The audio-lingual method aims at teaching the language skills in the order to listening, speak, read, and write.
Therefore, at the beginning stage, there is more emphasis on spoken language as it is used in an everyday social situation.
As the students move on to the advanced levels, the other two skills, reading and
writing receive increasing attention and literary forms of expression are presented to them.
However, listening and speaking skills continue to be practised side by side and are not neglected at any stage.
At the starting levels of teaching, the material presented for learning consists of dialogues.
These dialogues contain commonly used expressions and the fundamental structures of high frequency.
The vocabulary content is reduced to the necessary minimum and the students are encouraged to concentrate on achieving the mastery of structures and not bother about the meanings of lexical items.
The student learns the dialogues by heart. First, they listen carefully to the teacher or a tape-record model until they can distinguish the sounds and intonation of the expression to be learnt.
Then, they repeat the sentence over and again till they achieve the degree of accuracy and fluency. When in this way one sentence has been grasped fully, they go on to the next sentences.
This process is continued first in a chorus, then in smaller groups and finally individually.
When all the phrases of dialogue have been mastered completely, questions and answers are exchanged in the form of a dialogue.
The roles are reversed so that each student gets a chance to ask questions and to give answers.
The dialogue sentences which have been well practised and are now at the top of the tongue of the learners are made a base for further learning.
Adaptations are made with a more personal application to the students’ own situation.
Then the teacher links the dialogue expressions to ‘pattern drills’ (a technique vastly used in audio-lingual method) based on the structures in the dialogue.
Usually, this becomes the main teaching-learning activity.
Some teachers prefer to introduce pattern-drills on structures other than those practised in the dialogues.
They maintain that dialogues should only be used to introduce common expressions to the students for natural conversations in everyday situations.
The pattern drills are first practised orally in the chorus which is followed by small-group practice and finally the individual responses.
When a student has achieved facility in a particular structure, to some degree, he is given some texts in which the structural pattern he has been working on, is presented in generalised forms.
Writing is postponed till the student has acquired a small stock of useful expressions and has developed.
Some confidence in using basic structures. Only then he will be encouraged to express himself on certain topics by first giving oral reports to the class and then writing them down in the form of short compositions which no matter may consist of a small paragraph of even a few lines.
Actually, this early attempt on writing is only a recombination of what has already been learnt.
This type of composition is strictly controlled in vocabulary content so that the students’ chances of making mistakes are reduced.
The traditional notion of composition in which the students were required to write long essays with formal composition has been redefined as the ability to write some coherent sentences on simple topics which may be within the personal experience of the learner.