Month: May 2013

The Audiolingual Method


  • The Audiolingual Method is a further development from the Direct Method and the Coleman report.
  • Due to the War, a need arose for more oral communication , and so, in 1942, an Army Specialized Training Program was devised by five American universities. This was further developed by Charles Fries and from the mid 1950s, it was the American approach to ELT.
  • The method is similar to the Oral Approach developed around the same time but independently in the UK. It is based on a systematic linguistic comparison of English with other languages and on intense contact with the L2, rather than a pedagogical methodological grounding. It consists of a combination of linguistic theory, contrastive analysis, aural-oral procedures, and takes the principles of behaviorist psychology as a starting point for classroom practice: Language teaching is a science which follows the same principles of learning through conditioning.


  • The Audiolingual method is based on a theory of language which sees speech as the main component of language. In line with the structural linguistics ideas of the 1950s, the theory holds that elements of language are produced in lineal, rule-governed way, and that language can be exhaustively described in terms of morphology, syntax, phonetics. These linguistics levels are seen as systems within systems (e.g. phrase, clause, sentence).
  • The theory of learning behind the Audiolingual method is behaviourist theory and the specific principles of conditioning through stimuli, responses, and reinforcement as described by Skinner (1957). The underlying belief is that L2 mastery is achieved by acquiring a set of correct stimulus-response chains, and that grammar is learned inductively.


  • Objectives – In the short-term, the Audiolngual method  aims to train listening comprehension, accurate pronunciation, the ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations. In the long-term, the goal is that learners can use the language as a native-speaker does, whereby reading and writing skills will be learnt dependent on the previously learnt oral skills.
  • The Syllabus  is structured according to linguistic structures, with a strong lexical syllabus component.
  • Classroom Activities include drills (e.g. transposition, replacement, completion), dialogues, and repetition of the teacher’s utterances.
  • Materials – There is usually no students’ textbook for beginners, but the teacher’s book has individual lesson plans with drills, dialogues etc, as well as audio recordings, audiovisual material, and ideas for language lab usage.


The Audiolingual method was most widespread in 1960s, used for ELT and MFL teaching in the USA. The method’s focus on grammatical accuracy remains important, even in methods and approaches developed later.

However, the method has been harshly criticised, particularly for its unsound theoretical basis in terms of language theory  and learning theory.

Many also criticise that the learners are often unable to transfer skills acquired to real communication situations. It is said that the method leads to “language like” behaviour, but not to real communicative competence. Chomsky, too, claims that the Audiolingual method teaches language as a habit, and not as an active skill.

Students also often complain that the procedure is repetitive and boring, sometimes even frustrating as they are rarely able to express their thoughts and meaning.

From the 1960s onward, the method fell out of favour.




Polite Language Practice


1) Get students to read “Would you be so kind” or a similar text (best done at home) & to make a note of key phrases. The text “Would you be so kind?” can be found here:

2) In class, brainstorm the phrases they can remember and discuss which are interchangeable, e.g.:
Could you please / Would you be able to please / I’d be grateful if you could…
I’m afraid that  / I’m sorry, but / We regret that..
Sorry to / I apologise for …

3) Also discuss various ways of showing distance to make utterances more polite, e.g.:
past tenses = I was wondering, I wanted to ask..
Maybe / Perhaps,
‘seems’ (e.g. “there seems to be a problem”)
conditionals – would / could (instead of will/want or can)

 4) See how many ways your students know of saying “please” and “thank you” and collect some polite responses to ‘thank you’, e.g.:

You’re welcome  / Not at all  / Don’t mention it  /  (It was) my pleasure

Note: Steps 2, 3, and 4 could be done in smaller groups who then present a poster with their results to the class. It depends on whether your students are likely to have encountered the language before and you simply want to elicit, or whether this is the first time they’ve looked at polite langauge in this much focus. You could also spread these language study sessions over a few lessons and lead up to the role-plays below more slowly.

5) Give the situation role cards (below) to pairs and get them to practise acting out the whole situation, interacting as politely as they can, using the language studies above. You could leave the posters up, or a quick list of phrases on the board so that they can refer to them during their practice role-plays.

