The Silent Way
in Richards and Theodore's framework


The Underlying Learning Hypothesis

  • Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than
    remembers and repeats what is to be learned
  • Learning is facilitated by accompanying physical objects
  • Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to
    be learned

The Silent Way views language learning as a problem-solving, creative, discovering activity, in which the learner is a principal actor rather than a bench-bound listener

  • The rods and the color-coded pronunciation charts provide physical foci for student learning and also create memorable images to facilitate student recall.
  • The premises underlying The Silent Way is called "problem-solving" approaches to learning. These premises can be represented in the words of Benjamin Franklin : Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.
  • The Silent Way student is expected to become "independent,
    autonomous, and responsible."


Theory of Language

  • Gattegno views language itself "as a substitute for experience, so experience is what gives meaning to language.
  • To grasp the "spirit" of the languag, Gattegno is referring to the way each language is composed of phonological and suprasegmental elements that combine to give the language its unique sound system and melody.
  • The Silent Way takes a structural approach to the organization of language to be taught. Language is separated from its social context and taught through artificial situations, usually presented by rods.
  • Gattegno sees vocabulary as a central dimension of language learning, he distinguishes between several classes of vocabulary items.
    • "semi-luxury vocabulary"
    • "luxury vocabulary"
    • "functional vocabulary"

Theory of Learning

  • Gattegno recommends that the learner needs to " return to the state of mind that characterizes a baby's learning- surrender."
  • The "artificial approach" that Gattegno proposes is based on the principle that successful learning involves commitment of the self to language acquisition through the use of silent awareness and then active trial.
  • The self of the learner consists of two systems
    • The learning system is activated only by way of intelligent awareness.
      • Repetition (as opposed to silence) "consumes time and encourages the scattered mind to remain scattered."
      • Silence, as avoidance of repetition, is thus an aid to alertness, concentration, and mental organization.
    • The "retaining system" allows us to remember and recall at will linguistic elements and their organizing principles and makes linguistic communication possible.
      • Silence is a key to triggering awareness and hence the preferred path to retention. The mind does much of retention links during sleep.
  • Silent way learners acquire "inner criteria to allow them to monitor and self-correct their own production.
    • It is in the activity of self-correction through self-awareness that the Silent Way claims to differ most notably from other ways of language learning.
    • Gattegno sees language learning through the Silent Way as a recovery of innocence - "a return to our powers and potentials."