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The Audio-Lingual Method, or the Army Method or also the New Key, is a style of teaching used in language instruction. It is based on behaviorist ideology, 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.
Applied to language instruction, 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.
“Teacher: There's a cup on the table ... repeat
Students: There's a cup on the table
Students: There's a soon on the table
Students: There's a book on the table
Teacher: On the chair
Students: There's a book on the chair
The Audio-lingual method was developed for and first utilized by the U.S. army during World War II. The U.S. Army was primarily interested in having its soldiers able to communicate verbally in the given foreign language—thus explaining the method's focus on spoken communication. Because of the influence of the military, the audio-lingual method also became to be known as the “army method.”
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. Modern day implementations are more lax on this last requirement.
Fall from popularityEdit
Post World Word II, two events happened that caused the rapid decline of interest in audio-lingualism. In 1964, Wilga Rivers released a critique of the methodology 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. 1 More generally, in the 1950s, Noam Chomsky released a review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, which would eventually kill off the behaviorist movement. As audio-lingualism is based on behaviorist theory, audio-lingualism lost its linguistic and psychological foundation and fell out soon after, in favor of the newer humanist ideologies.
Despite being discredited as an effective teaching methodology in the 1960s, 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.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Barker, James L. On The Mortality of Language Learning Methods. Speech Nov. 8 2001. http://www.didascalia.be/mortality.htm
- ↑ Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd Edition. pg. 79-80. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd., 2001
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