Comparison between the Audio-Lingual Method and the Silent Way
The Audio-Lingual Method, like the Direct Method we have just examined, is also an oral-based approach. However, it is very different in that rather than emphasizing vocabulary acquisition through exposure to its use in situation, the Audio-Lingual Method drills students in the use grammatical sentence patterns. It also, unlike the Direct Method, has a strong theoretical base in linguistics and psychology/ Charles Fries (1945) of the University of Michigan led the way in applying principles from structural linguistics in developing the method, and for this reason, it has sometimes been referred to as the ‘Michigan Method’. Although people did learn languages through the Audio-Lingual Method, one problem with it was students’ inability to readily transfer habits they had mastered in the classroom to communicative use outside it. Furthermore, the idea that learning a language meant forming a set of habits was seriously challenged in the early 1960s.
REVIEWING THE PRINCIPLES
1. What are the goals of teachers who use the Audio-Lingual Method and the Silent Way?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, teachers want their students to be able to use the target language communicatively. They believe students need to over learn the target language, to learn to use it automatically without stopping to think.
For the Silent Way, Students should be able to use the language for self-expression-to express their thought, perceptions, and feelings. Students become independent by relying on themselves.
2. What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of the students?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, the teacher is like an orchestra leader, directing and controlling the language behavior of her students. Students are imitators of the teacher’s model or the tapes she supplies of model speakers.
For the Silent Way, the teacher is technician or engineer. The teacher should respect the autonomy of the learners in their attempts at relating and interacting with the new challenges.
3. What are some characteristics of the teaching/learning process?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, new vocabulary and structural patterns are presented through dialogs. The dialogs are learned through imitation and repetition. Drills (such as repetition, backward build-up, chain, substitution, transformation, and question-and-answer) are conducted based upon the patterns present in the dialog. Grammar is induced from the examples given; explicit grammar rules are not provided.
For the Silent Way, Students begin their study of the language through its basic building blocks, its sounds. The teacher sets up situations that focus student attention on the structures of the language. The teacher works with them, striving for pronunciation that would be intelligible to a native speakers of the target language.
4. What is the nature of student-teacher interaction? What is the nature of student-student interaction?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, there is student-to-student interaction in chain drills or when student take different roles in dialogs, but this interaction is teacher-directed. Most of the interaction is between teacher and students and is initiated by the teacher.
For the Silent Way, the student-teacher interaction, the teacher is silent. When the teacher does speak, it is to give clues, not to model the language. Student-student verbal interaction is desirable and is therefore encouraged.
5. How are the feelings of the students dealt with?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, there are no principles of the method that relate to this area.
For the Silent Way, the teacher constantly observes the students. The teacher takes what they say into consideration and works with the student to help them overcome negative feelings which might otherwise interfere with their learning.
6. How is the language viewed? How is the culture viewed?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, the view of language in the Audio-Lingual Method has been influenced by descriptive linguists. The system is comprised of several different levels: phonological, morphological, and syntactic. Culture consists of the everyday behavior and lifestyle of the target language speakers.
For the Silent Way, languages of the world share a number of features. Their culture, as reflected in their own unique world view, is inseparable from their language.
7. What areas of language are emphasized? What language skills are emphasized?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, Vocabulary is kept to a minimum while the students are mastering the sound system and grammatical patterns. A grammatical pattern is not the same as a sentence. The natural order of skills presentation is adhered to: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
For the Silent Way, vocabulary is somewhat restricted at first. There is no fixed, linear, structural syllabus. The syllabus develops according to learning needs.
8. What is the role of the students’ native language?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, the habits of the students’ native language are thought to interfere with the students’ attempts to master the target language.
For the Silent Way, the students’ native language can, however, be used to give instructions when necessary, to help a student improve his or her pronunciation, for instance. The native language is also used during the feedback sessions.
9. How is evaluation accomplished?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, the answer to this question is not obvious because we did not actually observe the students in this class taking a formal test.