If you have a lot of time and / or the students are finished quickly, you can give different pairs a chance to practise different situations

6) As a closing step to the lesson, get some pairs to act out their role play as examples in front of the whole class. Ask the whole class to pay attention to which language items from above they have employed and to use that to give a ‘politeness rating’ (e.g. points out of 10) for the langauge used. If there’s time, you can then discuss ways to make the conversation even more polite. This works best if you’ve been able to record the conversations to re-play and discuss.


Ask your neighbour to turn their music down.
Complain about your meal in a restaurant.
Ask your boss for a pay rise.
In the theatre, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
On a plane, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask a colleague for some money to buy lunch.
Ask a teacher for help with something.
You’re waiting to use a ticket machine. Ask the current user to hurry up.
Ask someone to move their car out of your way.
Ask if you can push into the front of a queue.
Ask for a deadline extension for a piece of work.
Ask to use someone’s mobile phone.
You left your umbrella in a classroom and need to interrupt a lesson to retrieve it. Ask nicely.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask someone for some money for the bus home.
Complain about the wine in a wine bar.
Complain about the cleanliness of your hotel room.
Your taxi driver seems to be taking the longest route. Ask / complain about this.
You are vegetarian but your friend has cooked steak and chips for you. Explain politely why you can’t eat it.

George Orwell’s “1984”: Discussion Topics


Guide to level: Reading the unadapted novel “1984” will probably be too difficult for learners below a C1 CEF level. These discussion questions, however, could also work (with more scaffolding) with B1-B2 learners, who, for example, have watched a film of “1984”, acted out scenes, or read certain extracts. Tasks may need to be adapted accordingly.

Introduction: A literary studies class/lesson will necessarily a novel in a different way to an EFL/ESOL class. The tasks below are basically discussions which link some key themes from George Orwell’s “1984” to students’ modern lives and provide practise in oral communication. Other skills such as comparing/contrasting, debating, finding examples, expressing one’s own opinion, and justifying one’s own opinion, are also trained, and the discussion tasks can be used to recycle lexis or grammar structures from previous topics of study on a course.

Procedure: One way of using the tasks in a lesson would be to divide the class into small groups, each of which can work on one of the discussion tasks. To ensure that everyone in the small group participates in the discussion, you could either assign roles, or use the ‘placemat method’ to gather ideas before they begin to discuss. Each group can then present their general findings and conclusions to the class and discuss these in plenary. For classes in an EFL setting, you can also encourage students to use English-langauge press and media to find out about current affairs/events which might connect in to their discussions, and then make the project longer to include a web-quest or similar activities.

Depending on your class and course, you can choose a language focus. For example, you could look at polite phrases used in discussions (e.g. for agreeing, disagreeing, adding an example, expressing an opinion, etc) – then display these in the room whilst students are discussing tasks in small groups and encourage them to use a phrase from the list each time they speak. This may, at first, seem rather artificial, but the more often they use the phrases, the more natural this kind of language will become for them.


Task 1) Draw up and complete a chart highlighting issues surrounding privacy in the novel and today’s society. Do you see any similarities? Which situation do you think would be/is worse to live in, and why?

e.g. in the novel, Telescreens are everwhere  –  in our society, there are lots of CCTV surveillance cameras

Task 2) Compare and contrast the concepts of technological surveillance that Orwell predicted in “1984” and the forms of technological surveillance that are used today. How accurate were his predictions? What further developments do you predict we will witness in the next 20-30 years?

Task 3) “The impact of a privacy violation differs if the policy is implemented by a government or by a corporation.” Discuss –  Does it matter who is violating your privacy? Why (not)?

Task 4) Discuss ways in which the news media may shape public opinion regarding privacy issues. For example, what might be the effects of a nightly news feature that discusses economic losses due to employee drug abuse? What if it featured an employee who had a false positive drug test and was subsequently fired?

Task 5) Why are the following terms from the novel ironic? Find examples of where these ironies are highlighted in the novel and real life.

