The Audiolingual Method was developed in the U.S. during the Second World War. At that time, the U.S. government found it a great necessity to set up a special language-training program to supply the war with language personnel. Therefore, the government commissioned American universities to develop foreign language program for military personnel. Thus the Army Specialized Training Programme (ASTP) was established in 1942.The objectives of the army programme were for students to attain conversational proficiency in a variety of foreign languages. The method used was known as the “informant method ”, since it used a native speakers of the language, the informant , and a linguist. The informant served as a source of language for imitation, and the linguist supervised the learning experience. The intensive system adopted by the army achieved excellent results.

Linguists and applied linguists during this period were becoming increasingly involved in the teaching of English as a foreign language. In 1941 the first English Language institute in the U.S. was established to in the University of Michigan. The director of the institute was Charles Frieswho applied the principles of structural linguists to language teaching. The result is an approach which advocated aural training first, then pronunciation training, followed by speaking, reading and writing.

The emergence of the Audiolingual Method resulted from the increased attention to foreign language teaching in the U.S. towards the end of the 1950s.The need for a radical change and rethinking of foreign language teaching methodology made language teaching specialists set about developing a method that was applicable to conditions in U.S. college and university classrooms. They drew on the earlier experience of the army programmes and the Aural-Oral or structural Approach developed by Fries and his colleagues, adding insights taken from behaviorist psychology. This combination of structural linguistic theory, aural-oral procedures, and behaviorist psychology led to the Audiolingual Method, which was widely adopted for teaching foreign languages in North American colleges and universities.



Brief History of ALM

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 at 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, behaviorist psychologists such as B.F. Skinner were forming the belief that all behavior (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.”

The Principle of ALM

This method of Language Learning is also called the Aural-Oral Method. This method is said to result in rapid acquisition of speaking and listening skills. The audiolingual method drills students in the use of grammatical sentence patterns. When this method was developed it was thought that the way to acquire the sentence patterns of the second language was through conditioning or helping learners to respond correctly to stimuli through shaping and reinforcement.

The Audiolingual Method is based on the following principles:

  • Speaking and listening competence preceded reading and writing competence.
  • Use of German is highly discouraged in the classroom.
  • The development of language skills is a matter of habit formulation.
  • Students practice particular patterns of language through structured dialogue and drill until response is automatic.
  • Structured patterns in language are taught using repetitive drills.
  • The emphasis is on having students produce error free utterances.
  • This method of language learning supports kinesthetic learning styles.
  • Only everyday vocabulary and sentences are taught. Concrete vocabulary is taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures. Abstract vocabulary is taught through association of ideas.
  • The printed word must be kept away from the second language learner as long as possible.

The Techniques of ALM

Dialogues and pattern practice form the basis of audiolingual classroom practice. The use of them is a distinctive feature of the Audiolingual Method. The techniques used by the Audiolingual Method are:

  1. 1.      Repetition drill: This drill is often used to teach the lines of the dialogue. Students are asked to repeat the teacher’s model as accurately and as quickly as possible.e.g.:

T                         S

This is a book   →  This is a book.

Students do this without looking at their book. They have to produce the appropriate sounds first.

  1. 2.      Substitution drill:The students repeat the line from the dialogue which the teacher has given them, substituting the cue into the line in its proper place. e.g.:

T                                          S

They drink wine. → beer    → They drink beer.

→ coffee → They drink coffee.

→    tea    → They drink tea.

The major purpose of this drill is to give the students practice in finding and filling in the slots of a sentence.

  1. 3.      Question-and-answer drill:The drill gives students practice with answering questions. The students should answer the teacher’s question very quickly. It is also possible for the teacher to cue the students to ask questions as well. This gives students practice with the question pattern. e.g.

1.        T: Are there any questions?                Ss: No, there aren’t any.

T: Is there any milk?                           Ss: No, there isn’t any.

T: Are there any sandwiches?             Ss: No, there aren’t any.

T: Is there any wine?                           Ss: No, there isn’t any.

2.        T: he read The Times                           Ss: What did he read?

T: He said “Good morning.”               Ss: What did he say?

T: He saw “The Sound of Music. ”     Ss: What did he see?

  1. 4.      Expansion drill:This drill helps students to produce longer sentence bit by bit, gradually achieving fluency.  The main structure is repeated first, then students have to put cue phrase in its proper place. e.g.

T: They go to the cinema.

Ss: They go to the cinema.

T: On Sundays

Ss: They go to the cinema on Sundays.

T: Always.

Ss: They always go to the cinema on Sundays.

T: Nearly.

Ss: They nearly always go to the cinema on Sundays.

  1. 5.      Clause combination drill:Students learn to combine two simple sentences into a complex one. e.g.

T: It may rain. He’ll stay at home.

Ss: If it may rain, he’ll stay at home.

T: It may be sunny. We’ll go to the beach.

Ss: If it may be sunny, we’ll go to the beach.

T: It may snow. They’ll go skating.

Ss: If it may snow, they’ll go skating.

  1. 6.      Background build-up drill): This drill is used when a long line of dialogue is giving students trouble. The teacher breaks down the line into several parts. The students repeat a part of the sentence, usually the last phrase of the line. Then, following the teacher’s cue, the students expand what they are repeating part by part until they are able to repeat the entire line. The teacher begins with the part at the end of the sentence (and works backward from there) to keep the intonation of the line as natural as possible. This also directs more student attention to the end of the sentence, where new information typically occurs. e.g.

T: the flowers

Ss: the flowers

T: watering the flowers

Ss: watering the flowers

T: is watering the flowers

Ss: is watering the flowers

T: Ian is watering the flowers.

Ss: Ian is watering the flowers.

  1. 7.      Chain drill:A chain drill gets its name from the chain of conversation that forms around the classroom as students, one-by-one, ask and answer questions of each other. The teacher begins the chain by greeting a particular student, or asking him a question. That student responds, and then turns to the student sitting next to him. e.g.

T: Hello, what’s your name?

S1: My name is John Smith. (He turns to the student next to her.) Hello, what’s your name?

S2: My name is Mary Clinton. (She turns to the student next to her.) Hello, what’s your name?

S3: My name is Peter.


  1. 8.      Completion:Students hear an utterance that is complete except for one word, and then repeat the utterance in completed form. e.g.

T: I’ll go my way and you go_____

Ss: I’ll go my way and you go yours.

T: We all have____own troubles.

Ss: We all have our own troubles.

  1. 9.      Use of minimal pairs:The teacher works with pair of words which differ in only one sound; students are first asked to find the difference between the two word and later to say the two words. e.g.

ship—sheep  live—leave  leap—lip  bit—beat


            In a typical audiolingual lesson the following procedures will be observed:

1. Recognition: Students first hear a model dialogue (either read by the teacher or on the tape) containing the key structures that are the focus of the lesson and try to understand the meaning of the dialogue with the help of the teacher’s gestures, mime, and context or situation established in advance.

2. Imitation and repetition: The students repeat each line of the dialogue, individually and in chorus. The students must imitate the right pronunciation, intonation and fluency.

3. Pattern drills: Certain key structures from the dialogue are selected and used as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds.

4. Follow-up activities:The students now are allowed to look at their textbooks. They are usually asked to do some follow-up reading, writing or vocabulary activities. This will guide their use of the language.




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