Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages



Drilling is a form of pattern practice which involves the repetition by learners of teacher models of restricted amounts of oral language input. It is a basic teaching technique of the methods developed around the Second World War in the United States (Army Method, Oral Approach) which eventually developed into the Audio-Lingual Method associated with Charles Fries and Robert Lado.

  • In a repetition drill, they simply repeat the teacher's words, for example lines of a dialogue.
  • A substitution drill requires learners to change a word in an utterance, using a cue given by the teacher.
  • In transformation drills, learners systematically change a given structure, for example converting a question into a statement.
  • A drill may also be simplified to avoid errors by back-chaining - presenting the end of an utterance first, then gradually adding earlier parts.
  • It may also be varied in the chain drill, which offers a departure from the teacher model by requiring individual learners to ask and answer each other in a conversation chain around the class.

(Adapted from Larsen-Freeman, 1986)


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

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