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Background and Characteristics of the Audio-Lingual Method

Susan Kifuthu ESLM 587 February 6, 2002 The Audio-Lingual method of teaching English as a second language had its origins during World War II when it became known as the Army method. It was developed as a reaction to the grammar-translation method of teaching foreign languages. Grammar-translation had been used to teach for thousands of years, but the method was perceived as taking too long for learners to be able to speak in the target language. The Audio-Lingual method set out to achieve quick communicative competence through innovative methods. From about 19471967 the Audio-Lingual approach was the dominant foreign language teaching method in the United States. The Audio-Lingual method is based on the theory that language learning is a question of habit formation. It has its origins in Skinners principles of behavior theory. Since learning is thought to be a question of habit formation, errors are considered to be bad and to be avoided. Further, teachers reward students by saying Good! and praising the class when they perform well. The Audio-Lingual method addresses a need for people to learn foreign languages rapidly. It is best for beginning level English classes in a foreign language setting. All instruction in the class are given in English. A dialog is presented for memorization. The teacher asks the class to repeat each line of the dialog. Expansion drills are used for difficult sentences. The teacher starts with the end of the sentence and the class repeats just two words. A series of pattern practice drills then follow the introduction of the dialog. One of the key principles of the Audio-Lingual method is that the language teacher should provide students with a native-speaker-like model. By listening, students are expected to be able to mimic the model. Based upon contrastive analyses, students are drilled in pronunciation of words that are most dissimilar between the target language and the first language. Grammar is not taught directly by rule memorization, but by examples. The method presumes that second language learning is very much like first language learning. References: Larsen-Freeman, Diane. (1986) Techniques and Principles of Language Teaching, Oxford University Press Grammar Pedagogy in Second and Foreign Language Teaching, (1991) TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3 Autumn.

This method of Language Learning is also called the Aural-Oral Method. This method is said to result in rapid acquisition of speaking and listening skills. The audiolingual method drills students in the use of grammatical sentence patterns. When this method was developed it was thought that the way to acquire the sentence patterns of the second language was

through conditioning or helping learners to respond correctly to stimuli through shaping and reinforcement. The Audiolingual Method is based on the following principles:

Speaking and listening competence preceded reading and writing competence. Use of German is highly discouraged in the classroom. The development of language skills is a matter of habit formulation. Students practice particular patterns of language through structured dialogue and drill until response is automatic. Structured patterns in language are taught using repetitive drills. The emphasis is on having students produce error free utterances. This method of language learning supports kinesthetic learning styles. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures. Abstract vocabulary is taught through association of ideas. The printed word must be kept away from the second language learner as long as possible.

Audio Lingual Learning

The audio lingual approach is one of the three main ways to teach a foreign language. Along with "the direct method," the audio lingual approach keeps the majority of the language instruction in the target language. Audio lingual teaching concentrates on drills that teach grammar while the direct method concentrates more on vocabulary. When the grammar of the target language is explained in the native language, the method is called communicative language teaching.

1. History

The audio lingual method is called the army method, because it was developed during WWII when large numbers of army interpreters had to be trained quickly. The method is based on the behaviorist theory of B. F. Skinner. The heart of the method is the drills that give the student an intuitive understanding of the grammar of a new language by conditioning--receiving rewards and punishments. The audio lingual method is the basis for successful modern language learning systems, like Berlitz and Rosetta Stone.


The audio lingual method of learning is based on the belief that we learn grammar at a subconscious level through conditioning. This is the way children learn their native language--repeated examples of grammar use imprints the rules on our language behavior. In an audio lingual class, the

grammar is never explained in any language. Grammar is absorbed at a subconscious level. A sentence is grammatically correct because it "sounds right."


Teaching methods are never as pure in the classroom as they are in books. Methods must adapt to student and teacher needs. Methods must also adapt to expedient solutions instead of pedagogically correct ones. Teaching by example only is impractical in the classroom--there is simply not enough time. Audio lingual based classes will occasionally introduce vocabulary because not everything can be pointed to. In some instances (preferably during a summary) grammar might be explained in a non-target language.


As long as most of the class is conducted in the audio lingual method, the benefits are enormous. Students who are taught this way have an intuitive understanding of grammar--just like native speakers. It is only necessary to get this ability up to a certain critical level because thereafter every conversation in the new language is further training in the rules of grammar.


Remember that there are two sets of grammar rules: prescriptive (the language according to books) and descriptive (the way people actually talk). You should use descriptive grammar when speaking and prescriptive grammar when writing.

