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 the Aural oral approach. It is 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 competences preceded reading and writing competences. 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 ,the“parole” 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 feeling—can 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 behavior be emitted again.
The Audiolingual 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 are considered 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 developing 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 doesn’t 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 discourse competences.
- The behaviorist approach to learning is now discredited. Many scholars have proven its weakness. Noam Chomsky ( “Chomsky, Noam (1959). “A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal behavior”) has written a strong criticism of the principles of the theory.
Read more about the Audiolingual Method: Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)
To read more on Situational Language Teaching and other methods:
Richards, J. C. & Rogers, T. S. (1986). Approaches and methods in language teaching: A description and analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). New York: Longman
Wikipedia: The Audiolingual Method