Audio-Lingual Method – English Methodology

September 5th, 20117:36 am


Audio-Lingual Method – English Methodology

Audio-Lingual Method

The Audio-Lingual Method (A-LM), like the Direct Method we have just examined, has a goal very different from that of the Grammar-Translation Method. The Audio-Lingual Method was developed in the United States during the Second World War. At that time there was a need for people to learn foreign languages rapidly for military purposes. As we have seen, G-TM did not prepare people to use the target language. While the communication in the target language was the goal of DM, there were at the time exciting new ideas about language and learning emanating from the disciplines of descriptive linguistics and behavioural psychology [103, p.31].

We can trace the Audio-Lingual Method rather directly to the “scientific” linguistics of Leonard Bloomfield and his followers. Both behaviouristic psychology and structural linguistics constituted a reaction against a vague and unscientific approach to the questions of human behaviour, including the acquisition of knowledge.

Every language, as it is viewed here, has its own unique system. This system is comprised of several different levels: phonological, lexical, and syntactical. Each level has its own distinctive features.

Everyday speech is emphasised in the Audio-Lingual Method. The level of complexity of the speech is graded so that beginning students are presented with only simple forms.

The structures of the language are emphasised over all other areas. The syllabus is typically a structural one, with the structure for any particular unit included in the new dialogue. Vocabulary is also contextualised within the dialogue. It is, however, limited since the emphasis is placed on the acquisition of the patterns of the language.

The underlying provisions of this method include five maxims to guide teachers in applying the results of linguistic research to the preparation of teaching materials and to classroom techniques:

1. Language is speech, not writing.

a) Emphasis on correct pronunciation from the beginning;

b) Listening and speaking before reading and writing;

c) Realistic, situational utterances from start;

d) Oral mastery first; reading/writing as reinforcers; time lag will depend on situation.

2. Language is a set of habits.

a) Based on the assumption that language learning is a habit formation process, pattern drilling and dialogue memorisation are extensively used;

3. Teach the language, not about the language;

a) Revolt against the grammar-translation method;

b) Grammar for the teacher not the learner;

c) Learn thorough doing, through active practice;

d) Practice first, rules induced later.

4. A language is what its native speakers say, not what someone thinks they ought to say:

a) Emphasis on colloquial wealth of language;

b) Literary language at much later stage;

c) Traditional grammar mistrusted: style and register (occupational, emotive, informative) studied as well as language of attitude.

5. Languages are different:

a) Universal rules of transformational grammar mistrusted;

b) Contrastive studies of language encouraged;

c) Translation accepted when necessary or possible;

d) Translation a later skill with its own techniques.


1. Situational dialogues.

2. Everyday language.

3. Emphasis on speaking – aural-oral active participation.

4. Mimicry-memorisation.

5. Pattern-drilling – choral/individual – Role playing/ Dialogue building.

6. Reading and writing to reinforce.

7. Awareness of graphic interference.

8. Rules to be induced from practice.

A-LM enables the students to use the target language communicatively. In order to do this the students are believed to overlearn the target language, to learn to use it automatically without stopping to think. The students achieve this by forming new habits in the target language and overcoming the old habits of their native language.

The teacher is like an orchestra leader, directing and con trolling the language behaviour of the students. He is also responsible for providing his students with a good model of imitation. The students are imitators of the teacher’s model or the tapes he supplies of model speakers. They follow the teacher’s directions and respond as accurately and as rapidly as they can.

New vocabulary and structures are presented through dialogues and texts. These are learnt through imitation and repetition. Drills (such as repetition, backward build-up, chain, substitution, transposition, etc.) are based upon the patterns present in the dialogue or texts. Students’ successful responses are positively reinforced. Grammar is induced from the examples given; explicit grammar rules are not provided. Cultural information is contextualized in the dialogues and texts or presented by the teacher. Students’ reading and written work is based upon the oral work they did earlier.

Thus, the main provisions of this method can be conveniently summarised in the following way:

1. Fluency on four skills with initial emphasis on listening and speaking.

2. Formative function: understanding culture through language.


1. Useful language learnt from outset.

2. Good pronunciation achieved through sound discrimination and auditory practice.

3. Materials especially devised on contrastive analysis rather than total structures – presentation based on frequency counts and utility.

4. Reading and writing not neglected but postponed to serve as reinforcement.

5. Highly motivating: learner senses achievement from beginning through practical use and participation.

6. A-LM requires and encourages use of simple and mechanical aids.


1. Lack of spontaneity if learning is overmechanical.

2. Reliance on inductive process dangerous.

3. Time lag between oral and written work: dependence on ear alone can lead to insecurity – emotional dislike of aural-oral work and invention of graphic equivalents.

4. A-LM for all students? average student does best, intelligent student bored?

5. Makes considerable demand on the teacher: preparation/ drilling/ imagination.

6. Is order of presentation natural?

7. Does A-LM produce language illiterates – fluent speakers who cannot read or write?

Possible remedies

1. Avoid dull drills – contextualize: use variety.

2. Practice should be meaningful and point of drill should be explained to the learner and understood.

3. Time lag must vary according to situation – in some cases oral/ written work side by side.

4. Intelligent students should be told that practice makes perfect — hence importance of fluency, clarity and precision.

5. Order of presentation probably logical though analogy with child learner not relevant. Adult is trained to think and use books/dictionaries but without first learning how to pronounce words he will not learn how to read well.

6. Experience showed that A-LM trained learner did better in all skills than traditional counterpart except in writing.

Though the emphases at the beginning are strongly on listening and speaking, no devaluation of literature is implied. It appears that mastery of sound system of a language is essential for efficient reading and for appreciation of literature. One of the qualities that makes a work of literature great is the choice of words and phrases, and one of the factors that governs this choice is how they sound. “To read a work of literature without any idea of what it sounded like to the writer is to be as handicapped as the tone-deaf listening to music or the colour-blind looking at a painting.” (116, p.123.)

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.