Senin, 15 Maret 2010

The Audio-lingual method and The Silent Way

The Audio-lingual method

The Audio-Lingual method of teaching had its origins during World War II when it became known as the Army method. It is also called as Aural oral approach. Itis based on the structural view of language and the behaviorist theory of language learning.

The audiolingual approach to language teaching has a lot of similarities with the direct method. Both were considered as a reaction against the shortcomings of the Grammar Translation method, both reject the use of the mother tongue and both stress that speaking and listening competence preceded reading and writing competence. But there are also some differences. The direct method highlighted the teaching of vocabulary while the audiolingual approach focus on grammar drills


The structural view to language is the view behind the audio-lingual method. This approach focused on examining how the elements of language related to each other in the present, that is, ‘synchronically‘ rather than ‘diachronically‘. It was also argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts, a signifier (the sound pattern of a word) and a signified (the concept or meaning of the word). The study of language aims at describing the performance ,the“parole” as it is the only observable part of language.


Behaviorism is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things which organisms do — including acting, thinking and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors. It contends that leaning occurs through associations, habit formation and reinforcement. When the learner produces the desired behavior and is reinforced positively, it is likely that that behavior be emitted again.

The Audio-lingual method

The objective of the audiolingual method is accurate pronunciation and grammar, the ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations and knowledge of sufficient vocabulary to use with grammar patterns. Particular emphasis was laid on mastering the building blocks of language and learning the rules for combining them. It was believed that learning structure, or grammar was the starting point for the student. Here are some characteristics of the method:

  • language learning is habit-formation,
  • mistakes are bad and should be avoided, as they make bad habits,
  • language skills are learned more effectively if they are presented orally first, then in written form,
  • analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis,
  • the meanings of words can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context.

The main activities include reading aloud dialogues, repetitions of model sentences, and drilling. Key structures from the dialogue serve as the basis for pattern drills of different kinds. Lessons in the classroom focus on the correct imitation of the teacher by the students. Not only are the students expected to produce the correct output, but attention is also paid to correct pronunciation. Although correct grammar is expected in usage, no explicit grammatical instruction is given. It is taught inductively. Furthermore, the target language is the only language to be used in the classroom.


  • It aims at devoloping listening and speaking skills which is a step away from the Grammar translation method
  • The use of visual aids has proven its effectiveness in vocabulary teaching.


  • The method is based on false assumptions about language. The study of language doesn’t amount to studying the “parole”, the observable data. Mastering a language relies on acquiring the rules underlying language performance. That is, the linguistic, sociolinguistic, and discource competences.
  • The beaviorist approach to learning is now descridited. Many scholars have proven its weakness. Noam Chomsky ( “Chomsky, Noam (1959). “A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior”) has written a strong criticism of the principles of the theory.

The Chomskyan criticism of the theories upon which the audiolingual method was founded led to an interest in not only the affective factors but also on the cognitive factors. While Community Language Learning, drawing from Carl Roger’s philosophy, focused on the importance of the affect, new methods were developed in the 70s to highlight the cognitive domain in language learning. The Silent Way is one of these innovative methods. In Fact, Caleb Gattegno, the founder of the Silent Way,devoted his thinking to the importance of problem solving approach in education.He contends that the method is costructivist and leads the learners to develop their own conceptual models of all the aspects of the language. The best way of achieving this is to help students to be experimental learners.


The Silent Way is charaterized by its focus on discovery, creativity, problem solving and the use of acompanying materials. Richards and rodgers (1986:99) summerized the method into three major features.

  1. Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates. The Silent way belongs to the tradition of teaching that favors hypothetical mode of teaching (as opposed to expository mode of teaching) in which the teacher and the learner work cooperatively to reach the educational desired goals. (cf Bruner 1966.) The learner is not a bench bound listener but an active contributor to the learning process.
  2. Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects. The Silent Way uses colorful charts and rods (cuisinere rods) which are of varying length. They are used to introduce vocabulary ( colors, numbers, adjectives, verbs) and syntax (tense, comparatives, plurals, word order …)
  3. Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned. This can be summarized by Benjamin Franklin’s words:
    “Tell me and I forget
    Teach me and I remember
    Involve me and I learn”
    A good silent way learner is a good problem solver. The teacher’s role resides only in giving minimum repitions and correction, remaining silent most of the times, leaving the learner strugGling to solve problems about the language and get a grasp of its mechanism.


  • The Silent Way is often criticised of being a harsh method. The learner works in isolation and communication is lacking badly in a Silent Way classroom.
  • With minmum help on the part of the teacher, the Silent Way method may put the learning itself at stake.
  • The material ( the rods and the charts) used in this method will certainly fail to introduce all aspects of language. Other materials will have to be introduced.


  • Learning through problem solving looks attractive especially because it fosters:
    • creativity,
    • discovery,
    • increase in intelligent potency and
    • long term memory.
  • The indirect role of the teacher highlights the importance and the centrality of the learner who is reponsible in figuring out and testing the hypotheses about how language works. In other words teaching is subordinated to learning


Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

H. Douglas Brown (1987).Principles of language learning and teaching. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall

Richards, Jack C. and Theodore S. Rodgers (1986). Approaches and methods in language teaching: A description and analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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