With the beginning of the World War II, the US government needed a lot of interpreters and translators who were fluent in foreign languages. So there were foreign language programs created for military personnel; they were sponsored by the government. The Army Specialised Training Program (ASTP) was started in 1942. It continued for two years and enjoyed great popularity.
After the World War II, there was an increased attention given to foreign language teaching in the US. As a result, by the end of the 1950s the Audiolingual Method (ALM) came into existence that enabled learners to achieve mastery of a foreign language effectively and efficiently in a relatively short period of time (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 53-54).
ALM is a linguistic, or structure-based, approach to language teaching that is based on the behaviorist theory of learning. Dialogues and drills form the basis of audiolingual classroom practices (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 59). These patterns are repeated until the students’ responses in the foreign/second language are automatic.
It is a teacher-dominated method. The teacher directs and controls the language behaviour of students. Language learning is seen to result from active verbal interaction between the teacher and the learners (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 63). Students are expected to follow the teacher’s direction and respond accurately and quickly in speech situations. So, the instruction’s focus is on immediate and accurate speech; there is little provision for grammatical explanation or talking about the language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 64).
Audiolingualism became a standardized way of teaching a language. Many colleges and universities offered foreign language classes taught by teachers using this method. In the 1960s, it began to lose its popularity. However, Audiolingualism and materials based on audiolingual principles continue to be used today (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 54) though normally as a part of individual lessons, rather than as the foundation of the course.
Total Physical Response (TPR) also emerged in the 1960s. It is based on the theory that the memory is enhanced through association with physical actions which are designed to reinforce comprehension. TPR has to do with the coordination of speech and action. It promotes learning language through physical activity and is concerned with the role of emotions in education (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, p. 73).
As far as I can see it, this method can be suitable for mainly young or beginner ESL/EFL students. For example, I incorporating TPR while teaching body parts to my 2-year-old daughter by singing the song “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes…”. She enjoys pointing to her body parts as I sing the word. In addition, she learns new verbs and different movements associated with them by singing “The Wheel of the Bus…”. Besides, there are some other good examples of learning new verbs and actions with the child: to sing such songs as “This is the Way We Wash Our Face… (brush our teeth,… put on shoes,… stir the juice,… pick up toys, etc.)” or “If You Are Happy and You Know It… (clap your hands,… stamp your feet,… touch your nose,… shout ”hooray!), etc.”
Differences and Similarities
There are some similarities between the ALM and TPR. First of all, the teacher is a model for students to follow. In the ALM, students imitate the teacher’s pronunciation. In the TPR, they imitate the teacher’s nonverbal language. Besides, in both of these methods listening and speaking are emphasised over written language.
Even though these methods have a lot in common, there are also some differences. Thus, in ALM students’ emotions are not taken into consideration, while TPR focuses on the learners’ feelings as it was especially created to help students reduce the stress of learning a new language.
Moreover, in ALM the teacher has to pay attention to the students’ errors. Whereas in TPR the teacher has to tolerate them.
I believe that there is no a single teaching method that suits everybody. Besides, it is not always possible to apply the same methodology to all students who have different skills, objectives, and learning needs. In each particular situation it is important to decide on the most suitable techniques and apply the most appropriate methodology to adapt to the learner’s specific objectives, learning styles and context. However, it is important to understand the various methods and techniques in order to make appropriate educational choices.
Richards, J.C. & Rodgers, T.S. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.