Audio-lingual method

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The audio-lingual method, Army Method, or New Key,[1] is a style of teaching used in teaching foreign languages. It is based on behaviorist theory,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

This approach to language learning was similar to another, earlier method called the direct method.[citation needed] 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 lab, 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 C. 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 behavioural psychology, as developed by B.F. Skinner, into this method.

Oral drills[edit]

Drills and pattern practice are typical of the Audiolingual method. (Richards, J.C. et-al. 1986) These include

  • Repetition: where the student repeats an utterance as soon as he hears it
  • Inflection: Where one word in a sentence appears in another form when repeated
  • Replacement: Where one word is replaced by another
  • Restatement: The student re-phrases an utterance


Inflection: Teacher: I ate the sandwich. Student: I ate the sandwiches.
Replacement: Teacher: He bought the car for half-price. Student: He bought it for half-price.
Restatement: 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

Historical roots[edit]

The Audio-lingual method is the product of three historical circumstances. For its views on language, audiolingualism drew on the work of American linguists such as Leonard Bloomfield. The prime concern of American linguistics in the early decades of the 20th century had been to document all the indigenous languages spoken in the USA. However, because of the dearth of trained native teachers who would provide a theoretical description of the native languages, linguists had to rely on observation. For the same reason, a strong focus on oral language was developed. At the same time, behaviourist psychologists such as B.F. Skinner were forming the belief that all behaviour (including language) was learnt through repetition and positive or negative reinforcement. The third factor that enabled the birth of the Audio-lingual method 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.”[1]

In practice[edit]

As mentioned, lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output, but attention is also paid to correct pronunciation. Although correct grammar is expected in usage, no explicit grammatical instruction is given. Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom.[1] Modern day implementations are more lax on this last requirement.

Fall from popularity[edit]

In the late 1950s, the theoretical underpinnings of the method were questioned by linguists such as Noam Chomsky, who pointed out the limitations of structural linguistics. The relevance of behaviorist psychology to language learning was also questioned, most famously by Chomsky's review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior in 1959. The audio-lingual method was thus deprived of its scientific credibility and it was only a matter of time before the effectiveness of the method itself was questioned.

In 1964, Wilga Rivers released a critique of the method in her book, The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher. Subsequent research by others, inspired by her book, produced results which showed explicit grammatical instruction in the mother language to be more productive.[citation needed] These developments, coupled with the emergence of humanist pedagogy led to a rapid decline in the popularity of audiolingualism.[citation needed]

Philip Smith's study from 1965-1969, termed the Pennsylvania Project, provided significant proof that audio-lingual methods were less effective than a more traditional cognitive approach involving the learner's first language.[3]


Despite being discredited as an effective teaching methodology in 1970,[3] audio-lingualism continues to be used today, although it is typically not used as the foundation of a course, but rather, has been relegated to use in individual lessons. As it continues to be used, it also continues to gain criticism, as Jeremy Harmer notes, “Audio-lingual methodology seems to banish all forms of language processing that help students sort out new language information in their own minds.” As this type of lesson is very teacher centered, it is a popular methodology for both teachers and students, perhaps for several reasons but in particular, because the input and output is restricted and both parties know what to expect. Some hybrid approaches have been developed, as can be seen in the textbook Japanese: The Spoken Language (1987–90), which uses repetition and drills extensively, but supplements them with detailed grammar explanations in English.

Butzkamm & Caldwell have tried to revive traditional pattern practice in the form of bilingual semi-communicative drills. For them, the theoretical basis, and sufficient justification, of pattern drills is the generative principle, which refers to the human capacity to generate an infinite number of sentences from a finite grammatical competence.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

The fact that audio-lingualism continues to manifest itself in the classroom is reflected in popular culture. Films often depict one of the most well-known aspects of audio-lingualism: the repetition drill. In South Park Episode #172, Cartman applies the repetition drill while teaching a class of high school students. In Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, an LP record of a French lesson instructs a pair of obliging children to 'repeat' short phrases in French and then in English.

Main Features of Audio Lingual Method[edit]

  • Each skills of language like listening, speaking,reading,writing were treated and taught separately in the audio Lingual method.
  • This method primarily focus on listening and speaking.
  • The skills of writing reading is not neglected, but the focus throughout remained on listening and speaking.
  • Dialogue were the main features of the audio lingual syllabus and they form the important media for instructions in the method.
  • Dialogues are the chief means of presenting language items .They provide learner an opportunity to practice ,mimic and memorize bits of language.
  • Patterns drills is used as an important technique and essential part of this method for language teaching and learning.
  • The Language Laboratory was introduced as an important teaching aid.
  • Mother tongue was not given so much importance just, same as the direct method but it was not followed so rigidly also[clarification needed].[5]

Techniques of Audio Lingual Method[edit]

The skill in the Audio Lingual method was taught in the following order: Listening -speaking-reading-writting. Language was taught through dialogues which contained useful vocabulary and common structures of communication. Students were made to memorize the dialogue line by line. Learner mimicked the teacher or a tape listening carefully to all features of the spoken target language. The pronunciation like that of native speaker was important in presenting the model. Through repetition of phrases and sentences of a dialogue was learnt. First it was learnt by whole class, then smaller groups and finally individual learners. Reading and writing were introduced in the next stage. The oral lesson which was learned in previous class was the reading material in order to establish a relationship between speech and writing. All reading material was introduced as orally first. Writing, in the early stages, was confined to transcriptions of the structures and dialogues learnt earlier. Once learners had mastered the basic structure they were asked to write reports composition based on the oral lesson.[5]

