Structures refer to the different patterns of arrangement of words. The structural approach to teaching English is based on the belief that the scientific selection and grading of vocabulary and structures is the best way to learn a language. Hornby found out that there are almost 275 structures in English and learners must be able to master them all.
Aims of the Structural Approach
The main aims of the structural approach are as follows.
- To enable learners to learn English by establishing through drill and repetition about 275 graded structures.
- To encourage learners to attain mastery over an essential vocabulary of about 3000 root words for active use.
- To correlate the reading lessons with the teaching of grammar and composition.
- To teach the four fundamental skills – understanding, speaking, reading, and writing in this order.
- To emphasize the aural-oral approach, active methods, and the condemnation of formal grammar.
Types of Structures
The syntactic structures of the structural approach can be classified as follows.
The two important parts of a sentence which are the subject and predicate have fixed positions and when they are changed, their meaning changes too. For example, the sentence ‘Tina gave a book to Mina’ changes to ‘Mina gave a book to Tina’ when the subject and predicate are changed.
A phrase refers to a group of words that make sense but do not make complete sense. The order of the sentence structure in a phrase is (determiner) + Adj. + noun and this order cannot be changed. E.g. ‘under the table in the dark’.
Idiomatic structures have their specific meanings and they do not have any grammatical units. If these sentences are split, they lose their specific meaning because they are a unit form and they have to be learned as a unit. For example, ‘all of a sudden.
Formulae of Routine Structures
It is composed o a group of words that are used on a certain occasion or in a day-to-day conversation. Proper word order is maintained to avoid the words from being dislodged from their fixed position. For example, ‘How are you?’, ‘Good night’, etc.
According to the structural approach, speech is the most important element of learning a language. The activity of the learner is also more important than the activity of the learner.