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Humanistic language teaching

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Linguistics
Wordcount: 793 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Argumentative Essay

A beneficial method: Humanistic Language Teaching

Nowadays, a great variety of teaching methods and techniques are known and used in the fields of universal education and language teaching. Although all of them aspire to make students’ and teachers’ efforts successful, each of them does it in a slightly different way, namely, by concentrating on various components of the learning process. Humanistic language teaching is a complex teaching method that aims to develop students’ basic language skills and inner self, at the same time. Although some experts claim that humanistic language teaching is inappropriate for language acquisition, in my opinion, it is highly beneficial for students for various reasons.

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First of all, humanistic methods are more useful and motivating for students than other methodologies that only aim the requirement of essential language skills. Humanistic strategies provide an opportunity for students to become acquainted with and to practice a diversity of language usages. Thus, students are not only provided with extended language competence, but they are also enabled to react upon various real-life situations in a functionally and socially appropriate way (Frank and Rinvolucri, as cited in Atkinson, 1989). Moreover, humanistic activities can greatly contribute to students’ motivation. While practicing classical language skills, extra information which is important for self-investigation is gained; and, as Reid (as cited in Arnold, 1998, p. 236) formulates, “students ‘are motivated by self-discovery and by the control such knowledge brings.’ “

Secondly, humanistic-type language classes promote the development of students’ personality and self-awareness, and they have a positive impact on learner’s cognition. By educating the whole person, humanistic methods aim to develop both the cognitive and the affective dimensions, in terms of self-awareness and personality (Moskowitz, as cited in Stevik, 1998). Having more self-knowledge is highly beneficial to students, because, according to Sokrates, introspection is one of the most important sources of wisdom. Furthermore, a self that has realized its own inner qualities may have a better relationship with its surrounding (Arnold, 1998).  According to Moskowitz (as cited in Stevik, 1990), such a self-actualizing person can be characterized by a very positive personality. They are creative, spontaneous, have a great sense of empathy and responsibility, and have something to live for. Although opponents of humanistic language teaching state that there is no correlation between affect and effect, a great amount of neurobiological and pragmatic research contradicts this statement. As an illustration, John Schumann’s brain based model of language acquisition shows that “… in the brain, emotion and cognition are distinguishable but inseparable. Therefore, from a neural perspective, affect is an integral part of cognition” (as cited in Arnold, 1998, p. 239).

Finally, humanistic language teaching develops students’ emotional intelligence, which enables them to live a successful and useful social life. Emotional intelligence, in Goleman’s (as cited in Arnold, 1998, p. 237) interpretation, comprises certain abilities and skills which can be taught to children, in order to give them a “better chance to use their intellectual potential.” The incorporation of the development of skills, like co-operation, empathy, and respect, in the curriculum, makes a contribution to a student’s better understanding and handling of awkward situations. In addition, people with greater emotional intelligence are beneficial to the humankind as a whole, because they are the ones who can deal most successfully with the problems of modern society (Arnold, 1998).

To sum up, humanistic language teaching is not a method without criticism; however, it is highly beneficial to students’ intellectual and affective development. Through humanistic strategies, one can achieve not only extended language competence, but also a great variety of social skills, which makes a great contribution to one’s success and prosperity in real life.


Arnold, J. (1998). Towards more humanistic English teaching. ELT Journal, 52(3), 235-242.

Atkinson, D. (1989). ‘Humanistic’ approaches in the adult classroom: an affective reaction. ELT Journal, 43(4), 268-273.

Stewick, E. W. (1990). Humanism. In  Humanism in Language Teaching (pp 21-33). East Kilbridge, Scotland: Oxford University Press.


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