Emphasizing the audio in the Audio-Lingual Method[edit]

Modern audio -lingual theory give importance to listening-speaking-reading-writing order in foreign -language learning. The ear training is important in developing speaking proficiency and hence ear training receives particular emphasis. There are strong arguments both physiological and psychological , for proceeding speaking practice with training in listening comprehension.For Example: Speaking is effective through Ear training .By hearing the sounds articulation of sounds is more accurate, differentiation of sounds ,memorization and internalization of proper auditory sounds images, and development of a feel for the new language, gaining attention or interest for language.There has been practically no much study or experiments to determine how much time should be taken between listening experience and speaking practice.Systematic research is needed , not only on the relationship between listening and speaking in foreign language instruction , but also on how best to teach listening comprehension as a skill in its own right.Listening comprehension is most neglected in language learning . It is generally treated as incidental to speaking, rather than as a foundation for it.Texts ,guides and course of study contain tests for evaluating progress in listening comprehension, but rarely they contain specific learning materials designed for the systematic development of this skill.

Here are some materials which can be adapted for improving listening comprehension.

  • The dialogue should be presented as a story,in foreign language , using simple language.

Explain the meaning of some of the new words and expressions that will appear in the dialogue through gestures, visual aids , use of synonyms,. The idea is to teach the content in the story form.

  • Different role play can be used to present the dialogue .
  • Without stopping go through the dialogue to now how entire conversation sounds at normal rate of speed.
  • For better comprehension have a program based on true -false activity .
  • Repeat the entire dialogue at normal rate of speed without interruption .This time have student close there eyes to eliminate distraction , increase listening concentration .
  • Give a listening comprehension test.
  • At this point, periodically,listening comprehension practice can be given using dialogues from other courses of

study,recorded materials which contain,for most language from previously learned by the students. The speaking practice would begin after listening comprehension.The student would ready to speak at this time.Speaking practice might proceed according to sequence ;

  1. Pattern practice based on material taken from the dialogue .
  2. Mimicry practice of the dialogue itself
  3. Performance of the dialogue in front of class and at seats with students changing roles and partners from time to time.
  4. Dialogue adaptation

Memorization of dialogues techniques suggested here represent an approach that will enable student to memorize larger segments at a time and to perform dialogues as a whole with more confidence.In the meantime if teachers are willing to use their imagination and experiment with new techniques many ways can be found to emphasize the audio in the audio-lingual method.[6]

Aims of Audio Lingual Method[edit]

  • The aural-oral skills was used systematically to emphasis communication .The foreign language is taught for

communication ,with a view to achieve development of communication skills.

  • The teaching is emphasized to learner through more practice. Practice is the device in the audio lingual method by which

the in- taking of language takes place.Every language skills is the sum-total sets of habits which learner is expected to acquire.Practice as a whole, therefore iS central to all the contemporary foreign language teaching methods .And with audio-lingual method it is added with stress.

  • The oral learning is given importance through out the learning .The stress put on the aural -oral skills at the early year of the foreign language course is continued during the later years and the aural- oral skills remains a center of concentration throughout even when later reading and writing are introduced.The learners are asked to speak only that they have had a chance to listen to sufficiently,they should read only that material which they have used as part of their aural-oral practice.And then they have to write only which they have read.Hence strict order of material in terms of four skills followed.[7]


  • Listening and speaking skills are emphasized and --especially the former-- rigorously developed.
  • The use of visual aids has proven effective in vocabulary teaching.
  • The method is just as functional and easy to execute in larger groups.
  • Correct pronunciation and structure is emphasized and acquired.
  • It is grounded on a solid theory of language learning.[8]



  • The behaviorist approach to learning is now discredited. Many scholars have proven its weakness.
  • It does not pay sufficient attention to communicative competence.
  • It only language form is considered, while meaning is neglected.
  • Equal importance is not given to all four skills.
  • It is a teacher dominated method.
  • It is a mechanical method since it demands pattern practice, drilling, and memorization over functional learning and organic usage.
  • The learner is passive role; the learner has little control over their learning.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Barker, James L. "On The Mortality of Language Learning Methods". Speech November 8, 2001.
  2. ^ Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd Edition. pg. 79-80. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd., 2001
  3. ^ a b James L. Barker lecture on November 8, 2001 at Brigham Young University, given by Wilfried Decoo.
  4. ^ Butzkamm, Wolfgang; Caldwell, J.A.W. (2009). The bilingual reform. A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Tübingen: Narr Studienbücher. ISBN 978-3-8233-6492-4. 
  5. ^ a b Nagaraj (First in 1996 Sixth in 2005). English Language Teaching:Approaches , Methods, Techniques. Hyderabad: Orient Longman Private Limited.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Allen, Harold B; Campbell, Russell N (1972) [1965]. Teaching English as a Second Language (Second ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill,Inc. p. 98 Extra |pages= or |at= (help). 
  7. ^ Joseph C,, Mukalel (1998). Approaches to English language teaching. Delhi: Discovery Pulshing House. 
  8. ^ Tanvir dhaka. lingual method.html lingual method.html Check |url= scheme (help).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Diane Larsen, Freeman (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press. 

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