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7.4 The Audio- Lingual Method (ALM)

durenmgmail-com November 9, 2021

What is the Audio-lingual Method (ALM)?

During the Second World War, Army programs were set up to teach German, French, and Japanese languages. The ALM method is often confused with the Direct Method as they both incorporate many dialogues, and learners are encouraged to speak it. However, the theories behind the two methods are very different, making very noticeable differences in the rules and aims of these two methods.

In the Audio-lingual Method, skills are taught in the natural order of acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The audio-lingual approach is built upon language structure. Naturally, it treats the sounds of language as essential building blocks for creating utterances or the meaningful cords of spoken sounds.

Audio-lingual classes begin with a dialogue that introduces the lesson’s sentence patterns. Based on the principle that learning a language is habit formation, this method depends on the memorisation of set phrases:

  • By using repetition, structural patterns can be taught.
  • grammatical explanations are seldomly provided
  • The listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills are formed in this sequence.
  • Pointers: Reading and writing are comparatively unimportant, and they can only be introduced once students have a good grasp of the oral language.
  • As language is habit-formed, a priority is to avoid students making mistakes for fear that these mistakes become habitual. Accuracy in pronunciation is emphasised and fostered through minimal pair drills where students learn to differentiate between sounds such as the vowels in “ship” and “sheep,” “hit,” and “heat,” and “bit” and “beat.”

Drawbacks: Some of the disadvantages of this method are the boredom caused by endless repetition drills and the fact that learners have little control over their learning. Finally, a significant critique is that the Audiolingual method does not develop language competence; instead, it teaches students how to interact in a classroom and not a real-life setting.

How to use the Audio-lingual Method in the classroom

You do not need to have a wide-ranging list of sounds available for speaking the target language for these activities. First, help the students to articulate, then recognise, the essential sounds necessary.

Avoid using complex representations of sounds. Instead, use recognised symbols that students could use in their mother tongue.

For example, the voiced and unvoiced “z” sound in European Spanish sounds the same way as “th” in English.

Let us look at how to gain that understanding and apply it to teaching

Activity 1. Introductory routine

Age group- For young EFL students in primary school.

The teacher will stand in front of a class while the students are sitting at their desks. He/She asks one learner, ‘Kate, how are you?’ The learner responds, ‘I am fine, how are you?’ The teacher asks different learners, who respond in turn:

Teacher: Greg, how are you?

Student: I am fine, how are you?

Teacher: Luke, how are you?

Student: I am fine, how are you?

Teacher: Jessie, how are you?

Student: I am fine, how are you?

If a student is not able to give a response, the teacher guides the student, mouthing the syllables first, then speaking aloud if necessary. The teacher must also correct pronunciation, emphasising the “h” sound for ‘how,’ by breathing on his/her hand in front of their mouth like a mirror, and eliciting choral repetition from the class when multiple students have the same error. The activity will go on until the teacher has asked each student and obtained the same response.

Activity 2. A what?

Age group- For young EFL/ESL students in primary school.

The teacher and students sit in a circle. It is a chain game where the teacher explains the game in L1. Students will pass on a new word illustrated on a flashcard, ‘a deer,’ or pretend not to hear and ask for the word again.

  • First, the teacher (T) begins to show the flashcard to the first student (S1) and says, ‘It is a deer.’ The first student will ask ‘a what?’ so that the word is repeated. The teacher repeats the word and gives the card to the student.
  • S1 will repeat the word to the next student. S2 will pretend not to understand, and say ‘a what?’ S1 will pretend to have forgotten, and ask the teacher ‘a what?’ The teacher will repeat ‘it is a deer,’ S1 will repeat to S2, and S2 will tell S3 ‘it is a deer.’


T to S1: ((shows flashcard to S1)) It is a deer.

S1 to T: A what?

T to S1: A deer.

S1 to S2: ((shows flashcard to S2)) A deer

S2 to S1: A what?

S1 to T: A what?

T to S1: A deer.