– fighting for peace
– ‘unpeople’
– thought crime

Task 6) Have you ever felt that your privacy is threatened by the government, corporations, the media, or anyone else? Have you ever had any experiences in which you felt that your rights to privacy were violated? Have you ever been in a situation that is reminiscent of a situation that occurs in “1984”? Can individuals do anything to protect their own privacy?

See also:

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions


George Orwell’s novel “1984” has long since been one of my favourite novels, and has even had an influence on the English language. Many of Orwell’s coinages, such as Big Brother, Room 101 and Newspeak, are now comonly used when describing totalitarian or overarching behaviour by an authority. Even the author’s name has come to be used in adjective form: “Orwellian” can be used to describe any real world scenario reminiscent of his novel “1984”. In the novel, Orwell portrays a snapshot of how the various mechanisms of a totalitarian state affect individuals among the population. Many literary analyses have also highlighted parallels between behaviours and events in the story and recent or current real-world situations. With this novel, Orwell predicted the intrusion of technology into people’s everday lives, for example, and some fans even see modern inventions (e.g. surveillance cameras) as Orwell’s propechies coming true.



For EFL/ESOL teachers, the novel is not only an interesting read, but has plenty of potential for use in the classroom. In its unadapted form, the novel is probably too difficult for all but the most advanced learners, but lower-level learners could also work with excerpts or simplified versions. Film versions of the story can also aid comprehension.  Reading the novel can either be set as homework (checked regularly with comprehension or vocabulary and other language tasks), or made into a class project, where students act out different scenes.

The following tasks are intended to be completed after the entire novel has been read, and will check that students have understood the plot. The tasks will also provide opportunities for them to practise skills such as summarising, defining, and justifying their own opinions. Further follow-up tasks and discussions will follow in a later post.



Characters Match the character on the right to the characteristic on the left. One character and one characteristic are not used. Justify your decisions with an example from the story.
a. Antique Dealer/Thought Police                        Parsons

b. Winston’s “instructor”                                     Syme

c. War hero                                                      Goldstein

d. His children turned him in.                             Charrington

e. Wrote Newspeak                                           Latimer

f. Worked in Newspeak                                      Rutherford

g. Memorised Shakespeare                                Winston

h. Seen in the Chestnut Tree Cafe early              Julia

i. “The last man”                                               Comrade Oglivy

j. Arch-enemy                                                   O’Brien



Events Put the following events in the order of their occurrence within the novel.Link the chronology of events using adverbials of time and other transitions.
Winston begins to love Big Brother

Winston first sees and hates Julia

Winston is shot

Julia and Winston meet in the woods

Julia and Winston are arrested in the buff

The Old World battles with nuclear weapons

Julia passes Winston a note

O’Brien places the rats in Winston’s face

Winston’s Mom and Sister disappear

Winston is taken to Room 101


Quotes Identify the following quotes: Who said it and why is the quote important or significant?

1. “If you keep the small rules, you can break the big ones.”

2. “Of all the horrors in the world-a rat!!”

3. “You do not exist.”

4. “It’s a beautiful thing-the destruction of words.”

5. “…for the souls of men awaited the coming of the stars.”

6. “We are the dead.”

7. “I betrayed you.”

8. “We will meet again in a place where there is no darkness.”

9. “I hate purity. I hate goodness.”

10. “I tried to do my best for the party, didn’t I? I’ll get off with five years, don’t you think?”


Definitions Define the following words as they were used in “1984”.

1. Crimestop

2. Doublethink

3. Duckspeak

4. Ingsoc

5. Oldspeak

6. Doubleplusungood

7. Miniluv

8. Joycamp

9. Sexcrime

10. Unperson


Pronunciation Errors

Quiz Time!

Please leave your answers in the comments box below. Each respondent should just make one point, so that lots of people can contribute!
Sadly, I’m not able to give a prize for correct answers to the quiz questions, but joining the fun will surely give you a certain amount of kudos! 🙂

1) What pronunciation problems can you predict for learners with different L1s attempting to say: “There couldn’t have been more than a dozen, could there?”

