In the past two decades, there has been an evolution in second language pedagogy proceeding from a traditional methodology preoccupied with grammar/translation exercises toward an audiolingual method through to an emphasis on cognitive principles. In the late 19705, a new concept called the Natural Approach was conceived at the University of California, Irvine, by Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen. This method was based on the five hypotheses of Krashen's Second Language Acquisition Theory·
The Natural Approach provides a way for teachers to participate in intensive communication with their students b~ means of the following key points: (1) Communicative activities are of primary importance in the classroom; (2) Communication efforts are never to be frustrated by grammar explanations; (3) Responses in the native language are permitted during the first phases of instruction; (4) The student is never corrected; and, (5) Grammar principles are incorporated in communicative activities .
The Natural Approach has been accompanied by a growing interest in proficiency, i.e., to what extent and how well can students understand and express themselves in another language. Levels of proficiency were established by ACTFL and ETS in the 1980s. These guidelines are now being used as standards against which oral proficiency is judged.
The question for this research was: is one method the most effective in light of the standards of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines? The Natural Approach has been found to be the most effective method of second language instruction when compared with the Grammar/Translation Method, the Audiolingual Method, and the Direct Method against the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.
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