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The audio-lingual method, audio-oral method, army method, or new key, is a style of teaching used in teaching foreign languages. It was the outbreak of World War II, which created the need to post large number of American servicemen all over the world. It was therefore necessary to provide these soldiers with at least basic verbal communication skills. Unsurprisingly, the new method relied on the prevailing scientific methods of the time, observation and repetition, which were also admirably suited to teaching en masse. Because of the influence of the military, early versions of the audio-lingualism came to be known as the “army method.” The term 'audio-lingual' was proposed by Brooks (Brooks 1964:263). The theoretical bases for audio-lingualism were questioned by Carroll, Rivers, Saporta, and Anisfield as early as 1964, and there was a 'prolonged and heated debate' on the audio-lingual methods between 1966 and 1972.
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—correct use of a trait would receive positive feedback while incorrect use of that trait would receive negative feedback.
This approach to language learning was similar to another, earlier method called the direct method. Like the direct method, the audio-lingual method advised that students be taught a language directly, without using the students' native language to explain new words or grammar in the target language. However, unlike the direct method, the audio-lingual method didn’t focus on teaching vocabulary. Rather, the teacher drilled students in the use of grammar.
Applied to language instruction, and often within the context of the language laboratory, this means that the instructor would present the correct model of a sentence and the students would have to repeat it. The teacher would then continue by presenting new words for the students to sample in the same structure. In audio-lingualism, there is no explicit grammar instruction—everything is simply memorized in form. The idea is for the students to practice the particular construct until they can use it spontaneously. In this manner, the lessons are built on static drills in which the students have little or no control on their own output; the teacher is expecting a particular response and not providing that will result in a student receiving negative feedback. This type of activity, for the foundation of language learning, is in direct opposition with communicative language teaching.
Charles Fries, the director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, the first of its kind in the United States, believed that learning structure or grammar was the starting point for the student. In other words, it was the students’ job to orally recite the basic sentence patterns and grammatical structures. The students were only given “enough vocabulary to make such drills possible.” (Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986). Fries later included principles for behavioral psychology, as developed by B.F. Skinner, into this method.


This method is said to result in rapid acquisition of speaking and listening skills. The audio-lingual method drills students in the use of grammatical sentence patterns. When this method was developed it was thought that the way to acquire the sentence patterns of the second language was through conditioning or helping learners to respond correctly to stimuli through shaping and reinforcement.
The Audio-lingual Method is based on the following principles:
• Speaking and listening competence preceded reading and writing competence.
• Use of mother tongue (L1) is highly discouraged in the classroom.
• The development of language skills is a matter of habit formulation.
• Students practice particular patterns of language through structured dialogue and drill until response is automatic.
• Structured patterns in language are taught using repetitive drills.
• The emphasis is on having students produce error free utterances.
• This method of language learning supports kinesthetic learning styles.
• Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures. Abstract vocabulary is taught through association of ideas.

Key Features

Here is a summary of the key features of the Audio-lingual Method, taken from Brown (1994:57) and adapted from Prator and Celce-Murcia (1979).
1. New material is presented in dialog form.
2. There is dependence on mimicry, memorization of set phrases, and over learning.
3. Structures are sequenced by means of contrastive analysis and taught one at a time.
4. Structural patterns are taught using repetitive drills.
5. There is little or no grammatical explanation. Grammar is taught by inductive analogy rather than deductive explanation.
6. Vocabulary is strictly limited and learned in context.
7. There is much use of tapes, language labs, and visual aids.
8. Great importance is attached to pronunciation.
9. Very little use of the mother tongue by teachers is permitted.
10. Successful responses are immediately reinforced.
11. There is great effort to get students to produce error-free utterances. There is a tendency to manipulate language and disregard content.

3. AIM

The emphasis is placed on the four language learning skills. Listening and speaking are given priority and these precede reading and writing. Audio-Iingualism tries to develop target language skills without reference to the mother tongue. The ideal outcome of this method is a co-ordinate command of the second language.


Typical Techniques

Larsen-Freeman, in her book Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (1986:45-47) provides expanded descriptions of some common/typical techniques closely associated with the Audio-lingual Method. The listing here is in summary form only.

1. Dialog Memorization
Students memorize an opening dialog using mimicry and applied role-playing

2. Backward Build-up (Expansion Drill)
Teacher breaks a line into several parts, students repeat each part starting at the end of the sentence and "expanding" backwards through the sentence, adding each part in sequence

3. Repitition Drill
Students repeat teacher's model as quickly and accurately as possible.

4. Chain Drill
Students ask and answer each other one-by-one in a circular chain around the classroom.

5. Single Slot Substitution Drill
Teacher states a line from the dialog, then uses a word or a phrase as a "cue" that students, when repeating the line, must substitute into the sentence in the correct place.

