In its infancy, the Audio-Lingual method of teaching a foreign language was also known as the army method. It originated from the behaviourist theory of learning languages and was popularised by the need of the US army sending troops around the world during World War 2.
This method relies on repetition drills and as a result it was used to teach large numbers of students at the same time. Perfect for the US army to give its soldiers a basic understanding in a foreign language where they would be posted.
This method was similar to the earlier method known as the direct method. The audio-lingual method teaches the language directly but doesn’t use the native language to explain words or grammar. However, unlike the direct method, it doesn’t focus on teaching vocabulary, instead the students are drilled in the use of grammar in the target language.
The audio-lingual method is no longer a popular method of teaching English. In the 1950s, may shortfalls of this method were documented by popular linguists such as Noam Chomsky. The behaviourist psychology to language learning was also questioned by Noam Chomsky and this method was quickly phased out.
Typically, the audio-lingual method includes drills and pattern repetition. There are four parts to this method.
Repetition – the students repeat what the teacher says. Example: Teacher – “I walk to school”. Students – “I walk to school”.
Inflection – the teacher says a word, the students say another form of one of the words back to the teacher. Example: Teacher – “I walk to school”. Students – “I walked to school”.
Replacement – the teacher says a sentence and the students replace on of the words for a different word. Example: Teacher – “I walk to school”. Students – “I run to school”.
Restatement - the teacher says a sentence and the students rephrase the sentence. Example: Teacher – “Tell me to walk to school”. Students – “Walk to school”.
Present Day Use
Although this method has been discredited scientifically, it is still sometimes used by ESL teachers around the world. Some teachers like to use because this method because it is very teacher orientated and both the students and teacher know what to expect. It can be useful sometimes to drill the students with sentences, but should not solely be used as the only method of teaching. Repetition in this method can sometimes be helpful if you have a very large class and want to practice speaking or pronunciation.
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