Post-communicative pedagogies: revisiting the translation method of teaching English in East Asia


  • Tak Hung Leo Chan Lingnan University Hong Kong


communicative, resistance, EFL, ideology, pedagogy


In the course of over a century’s development in EFL instruction to non-native speakers, the so-called “grammar-translation” method has largely prevailed, beginning with the early attempts at teaching English through drawing semantic parallels with the native tongue, as exemplified by the missionaries who ventured into newly colonized places with their civilizing mission. Later, EFL pedagogies evolved and other approaches were enunciated as alternatives to the old method. The most remarkable of these, emerging In the 1970s, is the communicative (or direct) approach, built on the rationale that L1 will stand in the way of L2 acquisition. It has been propagated with fervor in East Asian communities, especially in Hong Kong, as in many countries in the Third World. Over the years when the communicative approach spread and prospered, other “designer” methods have been introduced, as for instance Silent Way, Total Physical Response, Suggestopedia and Counseling Learning, but communicative pedagogies still reigned supreme. Much of the recent work on EFL pedagogy is no more than elaborations of this anti-translation method, and represents efforts to refashion it to suit the needs of particular locales. This article begins by contrasting Dimitrois Hadzantonis’s Transition Model, aimed to eradicate all traces of local culture through English language instruction, as exemplified in the case of South Korea, with A. Suresh Canagarajah’s resistance pedagogies, as used in Sri Lanka, and then uses this is the basis for a proposal to reintroduce , or reinvigorate, the Translation Method, which is not only pedagogically effective but also conducive to the formation of intercultural identities (rather than allowing East Asian values to be replace by Western ones). The practicalities of EFL classroom instruction are related, at the end of the article, to the development of national policies in various parts of East Asia in which English learning is related to an urgent social need to nurture not only competent bilingual experts but also translation professionals.