The situational approach had been developed from the 1930s to the 1960s by British Applied Linguists, Harold Palmer and A.S. Hornsby.
These two people knew the direct method and the work done by 19th century applied linguists like Otto Jesperson and Daniel Jones, and they tried to develop a positivist approach to teaching English.
The situational approach ensures that the language taught is practical. The vocabulary and sentences are used in real situation or simulated situation so that the meaning of words are 51associated with situations.
For an example, learners know the meaning of “pencil”, not because
they have looked it up in a dictionary, but by hearing sentences like: “Write with a pencil!”;
“Sharpen the pencil!” etc.
Even if the classroom environment is irrelevant, teacher’s
innovativeness helps learners to comprehend it in a situation outside the classroom.
The objective of teaching English is to make learners use it in their daily life. Therefore,
translation and mechanical drills cannot help learners connect language to real-life situations.
They, in fact, lead to boredom, and there is no relationship between what is being learnt and
practised in daily life. Meaning, context and situation are very important to teach a language.
The vantage point of situational approach is its principle of variety and simplicity. It is due to this
characteristic feature, even slow learners are engaged in what teacher or peers do and say in the
Learners cooperate with one another and they are excited to learn English using it in
imaginary situations, especially when they enact a situation in class.
Besides all these, a noteworthy point is that situational approach demands much from the English teacher. S/he must
be fluent in English, have a reading invention, be able to evaluate learners’ comprehension level
and offer a revision.
Principles of Situational Approach
- Language learning is habit-formation;
- Mistakes should be avoided;
- Language skills are presented orally first, then in written form- to improve the
effectiveness of learning;
- Examples are better than analysis for language learning;
- Meanings of the words are presented in linguistic and cultural context;
- Opportunities are created for learners to associate the meaning of new words with parallel
- New words are introduced as and when it comes in the class;
- Language materials are used to create appropriate situation;
- Continuous repetition of language items;
- The teacher raises questions related to created situation and s/he answers them;
- Revision is important;
- There is a continuous chain of actions from the teacher; and
- Teachers’ statements and actions go together continuously.
Merits of Situational Approach :-
- Meaning well as the structures, are used in an appropriate situation;
- Learning is easy and effective. English is real and interesting; and
- The learner gets good exposure to English, L1 is discouraged.
Demerits of Situational Approach
- Only limited vocabulary and structures are taught;
- It is useful for teaching lower-class learners;
- Drilling makes the class uninteresting and weary; and
- This approach demands highly competent teachers.