The Audio-Lingual Method: history, usage, pros and cons

The History of the Method: The Audio-Lingual Method

The History of the Method: The Audio-Lingual Method

24.11.2023

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  • Cambridge English
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Methodology

Our History series moves on. Through our previous discussions on the method, we have gradually reached the audio-lingual method. 

This article would be interesting for those wondering what the audio-lingual method is, how it appeared, and how effective it is nowadays. 

We are going to give answers to all of these questions and even more!

The Grammar-Translation Method

Defining the audio-lingual method?

The audio-lingual method is another teaching approach that has been initially focused on speaking proficiency. 

An urgent need to review and restructure the learning process can be explained historically. 

The start of World War II made it more crucial than ever for Americans to learn the languages of both their enemies and friends

Consequently, fragments of the Direct Method were taken to create and reinforce this new approach, the “Army Method,” which eventually became known as the Audiolingual Method in the 1950s.

The main focus of  the method was to shape the habit of using certain structures, patterns and verbs through repetition and drilling, and general extensive exposure to the examples that needed to be recreated.

Developing the habit was supposed to help students improve their speaking skills and work with language acquisition on the physiological level.

Discovering the key characteristics of the audio-lingual method

The key principles of the audio-lingual method were the following:

  1. The teacher has to present a context which will be worth copying. This usually happens by role-playing the dialogues or filling the gaps with the information students have heard in the audio.
  2. Teachers must be very attentive to errors and mistakes and do their best to correct them so that the wrong habit can’t be developed. Nothing is worse than fossilization. 
  3. The main goal is to teach students how to speak correctly. Moreover, there is a great emphasis on the pronunciation.
  4. All the necessary words and structures should be drilled to the extent of automatic reproduction without taking any extra minutes to think.
  5. No emphasis is placed on the explanation of grammar rules. Audio-lingual methods followers believe that learning any language is pretty similar to the acquisition of the native language. Therefore, rules can be induced from examples and practice.
  6. Audio-lingual practitioners follow the “natural order” of developing language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. 

Learn more about the Direct Method

As for the students’ position in such a classroom, it can be described with the help of the following key requirements:

  1. Students’ native language should be used as little as possible so that they do not lose focus on the target language.
  2. Students are supposed to do their best to mimic the pronunciation of the examples presented by the teacher.
  3. Students have to revise and repeat the target language and grammar structure as often as possible in order to develop the habit.
  4. The vocabulary presentation is limited. Students have to pay much more attention to learning structural patterns rather than separate words. Loads of new vocabulary come later.

Rating the effectiveness of the audio-lingual method

The audio-lingual method was initially created as the improved version of the direct method. It was supposed to pay much more attention to speaking and embrace the natural process of language acquisition. 

After 1964, its appeal declined, in part due to exposure of its flaws.

Since it downplayed the importance of context and prior knowledge in language learning and placed an excessive amount of emphasis on memorization and practice, it was unable to foster communicative competence a lot.

After all, it was found that mistakes were not always so harmful and even wanted, as the teacher knows where more attention should be paid. 

Plus, it was proved that language can’t really be learned by developing a habit  in the way the audio-lingual method puts it.

Wonder how to increase your students' progress?

Looking for the pros and cons of the audio-lingual method?

ProsCons
Constant drills make students remember the materials for a very long time.Students overlearn the information but can’t really use it fluently outside of the memorized patterns.
Students have very good pronunciation as it is taught straight from the beginning.Not enough attention is paid to the skills that are not oral. Therefore, writing suffers a lot. Too little grammar and spelling exposure leads to a lot of writing mistakes.
Students also get a lot of context about the culture of the language they are learning through exposure to dialogues and texts.Students don’t get an explicit presentation of grammar, which is needed sometimes. Thus, some grammar rules may stay vague. 
Almost no L1 is allowed so students are focused on the foreign language all the time.Errors are not allowed, and the students are pressured to reproduce the examples given by the teacher with no mistakes.

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Using the teaching techniques within the audio-lingual method

Memorizing the dialogues

Dialogues are considered the best examples to copy within the method as they have both useful structures and comprehensible context.

That is why dialogues are not only role-played but also learnt by heart.

Various forms of drilling

Drillings are a must in the audio-lingual method.

Therefore, the whole spectrum is actively used: repetition and chain drill, substitution and transformation drill. You name it!

Fill in the gaps

There is no better way to reproduce certain words within the context than fill-in-the-gaps tasks.

They require understanding of the target language, knowledge of whether the word is appropriate in a certain structure, an ability to interact with a context, as well as the right spelling skills.

Conclusion

Even though the audio-lingual method has lost its impact over the years, teachers still use some elements of this method while teaching, especially when it comes to practicing pronunciation or drilling. 

Make sure you keep up with the latest trends and the best teaching techniques with Grade University

Audio-lingual methods are very effective nowadays. Is it true?

Drilling is an important part of teaching, according to the method. Can you relate?

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko

    Author

    Teacher of General English & IELTS

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