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    Linguistics: The Audio-Lingual Method


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    Linguistics: The Audio-Lingual Method

    Post by Joumen on Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:00 am



    The audio-lingual method is an approach to language learning based on the behaviourist ideology and it is some how similar to an earlier method called ďThe Direct MethodĒ.
    According to the Audio-lingual method, a foreign language should be learned directly without depending on the learnerís mother tongue language. The difference between Audio-lingual method and the Direct Method is that the first insists on teaching grammar while the latter on vocabulary. This means that the learner should repeat a correct model of a sentence. The role of the teacher is to present new words within the same sentence structure. Keeping on repeating and practising, the learner will learn habitually. So, we understand that the Audio-lingual Method emphasizes the speaking and listening competence rather than the reading and writing competence, that the development of language skills is a matter of habit formulation through the use of structured dialogue and repetitive drills. Since learning is thought to be a question of habit formulation, errors are considered to be bad and to be avoided. Thus, reinforcement is required and teachers ďrewardĒ students and praise them when they perform well.

    The Audio-lingual Method is said to be the best for beginning level foreign language classes.


    New material is presented in dialogue form.
    There is dependency on mimicry, memorization of set phrases.
    Structural patterns are taught using drills.
    There is little or no grammatical explanation
    Vocabulary is strictly limited to pronunciation.
    There is much use of tapes, language labs, and visual aids.
    Great importance is attached to pronunciation.
    Very little use of the mother tongue by teacher is permitted.

    Teaching Process:

    We have three teaching process.
    The first is presentation using oral, dialogue, little explanation. L1 is discouraged, errors are corrected, and accuracy is emphasized. The goal of this stage is accurate repetition and memorization of the dialogue.
    The second is practice using pattern drills and emphasizing fluency.
    The third teaching process is application and here we talk about the use of structure in different concepts.


    All instruction and used strategies in the class are given in the studied language. One of these strategies is Dialog Memorization which consists of giving a short dialog to be first memorized by students and then they are asked to act it using mimicry and gestures. This strategy helps the learner to experiment with language and non-verbal elements to achieve an effort for a particular purpose and audience. A second strategy is the Transformation Drill by providing a question which must be transformed into a statement and vice versa and this trains the students how to select a range of word choices and use simple sentence patterns to communicate ideas and information. We have also what we call the Chain Drill strategy that is to say a chain of conversation formed around the room as the teacher greets or questions a student who will in turn respond and then move to an other student and so on and this will improve their participation in shared language experiences.

    Categories of Drills:

    A mechanical drill is one where there is complete control over the studentís response and where comprehension is not required in order to produce a correct response.
    Example: Iím going to the cinema  supermarket
     School
     Theatre
    A meaningful drill is one where there is still control over the response, but understanding is required in order for the student to produce a correct response.
    Example: The teacher reads a sentence:
    Iím hot.
    Iím cold.
    Iím thirsty.
    Iím hungry.
    The student chooses a response:
    Iíll get you something to eat.
    Iíll turn on the air conditioning.
    Iíll get you something to drink.
    Iíll turn on the heater.
    A communicative drill is one in which the type of response is controlled but the student provides his/her own content of information.
    Example: The teacher says:
    What did you have for breakfast?
    What did you get up on Sunday?
    The student completes:
    I got up at Ö
    I hadÖ

    The Audio-Lingual Method through History:

    Historically speaking, the Audio-lingual Method was developed as a reaction to the Grammar-Translation Method which had been used to teach for thousands of years. This Audio-lingual Method developed when American linguistics, such as Bloomfield, at the turn of the Twentieth Century aimed at collecting all indigenous languages spoken in the United States. But the lack of trained native teachers obliged them to rely on observation focusing on oral language. Then, the method became popular when behaviourist psychologists like Skinner believed that behaviours, including language, were learnt through repetition and reinforcement (whether it is positive or negative). From about 1947 until 1967, the Audio-lingual approach was the dominant foreign language teaching method in the United States. During the Second World War, America became aware that it needed people, mainly servicemen and soldiers, to learn foreign languages very quickly as part of its military operations by being provided with the basic verbal communication skills relying on observation and repetition to build communicative competence. That is why the Audio-lingual Method is also called the ďArmy MethodĒ. However, in the late 1950s, the limitations if the Audio-lingual Method was challenged by linguists such as Chomsky questioning the effectiveness of structural linguists and the relevance of behaviourist psychology to language learning. Mechanical drills of early Audio-Lingual Method were criticized as being not only boring and mindless but also counter-productive. Because the basic method of teaching is repetition, pupils turn into parrots who can produce many things but never create anything new or spontaneous. An other defect is that it necessitates extensive use of equipment with all associated problems of carrying tape-recorders from classroom to classroom, equipment can break down, projector lamps explodeÖ As a result, the Audio-lingual Method lost its scientific credibility mainly after the emergence of other methods like the Communicative Language Teaching Approach and the humanist pedagogy. In spite of its rapid decline, it is still used today, especially in terms of individual lessons and is considered as a popular methodology for both teachers and students.

    In conclusion, the Audio-lingual Method focuses on speaking and listening competence stressing repetition and habit formation to learn a second or a foreign language. This method was frequently used during the first half of the twentieth century and though it lost its scientific credibility which led to its decline, it is still used today.

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