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Teaching Philosophies: the Audio-Lingual Philosophy


Did you read the past message about the Direct Method? There is another famous method that evolved with a very similar philosophy, the Audio-Lingual Method.

Like the direct method, the audio-lingual method teaches exclusively using the target language. But, unlike the direct method, the audio-lingual method focus is on grammar, expecting that a students vocabulary will grow with time and context.

Popularized during World War 2 for it's no-nonsense approach, it is sometimes called the "army method" and has roots in behaviorist philosophies regarding reinforcement and methodical drills. You may recognize some of it's classical influences in your own lessons.

Repetition: "Repeat after me please..."
   Leader: I want to eat some fruit.
   Learner: I want to eat some fruit.

Inflection: Where learners adjust rather than repeat.
   Leader: I go to the store.
   Learner: I went to the store.

Replacement: Where content can be replaced and customized.
   Leader: I buy some apples.
   Learner: I buy some bananas.

Restatement: The learner re-phrases for themselves.
   Leader: Ask me where the store is.
   Learner: Where is the store?

Lessons generally focus on imitating the teacher. Students are expected to pay close attention to speak the correct output and the correct pronunciation. Maybe that sounds like a lot of the burden is placed on the student. But there are many drills where the student doesn't need to understand at all. 

A mechanical drill is where the teacher has complete control over the student's response, and where comprehension is not required in order to produce a correct response.
   Leader: This is a book.
   Learner: This is a book.
   Leader: Pen...
   Learner: This is a pen.

With a meaningful drill the teacher still has control over the response, but student understanding is required to produce a correct response.
   Leader: I'm hot.
Learner: I'll turn on the air conditioning.
Leader: I'm thirsty.
Learner: I'll get you a drink.

A communicative drill is where the type of response is controlled but the student provides their own information.
   Leader: What time did you get up on Sunday?
   Learner: I got up at 9:00.

Look familiar? The audio-lingual method has had an enormous impact on foreign language education around the world. Learning about the history of these methods can help you utilize them, and maybe even improve them.

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