The Silent Way

Caleb Gattegno, Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools: The Silent Way. New York City: Educational Solutions, 1972.


This method begins by using a set of colored rods and verbal commands in order to achieve the following:

To avoid the use of the vernacular. To create simple linguistic situations that remain under the complete control of the teacher To pass on to the learners the responsibility for the utterances of the descriptions of the objects shown or the actions performed. To let the teacher concentrate on what the students say and how they are saying it, drawing their attention to the differences in pronunciation and the flow of words. To generate a serious game-like situation in which the rules are implicitly agreed upon by giving meaning to the gestures of the teacher and his mime. To permit almost from the start a switch from the lone voice of the teacher using the foreign language to a number of voices using it. This introduces components of pitch, timbre and intensity that will constantly reduce the impact of one voice and hence reduce imitation and encourage personal production of one's own brand of the sounds.

To provide the support of perception and action to the intellectual guess of what the noises mean, thus bring in the arsenal of the usual criteria of experience already developed and automatic in one's use of the mother tongue. To provide a duration of spontaneous speech upon which the teacher and the students can work to obtain a similarity of melody to the one heard, thus providing melodic integrative schemata from the start.


The complete set of materials utilized as the language learning progresses include:

A set of colored wooden rods A set of wall charts containing words of a "functional" vocabulary and some additional ones; a pointer for use with the charts in Visual Dictation A color coded phonic chart(s) Tapes or discs, as required; films Drawings and pictures, and a set of accompanying worksheets Transparencies, three texts, a Book of Stories, worksheets

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