Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

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Audio-lingual Method

1960

The Audio-lingual Method (ALM) or audiolingualism grew out of foreign language teaching approaches developed during World War 2 at the University of Michigan in order to rapidly develop effective oral-aural skills in foreign languages for military personnel.

Charles Fries and Robert Lado are credited with the association of behaviourist psychology and a contrastive structural analysis of the target language to produce the following principles for foreign language learning :

  1. Foreign language learning is basically a process of mechanical habit formation. Good habits are formed by giving correct responses rather than by making mistakes. By memorising dialogues and performing pattern drills the chances of producing mistakes are minimized.

  2. Language skills are learned more effectively if the items to be learning in the target language are presented in spoken form before they are seen in written form.

  3. Analogy provides a better foundation for language learning than analysis. Analogy involves the processes of generalization and discrimination.

  4. The meanings that the words of a language have for the native speaker can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context and not in isolation.

(Rivers, 1964)

The audio-lingual method was thus based on the oral language, which was presented in small, carefully controlled structural units and practised through mimicry-memorisation and drills or pattern practice.  Errors were to be avoided at all costs, since only good habits should be reinforced.

Activities

  1. Classroom illustration: Pattern practice
  2. Read more: Lado

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