S1 to S2: A deer

S2 to S3: ((shows flashcard to S2)) A deer

S3 to S2: A what?

Activity 3. Using tongue-twisters to build articulation and strength

For this activity, concentrate on repeating single sound changes in words out of context (This is okay for a quick pronunciation warm-up). The students will have fun working with complete sentences. So, try well-known tongue-twisters in the L2.

  • I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen.

This practices the articulation of the “k” and the “ch” sounds.

Activity 4. Structural Drilling

Age group- For young EFL students in primary school.

As in many disciplines, repetitive practice develops strength and agility. In the audio-lingual method, this is sentence structure drilling.

Structural drilling can be useful in many manners:

  • It strengthens the vocal apparatus for future sentence production.
  • It builds strong habits in structural manipulation.
  • It settles automatic responses in everyday conversational exchange.

How to do a drill session

  1. The children or students pass ‘who’ flashcards around a circle, each student asking ‘Who are you?’ and responding ‘I am _.’
  2. The drill will be controlled by the teacher, who imitates questions and answers by mouthing, to cue some students.
  3. Next, the student’s practice ‘How are you?’ with a different flashcard, and the response,
  4. ‘Fine, how are you?’
  5. The teacher holds up the two flashcards at a suitable time showing the different questions and answers and emphasising the difference between the question words ‘how and who’.
  6. Finally, the teacher passes each flashcard around the circle in opposite directions, requiring students to ask and answer a suitable question.

When and how often to drill

Long hours of drilling should be avoided and not be the basic structure of the group. Drilling can become a regular activity, as a vocal warm-up and an inductive introduction to a particular word or expression.

Dialogue Practice

Dialogues can be used to build up students’ self-confidence in the language, develop their understanding of the language, and test their conversational skills.

What kinds of dialogues to use

Dialogues can fall into many different categories. For this course, it will be limited to just two: Standard everyday exchanges, or types of verbal exchange that people often repeat throughout their daily lives. These can include simple greetings and goodbyes, information requests, and shopping dialogues, etc.

Dialogues may begin standard but become unpredictable because of the personal interaction of the type of students speaking. Teachers may present this dialogue activity in any number of styles, from sock puppets to printed handouts to pictures and repetition exercises. This can be changed according to what suits your teaching style. These may include debate, argument, discussion, and sharing opinions.

Activity 5. Everyday dialogue practice

An everyday dialogue can grow from previous sentence structure practice.

Dialogues and activities should be kept short and sweet, each student having three to five sentences to produce. For example:

S1: Good morning.

S2: Hello.

S1: How much are the tomatoes?

S2: 25 yen a kilo.

S1: That is cheap! I will take five kilos.

S2: Good. That will be 125 yen.

S1: Here you are.

S2: here is your change. Thank you.

S1: Thank you! Goodbye.

S2: Goodbye.

This dialogue can be substituted in any way: tomatoes changed to oranges, yen changed to euros, etc. Students can also be encouraged to use various greetings, farewells, or any other dialogue that sounds familiar in their everyday life.

By giving students objects or clothing items to have a fun role play, this type of exchange may be expanded.

Improvisational dialogue practice

Improvisational dialogue may lead to more complex role plays. Offer a theme to students and allow them some freedom in using language. The presentation of these dialogues will necessarily be a little more complicated, but it can still be fun for them.

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a dialogue structure. It will help if students can see a mind map of how the dialogue may develop. This can be sketched on the board or digital presentation on the basic structure of the exchange. Remember to highlight options like where the conversation may lead to if one says “yes” while the other says “no.” Also, provide useful fragments for different parts of the dialogue, like “I do not think so” or “I agree, but…”
  • This type of conversation will need your close attention and aid. Divide your group into pairs and instruct them to create their dialogue based on the information you have given them. Move about and provide personal attention to each team when they need help.
  • Have a shortlist of useful vocabulary prepared, and use those words in pronunciation and structure exercises as a warm-up activity.