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Dr. West’s New Method of Teaching English :Its Merits and Demerits

                Dr. West conducted an extensive research and experiments on the problems of teaching English as a foreign language in India. Read More Teaching English The new method is the outcome of his research. It stood as a reaction against the Direct Method.

                Dr. West approached the problem of teaching English not from the standpoint of pedagogy, but from the standpoint of social needs of the Indian people. He holds that, “Indian boys need most of all to be able to read English, than to write it, and lastly to speak it and understood it when spoken”. Read More Teaching English Moreover, he maintains that “learning to read a language is by far the shortest road to learning to speak and write it. “According to him it is easier to acquire a reading knowledge of a language than to acquire a speaking. So the teacher’s chief concern should be to develop the habit of purposeful silent reading in the children and not the habit of oral reading.

                The West’s method puts emphasis on three important elements. First, reading, Secondly, Readers with selected vocabulary and thirdly, judicious use of the mother tongue.

According to Dr. West, Indian children should first be taught how to read English. The teacher should engage them in purposeful silent reading. This would increase the students power of comprehension. In order to develop the habit of purposeful silent reading in the children he provides us with a new type of reading book containing interesting reading matter and a specially selected vocabulary. Read More Teaching English The minimum number as selected. By Dr. West for his readers is 2,280 which has been classified under the following four heads:

(i)                   Essential words – This, it, is, a, shall etc.
(ii)                 Common environmental words – chair, table, glass, bus etc.
(iii)                General Words – good, bad, nice etc.
(iv)               Specific environmental words – tree, garden, river, mountain etc.

The new words have been evenly distributed in the lesson and they are frequently repeated to make students familiar with them. a good number of pictures have also been provided. Dr. West has permitted the use of the mother tongue in his method according to necessity. Read More Teaching English Moreover, there are companion Books with vernacular meaning of the new words. Pupil’s comprehension in reading is measured with the help of comprehension tests. But in preparing his readers Dr. West has not followed any well defined grammatical plan.

Dr. West holds that Supplementary Readers should be used along with the New method readers in order to arose interest in other reading and to give more practice in silent extensive reading but new words should not be occurred in the Supplementary Readers. Read More Teaching English In this method the teacher has to give necessary help when called for.
Dr. West, while stressing silent reading, has made provision for some oral work mainly in the form of reading aloud before silent reading begins. An alternative short primer has been provided for ‘speech training on a sentence method’. He admits that, speaking gives reality to the subsequent reading of the language. The primer is meant for only those teachers who intend to start with a small amount of speech training. Dr. West has taken oral work as a preliminary subsidiary to the art of reading.

Dr. West has given some scope for training in speech to make his method complete. In order to give a scheme of speech training he has made a distinction between speech and vocabulary. According to him “The ideal speaking vocabulary is the most easily learnt and most easily used set of word which is capable of expressing correctly the largest number of ideas”. The size of the speaking vocabulary is much smaller than that of the reading vocabulary. Dr. West has selected a minimum speaking vocabulary of 1,158 words capable of expressing all our ordinary ideas. Read More Teaching English He has classified these words under two main heads, viz, ‘form’ words and ‘content’ words. Dr. West holds that specific practice in speaking and drill in vocabulary should be given in order to develop the speaking ability in children. In his new method composition books he has provided question, orders and other forms of exercises for this purpose. According to him, no attempt should be made to teach any two-language skills at the same time. He also holds that written work should be correlated with oral work. In the New Method, theoretical grammar is not taught separately, but is used for curative purposes when necessary. Dr. West holds that grammar should be regarded ‘not as a diet, but as a drug’.

                Dr. West considered English as a skill subject and emphasized the principle of specific practice. For this purpose, he wanted teachers to work out different types of exercises and to conduct drills. His Teachers’ Hand Books serve as guidebooks for teachers.

1.        Dr. West was one of those who first paid attention to the selection and grading of vocabulary and took the first step in its reform. Read More Teaching English
2.        West’s New Method is very effective in the teaching of reading through it has some important pedagogical drawback.
3.        In view of the limited time now available for teaching English and considering the fact that most of the Indian children will need only a passive knowledge of it in their future occupations, this method can profitably be employed in teaching the language in India. Read More Teaching English
4.        The graded Readers, companions, composition books, supplementary Readers and Teachers’ Handbooks were all interesting and appeared to be helpful. The practice exercises are quite interesting.

1.        Dr. West has over-estimated the value of reading by saying that it by far the shortest road to learning to speak and write it. Reading can assist speaking and writing to some extent by supplying some linguistic materials, but it can not be ‘the shortest road’ to learning then.
2.        If the pupils have to start with reading in the initial stage, the language learning is sure to be dull and lifeless to him. Read More Teaching English So it is un-psychological.
3.         Dr. West’s view that ‘a reading knowledge of a language is easier to acquire than a speaking’ is not supported by the modern educationists. They hold that a speaking knowledge is easier to acquire than a reading or writing. Moreover, ‘children should not begin reading till they have acquired facility in speech and a fairly large vocabulary.
4.        Dr. West has over emphasized the importance of acquiring a vocabulary and has selected the commonest words. But he has neglected the graduated introduction of sentence patterns and also of the phrases and idioms that are essential elements in developing language sense. The frequent use of the same word may develop an artificial style.
5.        This method attaches too much of importance to silent reading. No doubt, in learning of a language, silent reading has an important role. Also this method does not give due importance to the oral work. To neglect oral work in the lower classes is unscientific and un-psychological. Read More Teaching English Moreover, the distintion of speaking and reading can not be maintained in practice.
6.        Dr. West’s new method of teaching English does not help Indian students to achieve the four-fold objectives of language learning as already specified. Among other limitations of the New method the want of the graduated introduction of sentence patterns, the total language, the isolated study of words, the total neglect of grammar and composition, can be mentioned.

In spite of the above drawbacks, Dr. West’s method can put to a thorough test. It has done a useful service in the teaching of English in India. Read More Teaching English This method may be effective modern approach.


  1. This is helpful for UP B.T.C. 2nd semester,
    Thanks for this article.


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