COMPARE THE AUDIO-LINGUAL METHOD AND THE
The audio-lingual method
The audio-lingual method was developed around World War II when governments realized that they needed more people who could conduct conversations fluently in a variety of languages, work as interpreters, code-room assistants, and translators. However, since foreign language instruction in that country was heavily focused on reading instruction, no textbooks, other materials or courses existed at the time, so new methods and materials had to be devised. For example, the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program created intensive programs based on the techniques Leonard Bloomfield and other linguists devised for Native American languages, where students interacted intensively with native speakers and a linguist in guided conversations designed to decode its basic grammar and learn the vocabulary. This "informant method" had great success with its small class sizes and motivated learners.
The U.S. Army Specialized Training Program only lasted a few years, but it gained a lot of attention from the popular press and the academic community. Charles Fries set up the first English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, to train English as a second or foreign language teachers. Similar programs were created later at Georgetown University, University of Texas among others based on the methods and techniques used by the military. The developing method had much in common with the British oral approach although the two developed independently. The main difference was the developing audio-lingual methods allegiance to structural linguistics, focusing on grammar and contrastive analysis to find differences between the student's native language and the target language in order to prepare specific materials to address potential problems. These materials strongly emphasized drill as a way to avoid or eliminate these problems.
This first version of the method was originally called the oral method, the aural-oral method or the structural approach. The audio-lingual method truly began to take shape near the end of the 1950s, this time due government pressure resulting from the space race. Courses and techniques were redesigned to add insights from behaviorist psychology to the structural linguistics and constructive analysis already being used. Under this method, students listen to or view recordings of language models acting in situations. Students practice with a variety of drills, and the instructor emphasizes the use of the target language at all times. The idea is that by reinforcing 'correct' behaviors, students will make them into habits.
Due to weaknesses in performance, and more importantly because of Noam Chomsky's theoretical attack on language learning as a set of habits, audio-lingual methods are rarely the primary method of instruction today. However, elements of the method still survive in many textbooks.
Silent way is a discovery learning approach. It is often considered to be one of the humanistic approaches. It is called the
Silent Way because the teacher is usually silent, leaving room for the students to talk and explore the language. The students are responsible for their own learning and are encouraged to interact with one another. The role of the teacher is to give clues to the students, not to model the language. The silent way makes it easy for students of foreign to master grammar at a very early stage in their study. This can be accomplished while playing games with ad-hoc materials as well as Cuisenaire rods. After achieving good control over the grammar, pronunciation and melody of a language, students can absorb large amounts of “content vocabulary” (shoe, tree, run, tired, etc.) and immediately put these words to use in sentences.
Silent Way Wall Pictures and Worksheets
Ten large wall pictures depict everyday scenes such as a bedroom or a supermarket. Using a pointer, the teacher indicates things in the picture and says and writes their names (if the students don’t know them) on a whiteboard.
At the same time, the students write these words on their own smaller version of the picture, close to the object in question. The teacher can then have a student come forward and “touch the armchair, touch the slippers,” and so on. Different students can then continue this activity while the teacher keeps silence. More complicated questions can then be asked:
- Where are the slippers?
- How many lamps are on the nightstand?
- Is the pillow bigger than the armchair?
Each student’s small version of the picture is a record of new words learned and provides a way for students to review without need for translation.
Telling Stories Using Rods
The teacher can easily use rods to represent a house, a bed, a table, etc. It is then possible to make one rod represent a person and to tell a simple story. For example:
This is Mr. Brown. He is opening the door. He’s going into the house. He’s turning on the light and going into the bedroom. Now he’s sitting in the armchair and taking off his shoes…
The rod story provides an easy and fun way to add more words – especially verbs – to the vocabulary list from the
Word Lists for Recycling Vocabulary
The picture and the rod stories facilitate the introduction of a rather large number of new words. To keep this new vocabulary “alive,” the teacher may make a word list which can be put up on the wall. In later sessions, students can be asked to make sentences using words from several of these lists. For example, students might be challenged to make a sentence containing one word from the bedroom list and another word from the list related to shopping.
Silent-Way Restriction Games
These open-ended challenges, called Restriction Games, spark creativity. Sentences meeting the above challenge might include:
- There are no armchairs in the supermarket.
- Melons are heavier than pillows but pillows are bigger than melons.
- Mr. Brown went to the store wearing his slippers.
Restriction games allow one student to learn from another and everyone to learn from mistakes. These are golden opportunities for the teacher to give students feedback on their production and to use Silent-Way self-correction techniques.
Writing a Story
Once the students know a lot of words related to the theme of the picture, the teacher might ask them to write a story using the new vocabulary they now possess, perhaps as a homework assignment. Even low-level students may amaze you.
Vocabulary introduced through the wall pictures and worksheets is put to use in stories told with the help of rods, practiced and combined through restriction games and eventually written in a composition. Many of these Silent-Way techniques can easily be applied in any classroom and will result in a richer experience for teacher and student alike.