Trying out the Natural Approach at the FASK

In the summer semester 2002, Don Kiraly was the instructor of an undergraduate seminar about theories of language acquisition. Two students from a university in Budapest taught Hungarian in a course for beginners initiated by Don Kiraly. Although they had no experience with the method of the Natural Approach; the students accepted the challenge.

A week before the seminar began, Don Kiraly acquainted the students with the Natural Approach. He and his twelve-year-old son served as test subjects on which the students tried out different teaching concepts. The seminar was held five hours a day for a week. Twenty-five students took part in the course, including Don Kiraly, who was taught in the same way as the other participants. The course was solely held in Hungarian, and the instructors attached great importance to interactive collaboration. For instance, the blindfolded students had to perform an obstacle race where they had to rely completely on each other. Neither taking notes nor using other devices was permitted in class.

After this week, four students decided to continue the Hungarian course until the end of the semester. The model lessons with the Natural Approach were a unique experience for all participants. Above all, they realized that successful learning depends a great deal on collaboration in the group. However, despite the positive reaction to the Natural Approach, the students also realized that they forgot quickly what they had learnt.

At the same time, Katrin Kohl from the University of Oxford, observes that there is a shift back to the traditional teaching of grammar: "In reaction to the grammar-based approaches derived from Classics, communicative approaches tend to look to the Romantic premise that natural is best - which helps to explain their equally narrow approach to communication. To take but one example, Krashen/Terrell's The Natural Approach (1988) presents grammar-based methods as a Renaissance aberration associated with old schoolmasters and Latin declensions. In contrast, the Natural Approach is exemplified by the noble savage who predates grammar studies, by immigrant workers in Europe and by language learners in the marketplace of underdeveloped regions of Africa (pp7-9)."