Author / Trainer

Noel Perera

Noel Perera has helped thousands of English learners, online and offline, during his 14+ years of coaching. His coaching includes wide variety of English language workshops for young adults, adults, teachers and business professionals. Noel Perera is a former IT student, whose IT career was crushed with a passion for English. Finding a new career path as an English language coach was destiny.