What is Grammar Translation Method? Language Teaching

What is Grammar Translation Method?

The grammar translation method is a language teaching method to learn a foreign language. GTM is derived from the classical/traditional method of teaching Greek and Latin. This method aims at studying and analyzing the grammatical rules of the target language. In this method, a practice of grammatical structures was carried out through the means of translating both into and from the mother tongue. The GTM is totally based on the written word and texts.

The grammar-translation method remained the dominant foreign language teaching method in Europe from the 1840s to next 10 decades and even today this method is widely used in some region of the world. However, during mid-19th century, theorists started questioning the principles behind the grammar translation method. Because at that time, there was a greater demand for ability to speak foreign languages, and many renowned reformers began reconsidering the nature of language and learning. Because of the struggle of theorists, changes were beginning to take place but could not replace it totally and we can see practice of GTM even today.

In GTM, there is a typical procedure that presents the rules of a particular grammar item and then to illustrate its use by practicing (including the particular grammar item in a text). And a final practice is carried out by using the item through writing sentences of target language and translating target language into the mother tongue.

Elements of GTM

In GTM, Textbooks, vocabulary lists, grammar rules, and classical literature are the essential element of teaching and learning. The main tool of teaching is grammar and practice is the applicability of learned set rules of grammar.


The main element of classroom materials for the grammar translation method is the textbook. Textbooks generally attempted to codify the grammar of the target language into discrete rules for students to learn and memorize. In a typical grammar–translation textbook, a chapter would begin with a bilingual vocabulary list, after which there would be a set of grammar rules to memorize and some sentences of target language for students to translate.


Grammar is the main tool of this language learning method. Grammatical analysis of sentence structure including morphology and syntax are taught to students and asked to practice over and over. Classes are usually conducted in the students’ mother or native tongue.


Memorizing a vocabulary list of target language is also a basic element of the grammar-translation. It is generally like one column of words written in the target language and the second column is in the native tongue. Students are asked to memorize some words on a daily basis.


The last element of GTM is the practice of learned grammatical rules that includes translation of one sentence to other language. This practice makes learner a good writer and translator.

Scope of GTM

The GTM has a very limited scope because of lack of speaking or any kind of spontaneous creative output. Students would often fail at speaking or even letter writing in the target language.

It has been rejected as a legitimate language teaching method by modern scholars like Bahlsen, Plötz and many others. Grammar Translation Method is still very popular in third world countries like India, Pakistan, and in some African countries. Moreover, it has no advocates. It is a method for which there is no theory.

Vocabulary learning in GTM is an essential element and without basic vocabulary it would really be very difficult for learners to make serious headway with any language, using any technique/method.

Vocabulary teaching is still popular in modern teaching methods/techniques but its form of teaching is change into presentation of words with pictures of the actual objects in full color instead of a dry word list. The positive edge of Grammar Translation Method is that it can be applied to a whole array of contexts and situations.

The learners of GTM have a good opportunity to read Greek/classical literature and have some knowledge of history of the country. Besides, it provides translation practice.

Goals of Grammar Translation Method

The GTM has two main goals. First is to enable students to read and translate literature written in the source language, and second is to develop students’ general intellectual discipline.

Objectives of the Grammar Translation Method

There are some main objectives of grammar–translation classes.

  • GTM develops reading ability to a level where a student can read literature written in the target language.
  • This method improves students’ general intellectual capacity.
  • Forming good academic knowledge of the target language is a key objective of GTM.
  • GTM focuses on learning grammar rules for better accuracy.
  • Moreover GTM develops students‘ memory

Weaknesses of Grammar Translation Method

The main weakness of GTM lies in its inability on the part of the student to use language for communication. Below are the weak aspects of GTM.

  • GTM does not focus on communicative aspects, and as a result, speaking and listening skills are overlooked.
  • There is no usual listening, or speaking practice, and very little attention is placed on pronunciation
  • More attention is paid to the form of the sentences being translated than to their content.
  • The reading skill is exercised over and over in the context of translation.
  • Tests often consist of the translation of classical literary texts.
  • The result of GTM is an inability on the part of the learners to use language for communication purpose.

Main Reason behind Weakness of GTM

There are many aspects because of that GTM is not popular or beneficial among learners. Below are the same reasons that why GTM is not accepted by the modern students.

  • The main cause is the lack of using language for communicative purposes.
  • The class environment is void of speaking and listening practice that leads to the lack of development of communicative skills among learners.
  • Classes based on GTM are conducted in the learners’ native language.
  • Grammar rules are learned deductively.
  • Then practice the rules by doing grammar drills and translating sentences to and from the target language.
  • Students generally learn grammar rules by rote.