The differences between Situational Language Teaching, Direct Method, and Audio-Lingual Method
The audiolingual method and situational language teaching
Before looking at the differences between the SLT, Direct Method, and Audiolingual Method, let’s identify some similarities.
Both the audiolingual method and SLT rely on the same theories of language and learning, namely:
- Structuralism: language as a system consisting of interrelated structures.
- Behaviorism: language learning as habit-formation.
This overlap between the SLT and the audiolingual method led to the adoption of similar teaching principles that rely on an emphasis on accuracy and habit formation.
Although they share the same theoretical foundations, the audiolingual method and SLT differ in some techniques and procedures. The SLT focuses on the situational presentation of new sentence patterns. That is, while the audiolingual method relies on the repetition and practice of language in isolation, learning in SLT occurs thanks to the presentation of new language in situations. For example, the instructor may teach English vocabulary and sentence patterns in frequent situations through books, learning materials, photos, body language, fictitious scenarios, etc. It should be emphasized, though, that situations in this sense are different from the meaningful contextual use of language in the contemporary sense where contextualization is intended to be the meaningful use of language for real communicative purposes.
Another difference between the two methods lies in the weight given to the teaching of language skills. While aiming at mastering the four basic skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing), SLT also seeks to enhance the aptitude to respond quickly and accurately in different speech situations through an automatic control of basic structures and sentence patterns. It is worthwhile noting that although the audiolingual method also stresses the importance of accurate production of speech, the focus is mainly on reading aloud dialogues, repetitions of model sentences, and drilling.
The direct method
The direct method (DM) was a reaction against the grammar-translation method whose main focus was on the written form at the expense of the oral form.
There are basic differences between the SLT, the audiolingual method, and the DM:
- Unlike the audiolingual and the SLT methods, the direct method is not grounded on the structuralist theory.
- The learning principles characterizing the DM is that L2 learning should proceed like the way L2 is acquired.
- The method contends that as native speakers, we first learn by listening and speaking. Then comes the abilities to read and write. Consequently, to learn a second or foreign language, oral teaching must come before any other kind of reading and writing activities.
- Instruction in the DM is given solely in the target language with a focus on simple vocabulary.
In spite of the above differences between the SLT, Direct Method, and Audiolingual Method, they share many characteristics:
- The focus is on correctness and practice of target language.
- The role of the real context is overlooked.
- Sentence-level grammar is the primary concern.
- Emphasis is on grammar at the expense of the communicative functions of language.
- The teacher is the sage on the stage.
As seen above the differences between Situational Language Teaching, Direct Method and Audio-Lingual Method are not related to their theoretical foundations. For example, the SLT and the DM are both grounded on the structural and behaviorist approaches. In addition, all the three methods focus primarily on accuracy and repetition without reference to the real context where language is used to fulfill communicative and functional purposes.