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The objective of this article is to provide a historical overview of the learning trends that have marked several fields over the past two centuries, and from which the methods of teaching foreign languages have been largely inspired. Teaching and learning a foreign language has always been a major concern of officials working in the education sector. Finding a unique method, perfect and suitable for all learners was the center of interest of most researchers of all backgrounds, linguists, educators or trainers. Three major theories of learning have really changed the field of education and specifically the field of foreign language acquisition. These three currents are respectively behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Each current had its supporters and detractors depending on the progress made at the end of their research. The methods that emerged from these three learning theories also had their ups and downs depending on the degree to which the desired objectives were achieved. In the course of this study, we plan to bypass, in chronological order, the different methods and approaches, coming from the three streams, and practiced in the teaching of foreign languages. Our attention will be focused on the study of the audio-oral method, the audio-visual method, the communicative approach and the skills-based approach. We also offer, in this article, a discussion whose interest is to elucidate the circumstances which led to the success or failure of a particular method. We will also focus on the successes and limitations of each of these methods. The conclusion will be the subject of a reflection on all the points covered in the article while offering an opening on other solutions that can improve the teaching / learning of foreign languages.
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