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Sil: Audio Lingual Method Jan: Language Teaching NCIRC: Teaching Grammar

The Audio-lingual method

The Audio-Lingual method of teaching had its origins during World War II when it became known as the Army method. It is also called as Aural oral approach. Itis based on the structural view of language and the behaviorist theory of language learning. The audiolingual approach to language teaching has a lot of similarities with the direct method. Both were considered as a reaction against the shortcomings of the Grammar Translation method, both reject the use of the mother tongue and both stress that speaking and listening competence preceded reading and writing competence. But there are also some differences. The direct method highlighted the teaching of vocabulary while the audiolingual approach focus on grammar drills

The structural view to language is the view behind the audio-lingual method. This approach focused on examining how the elements of language related to each other in the present, that is, synchronically rather than diachronically. It was also argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts, a signifier (the sound pattern of a word) and a signified (the concept or meaning of the word). The study of language aims at describing the performance ,theparole as it is the only observable part of language.

Behaviorism is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things which organisms do including acting, thinking and feelingcan and should be regarded as behaviors. It contends that leaning occurs through associations, habit formation and reinforcement. When the learner produces the desired behavior and is reinforced positively, it is likely that that behavior be emitted again.
The Audio-lingual method

The objective of the audiolingual method is accurate pronunciation and grammar, the ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations and knowledge of sufficient vocabulary to use with grammar patterns. Particular emphasis was laid on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them. It was believed that learning structure, or grammar was the starting point for the student. Here are some characteristics of the method:

language learning is habit-formation, mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they make bad habits, language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form,

analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis, the meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context.

The main activities include reading aloud dialogues, repetitions of model sentences, and drilling. Key structures from the dialogue serve as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds. Lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output, but attention is also paid to correct pronunciation. Although correct grammar is expected in usage, no explicit grammatical instruction is given. It is taught inductively. Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom.

It aims at devoloping listening and speaking skills which is a step away from the Grammar translation method The use of visual aids has proven its effectiveness in vocabulary teaching.


The method is based on false assumptions about language. The study of language doesnt amount to studying the parole, the observable data. Mastering a language relies on acquiring the rules underlying language performance. That is, the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and discource competences. The beaviorist approach to learning is now descridited. Many scholars have proven its weakness. Noam Chomsky ( Chomsky, Noam (1959). A Review of B. F. Skinners Verbal Behavior) has written a strong criticism of the principles of the theory.

The Chomskyan criticism of the theories upon which the audiolingual method was founded led to an interest in not only the affective factors but also on the cognitive factors. While Community Language Learning, drawing from Carl Rogers philosophy, focused on the importance of the affect, new methods were developed in the 70s to highlight the cognitive domain in language learning. The Silent Way is one of these innovative methods. In Fact, Caleb Gattegno, the founder of the Silent Way,devoted his thinking to the importance of problem solving approach in education.He contends that the method is costructivist and leads the learners to develop their own conceptual models of all the aspects of the language. The best way of achieving this is to help students to be experimental learners.

The Silent Way is charaterized by its focus on discovery, creativity, problem solving and the use of acompanying materials. Richards and rodgers (1986:99) summerized the method into three major features.
1. Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates. The Silent way belongs to the tradition of teaching that favors hypothetical mode of teaching (as opposed to expository mode of teaching) in which the teacher and the learner work cooperatively to reach the educational desired goals. (cf Bruner 1966.) The learner is not a bench bound listener but an active contributor to the learning process.

2. Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects. The Silent Way uses colorful charts and rods (cuisinere rods) which are of varying length. They are used to introduce vocabulary ( colors, numbers, adjectives, verbs) and syntax (tense, comparatives, plurals, word order ) 3. Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned. This can be summarized by Benjamin Franklins words: Tell me and I forget Teach me and I remember Involve me and I learn A good silent way learner is a good problem solver. The teachers role resides only in giving minimum repitions and correction, remaining silent most of the times, leaving the learner strugGling to solve problems about the language and get a grasp of its mechanism. Disadvantages

The Silent Way is often criticised of being a harsh method. The learner works in isolation and communication is lacking badly in a Silent Way classroom. With minmum help on the part of the teacher, the Silent Way method may put the learning itself at stake. The material ( the rods and the charts) used in this method will certainly fail to introduce all aspects of language. Other materials will have to be introduced.


Learning through problem solving looks attractive especially because it fosters: o creativity, o discovery, o increase in intelligent potency and o long term memory. The indirect role of the teacher highlights the importance and the centrality of the learner who is reponsible in figuring out and testing the hypotheses about how language works. In other words teaching is subordinated to learning pdf