The background to audiolingualism was discussed in a previous post. This post will look at the characteristics of audiolingualism in greater detail. In particular, we will look at the theories and design of audiolingualism
Audiolingualism is heavily influenced by a structural view of language. This view sees language rule-governed and systems within systems. Furthermore, language should be broken down into its smallest units. For a structuralist, things like phonemes and morphemes are highly important because these are the smallest units of a certain language structures.
Language is oral in nature for a structuralist. This is one reason for audiolingualism’s focus on speech.
Behaviorism is another influential theory in audiolingualism. People learn a language through stimulus and response. Drills and more drills with feedback is how they improve. It doesn’t matter if the student understands as long as they can execute. Analysis is not important. Instead, context is how students learn vocabulary.
An audiolingual curriculum will focus on the structure of the language. It will also include lots of repetition and memorization. This focus on repetition leads to the use of technology such as CDs which allow students to practice. The medium of instruction will primarily be oral and verbal with reading and writing be secondary.
The primary goal would be mastery in a behavioral manner. This means execution of the language in various context. Objectives will further support this by providing measurable behaviors that show competence.
The teacher plays a critical role in this method. the learning is centered around the teacher and the students’ willingness to imitate. Such activities as choral responses are a part of the learning.
The student is dependent on the teacher for language acquisition. They are expected to imitate even when they do not understand what they are saying. This emphasis on action over understanding is a key characteristic.
The End of Adudiolingualism
After having time to use the method, many teachers became disappointed in the results in their students when employing audiolingualism. In other words, audiolingualism never live up to the hype in a practical sense.
Furthermore, the behavioral focus of audiolingualism was being attacked by cognitivist learning linguists such as Noam Chomsky.There was a shift from imitation to competence in language circles that undid audiolingualism.
The audiolingual method was a highly influential method for its time. Its focus on repetition and behavioral aspects of language were a major strength that became a weakness.
Even though this method is mostly gone. Its impact is still felt every time a student tries to imitate the speaking style of a native.