Time tested methods of teachingThe Audio-Lingual Method [Archives:2003/633/Education]

April 27 2003

Dr. Bushra Noori M. Sadoon
Associate Professor and Head
Department of English
Faculty of Education, Mahweet

The last four decades of the 29th century witnessed a phenomenal increase in global communication. Many people, across the world, showed an intense and abiding interest in modern languages. Dissatisfaction with the traditional methods, their validity and adequacy, especially with their treatment of spoken language led to the birth of the Audio-Lingual method which is based on the aural-oral approach. It put accent on the acquisition of oral language skills through oral practice based on repetition and analogy.

A. Theoretical background
The Audio-Lingual theory is derived from linguistics and psychology. It is a combination of structural linguistic theory, contrastive analysis, aural-oral procedures and behaviorist psychology. In this theory language is seen as having its own unique system. The system comprises several different levels: phonological, morphological and syntactic. Each level has its own distinctive patterns. Language learning is viewed as the acquisition of a practical set of communication skills. It entails language and learning the rules by which these elements are combined from phoneme to morpheme to word or phrase to sentence. Language is primarily spoken and only secondarily written. Therefore, it is assumed that speech has priority in language teaching.
This theory is an interpretation of language learning in terms of stimuli and response, operant conditioning and reinforcement with emphasis on successful error-free learning.

B. Objectives
The aim of this method is:
1. to make students able to use the target language communicatively and automatically without stopping to think; and
2. to help students to acquire the structural patterns.

C. Principles
The principles of this method are:
1. Instructions are given in the target language.
2. Language forms occur within a context.
3. Students' native language interferes as little as possible with the students' attempts to acquire the target language.
4. Teaching is directed to provide students with a native-speaker-like model.
5. Analogy provides a better foundation for language learning than analysis.
6. Errors are carefully avoided because they lead to the formation of bad habits.
7. Positive reinforcement helps the student to develop correct habits.
8. Students are encouraged to learn to respond to both verbal and nonverbal stimuli.
9. The teacher is regarded as an orchestra leader-conducting, guiding and controlling the students' behavior in the target language.
10. Learning a foreign language is treated on par with the native language learning.
11. A comparison between the native language and the target language is supposed to help teachers to find the areas with which their students probably experience difficulty: this is expected to help students to overcome the habit of the native language.
12. Language is not seen separated from culture. Culture is the everyday behavior of people who use the target language. One of the teachers' responsibilities is to present information about that culture in context.
13. Students are taken to be the imitators of the teacher's model or the tapes.
14. The dialogue is the chief means of presenting vocabulary, structures and it is learned through repetition and imitation.
15. Mimicry, memorization and pattern drills are the practice techniques that are emphasized.
16. Most of the interaction is between the teacher and the learner and it is imitated by the learner.
17. Listening and speaking are given priority in language teaching, and they precede reading and writing.
18. Correct pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation are emphasized.
19. The meanings of the words are derived in a linguistic and cultural context and not in isolation.
20. Audio-visual aids are used to assist the students' ability to form new language habits.

D. Techniques
Those are the common features of the Audio-Lingual method of language teaching. Again, there may be substantial variation in practice. The lesson typically begins with a dialogue, which contains the structure and vocabulary of the lesson. The student is expected to mimic the dialogue and eventually memorize it. Often, the class practices the dialogue as a group, and then in smaller groups. The dialogue is followed by pattern drill on the structure introduced in the dialogue. The aim of the drill is to 'strengthen habits', to make the pattern 'automatic'.
The techniques derived from the principles of the Audio-Lingual method are as follows:
1. Students listen to a native-like model such as the teacher of a tape-recorder.
2. Students repeat the new material chorally and individually.
3. Teachers correct students' errors immediately and directly.
4. Dialogues are memorized by reversing roles between (teacher-student) (student-student).
5. Students are encouraged to change certain key words or phrases in the dialogue.
6. Students write short guided compositions on given topics.
7. Students are encouraged to induce grammatical rules.
8. Students are involved in language games and role-play.
9. Filling-in the blanks exercise is used.
10. Minimal pairs are used.
11. Teachers ask questions about the new items or ask general questions.
12. Substitution drills, chain drills, transformation drills and expansion drills are used.
13. Language laboratory is used for intensive practice of language structures as well as supra segmental features.
14. Dialogue is copied in students' notebook.
15. Students are asked to read aloud.