The Direct Method

Next in line along our chronological methods and approaches journey…


History & Development

  • In the middle of the 19th century, people began to question the Grammar Translation method of language teaching. Within Europe, people felt, there was more a need for oral communication skills.
  • Individual specialists (e.g. Marcel, Gouin) tried to introduce new ways of teaching languages, but they often lacked the means for wider dissemination and implementation of their ideas, as the profession of language teaching was not yet sufficiently organised.
  • From about the 1880s onwards, the Reform Movement witnessed practical linguists giving reformist ideas more credibility (e.g. Henry Sweet, Paul Passy). This was the beginning of applied linguistics.
  • In general, these new ideas focused on the fact that speech (and not the written word) should be seen as the primary form of language. At this time, phonetics also began to find recognition as a discipline, and the International Phonetics Association was founded.
  • Sweet, for example, promoted the idea that methodological principles should be based on the results from scientific studies of language and psychology.
  • Saveur (1860s) put forward the Natural Method’, which was based on how a child learns its mother tongue. These ‘natural language’ principles became known as the Direct Method (also known as the Berlitz methods, and still used today in these private language schools).


  • The foreign language is the medium of instruction, and instead of explaining grammar, teachers encourage direct and spontaneous use of the foreign language, from which the learners can inductively learn the rules of grammar.
  • It is everyday vocabulary and phrases that are taught (not literature), and the skills of speaking and listening comprehension are seen as the most important. Concrete vocabulary items are taught using demonstration and realia, and abstract items through associations of ideas.
  • Oral communication skills are built up through sequences of questions and answers with the teacher. New teaching points are also initially introduced orally, with an emphasis placed on correct pronunciation.. Due to this oral emphasis, the method is best suited to smaller classes, where each learner will receive intense practice.


  • The method is most successful in small classes, with native-speaker teachers, but this is hard to implement in schools. The Coleman Report (1966), for example, highlighted that the focus on oral skills was impractical within the limited timetables of American schools, and recommended a shift to focusing on reading skills – a move that was accepted and remained the norm there until WWII.
  • The method is often criticised for overemphasising the similarities between natural L1 acquisition and classroom L2 learning. Some linguists claim that the method has n

    o real basis in applied linguistics theory, and is merely the “product of enlightened amateurism.”

  • Learners’ success is dependent on the teacher’s skill at using the method, and not all non-native speaker teachers are always proficient enough in L2 to adhere to all of the method’s principles.  Moreover, s

    trict adherence to all of the principles means that teachers sometimes need a very long explanation to teach just for one word, where translation into the learners’ L1 would be more efficient.

  • Nonetheless, the Direct Method was an innovation in foreign language teaching methodology, moving away from Grammar Translation for the first time. It also provides learners with plenty of L2 input and practice in the vital skill of oral communication.

Grammar Translation Method

I’ve read several times that, in the “post-methods era”, a new direction in ELT is “principled eclecticism”. In order to be a principled eclectic, however, some understanding of various approaches and methods, and their principles, seems necessary. Also for those who are not that far in their ELT career, for example those who are currently on teacher training courses, some insight into various approaches and methods in ELT over the decades is useful, if not a requirement.  Thus I’ve decided to start a series of blog entries looking at various approaches and methods in detail. The aim is to provide a basic guide or overview of the backgrounds and main principles of various approaches and methods, without passing judgment.

I’m going to start with the Grammar Translation method, as many books and courses on this topic do.

If you feel that anything is unclear, or that I’ve missed any key points, please add your comments below!

Grammar Translation Method


–          In the 17th – 19th centuries and emerging belief was that language learning could/should be modeled on the study of classical Latin literature, and include an analysis of grammar and rhetoric.

–          The method advocates the rote learning of grammar, the study of declensions/conjugations, learning by translating, writing example sentences, and highlighting parallels in bilingual texts.

–          Studying Latin was said to develop intellect and was an end in itself, as it required ‘mental gymnastics’

–         In the 18th century, people began learning ‘modern’ languages  in schools. Contrary to what we know today, speaking was not the main goal and there was little relation between the language learnt and the  lang of ‘real’ communication.

