Stinchfield's detailed outline of H. E. Palmer's approach to teaching English as a Foreign Language

From Stinchfield, Speech Disorders, 1933, pp. 55-56

Sara Stinchfield adapted Harold E. Palmer's detailed recommendations for foreign language teaching as a way to "overcome letter-substitutions, lisping and minor speech difficulties." She recommends that sounds be taught using the following "speech learning habits" and offers her own description of each:

  1. Auditory imitation. This is learning based on auditory observation. Children who are poor in auditory learning may often be taught by the visual look-and-say method.
  2. Oral imitation. Following the auditory observation, the child must learn to say orally the sounds which he has heard. He also observes circumstances under which the words are used and learns when to apply them. Neglect of observation and imitation are mentioned as one of the primary causes of language difficulty in children and in adults.
  3. Catenizing. This involves making the necessary coordination of successive movements. The motions must be made habitual by practice. Sounds difficult for adults are not difficult for children, before the ages of fourteen or fifteen years. Young children must learn by rote certain sounds and words. This may be done through poetry, rhymes, proverbs, short prose selections, and stories.
  4. Semanticizing. This means to fuse the word to its meaning. Children are also keener at this process than are adults. It must be done for words, phrases, and for entire sentences.
  5. Composition by Analogy. Grammar is not the best way to teach a language according to Palmer, but through the direct method of usage comes correctness of form, knowledge of structure, inflection and decision. Conversations, changing from active to passive, and correction of the child's mistakes as they occur will enable him soon to use the language successfully for himself.

Harold E. Palmer, whose method is the source of Stinchfield's five speech habits, was a British educator who specialized in the teaching of English as a foreign language. His special emphasis was teaching English to German or French speakers through structured lessons and conversation--what he called the "oral method."

Palmer's based his oral teaching method on the discoveries of British linguists Henry Sweet & Otto Jespersen. Palmer preferred the use of an "oral method " in which language was taught through oral exercises and language immersion rather than through a "direct approach" involving "book-work and writing, with a minimum of oral work" (Palmer, 1926, The oral method…p. viii). Palmer advocated "a rational technique and a systematic and graded programme" (Palmer, 1926, The oral method…p. ix) to keep students from being overwhelmed by the complexity of English. It is interesting to compare Palmer's method (Palmer, 1926) with Stinchfield's description of the five speech habits (see above).

Palmer's Description of his "Principles" (from Palmer, 1926)

Auditory imitation (observation). Learners with auditory problems should use a look method. (Look = look at written form? At pictures?) Speech material must be memorized. Learners should listen to someone who articulates a word or word group aloud and should imitate the person's production. Learners should not depend upon written form (1926, p. 23).

Oral Imitation Not seen as separate step in Palmer's description (1926, p. 23).

Catenizing--making successive movements Catenizing--recognizing or producing a chain of sounds or syllables as an integrated whole, irrespective of meaning (1926, p. 21).

Semanticizing--fuse a word to its meaning Semanticizing--immediately associate meaning with a word or sentence as a whole (1926, p. 23).

Composition by analogy--grammar training Word group training--grammatical exercises in which student repeats sentence forms and answers questions to learn grammatical patterns (e.g., noun group, This is a book, pen, pencil, knife, key etc.) (Palmer, 1926, p. 48).


Palmer, H. E. (1926). The oral method of teaching languages: A monograph on conversational methods together with a full description and abundant examples of fifty appropriate forms of work (Third impression ed.). NY: World Book Company.

Stinchfield, S. M. (1933). Speech disorders: A psychological study of the various defects of speech. New York,: Harcourt Brace and company.