Audio-Lingual Method (ALM)

Explanation of Main Features


The Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), which comes from the Behaviorist school of thought (Mize & Dantas-Whitney, 2007), is based on contrastive analysis. The native language and second language are described and the similarities and differences noted. The slightest differences are compared, down to a phoneme. Students are then taught the second language using rote dialogues and verbal drills, based on these differences. There is no focus on the meaning, but rather the student repeating the sounds and words correctly (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 83).

The Audio-Lingual Method does not teach syntax explicitly; it is instead expected to be "picked up" while students practice sentences (fully prescribed sentences and fill-in-the-blank sentences). There are explicit corrections, sentences, and exercises (Freeman & Freeman, 2004, p. 245). It is an orderly method that lacks context and meaning, and gives students little unrehearsed practice or meaningful conversations and interactions (Mize & Dantas-Whitney, 2007). In essence, the ALM method is based on strict, grammatical drills that have no context. It focuses on teaching the language and its grammar habits, but nothing about the language itself (Kelly, 1970, p. 2).

Critique

The Audio-Lingual method was created under the assumption students would develop good language habits by completing drills and exercises. Students were to memorize and recite words, phrases, and dialogues, imitating the teacher verbatim. Emphasis was placed on correct pronunciation, with meaning and grammar being secondary. Students were learning to pronounce phrases and sentences correctly in a new language, but minimal attention was given to cognitive and meaningful communication (Freeman, 2004, pp. 83, 244). In addition, the dialogues that were used were hard to translate into practical use outside of the academic world. Students need context while learning new words, forms, and structures. Meaningless sentences and practices will not transform into complex, higher level skills (Mize & Dantas-Whitney, 2007). This is where the Audio-Lingual Method suffers the most.

References

Freeman, D. E. & Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential linguistics. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kelly, J. G. (1970). Liberal education, the language requirement and the audio-lingual method. Wichita State University Foreign Language Summary, 5, 2-6.

Mize, K, & Dantas-Whitney, M. (2007). English language development in K-12 settings: Principles, cautions and effective models. ORTESOL Journal, 25, 17-24.