For the Silent Way, although the teacher may never give a formal test, he assesses student learning all the time. Since ‘teaching is subordinated to learning, ’the teacher must be responsive to immediate learning needs. The needs will be apparent to a teacher who is observant of his students’ behavior.
10. How does the teacher respond to student errors?
For the Audio-Lingual Method, student errors are to be avoided if at all possible through the teacher’s awareness of where the students will have difficulty and restriction of what they are taught to say.
For the Silent Way, the teacher uses student errors as a basis for deciding where further work is necessary.
REVIEWING THE TECHNIQUES the Audio-Lingual Method
Dialogs or short conversations between two people are often used to begin a new lesson. Students memorize the dialog through mimicry; students usually take the role of one person in the dialog, and the teacher the other. In the Audio-Lingual Method, certain sentence patterns and grammar points are included within the dialog. These patterns and points are later practiced in drills based on the lines of the dialog.
Backward build-up (expansion) drill
This drill is used when a long line of a dialog is giving students trouble. The teacher breaks down the line into several parts. The students repeat a part of the sentence, usually the last phrase of the line.
Students are asked to repeat the teacher’s model as accurately and as quickly as possible.
A chain drill gets its name from the chain of conversation that forms around the room as students, one-by-one, ask and answer questions of each other. A chain drill allows some controlled communication, even though it is limited. A chain drill also gives the teacher an opportunity to check each student’s speech.
Single-slot substitution drill
The teacher says a line, usually from the dialog. Next, the teacher says a word or a phrase-called a cue. The students repeat the line the teacher has given them, substituting the cue into the line in its proper place.
Multiple-slot substitution drill
This drill is similar to the single-slot substitution drill. The difference is that the teacher gives cue phrases, one at a time, that fit into different slots in the dialog line.
The teacher gives students a certain kind of sentence pattern, an affirmative sentence for example. Students are asked to transform this sentence into a negative sentence.
This drill gives students practice with answering questions. The students should answer the teacher’s questions very quickly.
Use of minimal pairs
The teacher works with pairs of words which differ in only one should; for example, ‘ship/sheep.’
Complete the dialog
Selected words are erased from a dialog students have learned. Students complete the dialog by filling the blanks with the missing words.
Games like the supermarket alphabet game described in this chapter are used in the Audio-Lingual Method. The games are designed to get students to practice a grammar point within a context.
REVIEWING THE TECHNIQUES AND THE MATERIALS the Silent Way
The chart contains blocks of color, each one representing a sound in the target language. The teacher, and later the students, points to blocks of color on the chart to form syllables, words, and even sentences. The chart allows students to produce sound combinations in the target language without doing so through repetition. The chart draws the students’ attention and allows them to concentrate on the language, not on the teacher.
The teacher gives just as much help as is necessary and then is silent.
Students are encouraged to help another student when he or she is experiencing difficulty. It is important that any help be offered in a cooperative manner, not a competitive one.
Rods can be used to provide visible actions or situations for any language structure, to introduce it, or to enable students to practice using it. The rods trigger meaning: Situations with the rods can be created in such a way that the meaning is made clear; then the language is connected to the meaning. The rods are therefore very versatile. They can be used as rods or more abstractly to represent other realities. They allow students to be creative and imaginative, and they allow for action to accompany language.
Some of the particular gestures of the Silent Way could be added to this list. For example, in the class observed, the teacher put his palms together and then moved them outwards to signal to students the need to lengthen the particular vowel they were working on.
The teacher, and later the students, points to words on the wall chart in a sequence so that they can read aloud the sentences they have spoken. There are twelve English charts containing about 500 words. The charts contain the functional vocabulary of English.
The teacher, and later the students, point to the color-coded Fidel charts in order that students associate the sounds of the language with their spelling. There are a number of charts available in other languages as well.
Students are invited to make observations about the day’s lesson and what they have learned. The teacher accepts the students’ comments in a no defensive manner, hearing things that will help give him direction for where he should work when the class meets again.