The Audio-lingual Method of teaching English as a second language had its origin during World War II. At that time, there was a need for people to learn languages rapidly for military purposes. The entry of the United States into World War II had a significant effect on language teaching in America.
This method is also known as Army Method since it was developed to teach language to the military personnel. The emergence of the Audio-lingual Method resulted from the increased attention given to foreign language teaching in the United States.
It is based on behaviorist theory which professes that certain traits of living things, and in this case, humans could be trained through a system of reinforcement. The correct use of trait would receive positive feedback while incorrect use of that trait would receive negative feedback.
Audiolingualism holds that language learning is like another form of learning. It means to say that learning a language is not different from learning any other skills like swimming, cycling, horse riding, and so on.
Since language is a formal rule-governed system, it can be formally organized to maximize teaching and learning efficiency. The audio-lingual method thus, stresses the mechanistic aspects of language learning and language use.
Multon (1966) has summarized the five slogans on which Audio-lingual Method is based.
- Language is speech, not writing.
- Language is a set of habits.
- Teach the language, not about the language.
- A language is what its native speakers’ say, not what someone thinks they ought to say.
- Languages are different.
Principal or Features of Audio-lingual Method
- New vocabulary and structural patterns are presented through dialogues.
- Grammar is taught inductively.
- It emphasizes the teaching of speaking and listening before reading and writing.
- It discourages the use of the mother tongue in the classroom.
- It emphasizes certain practice techniques, mimicry, memorization, and pattern drills.
- It makes use of contrastive analysis.
- It regards drilling as a central technique for language teaching/learning.
- It makes use of the language laboratory, tapes, and other audio-visual materials.
- The teacher specifies the language that the students are to use and students interact with the language.
- This method regards accuracy in terms of formal correctness, linguistic competence, and native-like pronunciation as the goal of language learning.
Techniques of Audio-lingual Method
The techniques to be used in the Audio-lingual Method as suggested by Larsen-Freeman (2000: 47-49) can be summarized as below:-
Dialogue or short conversations between two people are often used to begin a new lesson. Students memorize the dialogue through mimicry; students usually take the role of one person in the dialogue, and the teacher the other.
The teacher gives the students a certain kind of sentence pattern and asks the students to transform the given pattern. For example affirmative sentence into negative, active into passive, direct speech into indirect speech, and so on.
Question and answer drill
This drill gives students practice with answering questions. The students should answer the teacher’s questions very quickly.
Use of minimal pairs
The teacher works with pairs of words that differ in only one sound; for example, pin/bin. Students are first asked to perceive the difference between the two words and later to be able to say the two words.
Complete the dialogue
Selected words are erased from a dialogue students have learned. Students complete the dialogue by filling the blanks with the missing words.
Different games are designed to get students to practice a grammar point within a context.
Strengths of Audio-lingual Method
- Listening and speaking skills are emphasized without neglecting reading and writing skills.
- Grammar is taught inductively due to which students learn the grammar of the target language implicitly.
- It separates the language skills into the pedagogical device.
- Authentic teaching materials are used in the classroom due to which students are exposed to authentic language.
- This method is easy to handle.
- Different teaching aids are used in the classroom due to which teaching becomes effective and lively.
- Teaching materials and items are selected and graded well.
- There is no need for a bilingual teacher. It means to say that; the monolingual teacher can handle the class.
Weaknesses of Audio-lingual Method
- It is based on a very weak theoretical base. The theoretical base is mechanical, not creative.
- The techniques used by this method are boring and monotonous.
- Language skills are not taught in an integrative way.
- Students lack explicit knowledge of grammar since grammar is taught inductively.
- This method is expensive and time-consuming.
- It demands a fluent speaking teacher in the target language.
- This method is not suitable for adult learners, who learn better through explanation.