6. Multiple-slot Substitution Drill
Same as the Single Slot drill, except that there are multiple cues to be substituted into the line.

7. Transformation Drill
Teacher provides a sentence that must be turned into something else, for example a question to be turned into a statement, an active sentence to be turned into a negative statement, etc.

8. Question-and-answer Drill
Students should answer or ask questions very quickly.

9. Use of Minimal Pairs
Using contrastive analysis, teacher selects a pair of words that sound identical except for a single sound that typically poses difficulty for the learners - students are to pronounce and differentiate the two words.

10. Complete the Dialog
Selected words are erased from a line in the dialog - students must find and insert.

11. Grammar Games
Various games designed to practice a grammar point in context, using lots of repetition.

Leela Mohd. Ali (1989) explains that New vocabulary and structures are presented through dialogues. Dialogues are learned through imitation and repetition. Drills/pattern drills are presented in the dialogue. The correct responses of pupils are positively reinforced. Grammar rules are not provided. Cultural information is contextualized in the dialogues or is presented by the teacher. Students' reading and written work is based upon the oral work they did earlier.

Dr Mora (2008) tells the hints for using ALM drills in L2 teaching as follows:

1. The teacher must be careful to insure that all of the utterances which students will make are actually within the practiced pattern. For example, the use of the AUX verbs have should not suddenly switch to have as a main verb.
2. Drills should be conducted as rapidly as possibly so as to insure automaticity and to establish a system.
3. Ignore all but gross errors of pronunciation when drilling for grammar practice.
4. Use of shortcuts to keep the pace o drills at a maximum. Use hand motions, signal cards, notes, etc. to cue response. You are a choir director.
5. Use normal English stress, intonation, and juncture patterns conscientiously.
6. Drill material should always be meaningful. If the content words are not known, teach their meanings.
7. Intersperse short periods of drill (about 10 minutes) with very brief alternative activities to avoid fatigue and boredom.
8. Introduce the drill in this way:
a. Focus (by writing on the board, for example)
b. Exemplify (by speaking model sentences)
c. Explain (if a simple grammatical explanation is needed)
d. Drill
9. Don’t stand in one place; move about the room standing next to as many different students as possible to spot check their production. Thus you will know who to give more practice to during individual drilling.
10. Use the "backward buildup" technique for long and/or difficult patterns.
--in the cafeteria tomorrow
--will be eating in the cafeteria tomorrow
--Those boys will be eating in the cafeteria tomorrow.
11. Arrange to present drills in the order of increasing complexity of student response. The question is: How much internal organization or decision making must the student do in order to make a response in this drill. Thus: imitation first, single-slot substitution next, then free response last.

Teacher : I ate the sandwich.
Student : I ate the sandwiches.
Teacher : He bought the car for half-price.
Student : He bought it for half-price.
Teacher: Tell me not to smoke so often.
Student : Don't smoke so often!
The following example illustrates how more than one sort of drill can be incorporated into one practice session.
Teacher: There's a cup on the table ... repeat
Students: There's a cup on the table
Teacher: Spoon
Students: There's a spoon on the table
Teacher: Book
Students: There's a book on the table
Teacher: On the chair
Students: There's a book on the chair


There is student-to-student interaction in chain drills and when students take different roles in dialogues, but this interaction is teacher-directed. Most interaction is between teacher and students and is initiated by the teacher. The teacher is like an orchestra leader, directing and controlling the language behavior of her students. She is responsible for providing her students with a good model for imitation. Students are imitators of the teacher's model or the tapes she supplies of model speakers. They follow the teacher's directions and respond as accurately and as rapidly as possible.


The Weaknesses of Audio-Lingual Metohd:

1. Separating the language skills into different items.
2. Paying less attention to the grammatical rules of the language.
3. Most interaction is between teacher and students and is initiated by the teacher.
4. Lack of effectiveness of techniques in the long run and the boredom engendered among the students in the short run.


Mohd. Ali, Leela. 1989. A Concise Overview of some ESL Methods. A journal in The English Teacher Vol. XVIII,
Mora, Jill Kerper. 2008. Second Language Teaching Methods; Principles and Procedures. (Mon. 14/03/10; 03:00 am) (Mon. 14/03/10; 04:00 am) (Sat. 13/03/10 at 20:55) (Mon. 14/02/10; 06:44am)

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