Background and Characteristics of the Audio-Lingual Method
February 6, 2002
The Audio-Lingual method of teaching English as a second language
had its origins during World War II when it became known as the Army method.
It was developed as a reaction to the grammar-translation method of teaching
foreign languages. Grammar-translation had been used to teach for
thousands of years, but the method was perceived as taking too long for
learners to be able to speak in the target language. The Audio-Lingual
method set out to achieve quick communicative competence through innovative
methods. From about 1947-1967 the Audio-Lingual approach was the
dominant foreign language teaching method in the United States.
The Audio-Lingual method is based on the theory that language
learning is a question of habit formation. It has its origins in
Skinner’s principles of behavior theory. Since learning is thought
to be a question of habit formation, errors are considered to be
bad and to be avoided. Further, teachers “reward” students by saying
“Good!” and praising the class when they perform well.
The Audio-Lingual method addresses a need for people to learn
foreign languages rapidly. It is best for beginning level English
classes in a foreign language setting. All instruction in the class
are given in English. A dialog is presented for memorization. The
teacher asks the class to repeat each line of the dialog. Expansion
drills are used for difficult sentences. The teacher starts with
the end of the sentence and the class repeats just two words. A series
of pattern practice drills then follow the introduction of the dialog.
One of the key principles of the Audio-Lingual method is that
the language teacher should provide students with a native-speaker-like
model. By listening, students are expected to be able to mimic the
model. Based upon contrastive analyses, students are drilled in pronunciation
of words that are most dissimilar between the target language and the first
language. Grammar is not taught directly by rule memorization, but by examples.
The method presumes that second language learning is very much like first
Larsen-Freeman, Diane. (1986) Techniques and Principles of Language
Teaching, Oxford University Press
“Grammar Pedagogy in Second and Foreign Language Teaching,” (1991)
TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3 Autumn.