–        In the  19th century, the standard way of learning languages was through grammar. Textbooks by Seidenstücker or Plötz, for example, aimed to codify languages into frozen rules of morphology and syntax to be explained and memorized. The immediate aim was the application of these rules in exercises invented for this purpose, which often mechanical translation.

–          This ‘method’ (and offspring of German scholarship) became  known as the Grammar Translation Method, and dominated language teaching from the 1840s to 1940s.

–          Some of the commonly known ‘excesses’ of the methods were introduced due to the desire to prove that learning modern foreign langauges was as intellectual as studying classics.

–          Despite being shunned by so many theorists and teachers, the method is still used today, especially where teachers wish to  focus in on reading skills for literature, though there seem to be very few strong advocates of the method nowadays.


–          The main goal is being able to erad literature in the foreign language, and this skill is trained through the analysis of grammar  and the translation of (mainly literary texts.

–          No systematic attention is paid to speaking / listening

–          The vocabulary taught is selected based on what occurs in the reading texts

–          Practice is highly controlled and is based on sentences – because translating an entire text would be too difficult for most learners.

–          Emphasis is placed on accuracy of the translations / sentences produced in the foreign language.

–          Grammar is taught deductively

–         Learners’ L1 is often the medium of instruction.

Conditionals Compact – The Basics

For students and teachers alike, here is a concise summary of the structures and uses of the various ‘standard’ conditional sentence types in English. I’ve used what I would consider ‘key words’, so that the usage of each type of conditional sentence is clearly different from the others. 

More advanced points about conditionals, as well as mixed conditionals will be dealt with in a later post. 

Zero Conditional

Structure: if + simple present, simple present
Use: Result is always true (“natural law”). No link to specific time
Examples: If you boil water, it becomes steam. If you boil water, it doesn‘t become ice.  Does ice melt if you heat it?
First Conditional

Structure: If + simple present tense, will future
Use: Situation still possible. Situation highly probable. (Often: Warnings based on present evidence.)
Examples: If it doesn‘t rain, I‘ll play tennis. Will you play football, if it snows? If you go to London, where will you stay?
Second Conditional

Structure: If + simple past, would + bare infinitive
Use: Situation still possible. Situation unlikely. (Often: Advice)
Examples: If I found €1000, I would buy a new coat. If they weren‘t so expensive, I‘d buy a new mobile phone. Would he help her if she asked him?
Third Conditional

Structure: If + past perfect,  would + have + past participle
Use: Situation (or changing it) no longer possible. (Often: Regrets)
Examples: She would have helped him, if he had asked her. I would have sent you a postcard, if I hadn‘t forgotten my address book. If your mother had seen you drunk, what would she have said?

Why study English?

Every year, one of the first questions I pose to the newly enrolled students of English Studies at the University of Trier is “Why are you studying English?” I’m often surprised and pleased at the insightful responses I receive, and I’m glad that we have so many motivated and enthusiastic students. Nonetheless, there are usually a few answers which make me want to bop the freshers over the head with a big fat dictionary!

English: A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egid...
English: A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egidio Forcellini: Totius Latinitatis Lexicon, 1858–87) in a table in the main reading room of the University Library of Graz. Picture taken and uploaded on 15 Dec 2005 by Dr. Marcus Gossler. Español: Diccionario de latín (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that they are not always particularly well informed about what a degree in English or American Studies actually involves, and what they can (and cannot) do with it once they’ve graduated. And so, for all school-leavers contemplating whether/what subjects to study at university, and for all English Studies students wondering if they made the right choice…. here are my thoughts on what you should know about an degree in English or American Studies.

Why you should NOT study English

  1. You want to learn English. Most university degeres in English will require you to have achieved a certain level of competence in English before you start. Typically, this will be at least B2/C1 level on the CEF. If you want to learn English, i.e. to learn to be able to speak and write general English, the best route would be to choose another degree subject and make use of a Language Centre or private language school to improve your general English competence. Also consider spending time in a majority English-speaking country. See here for internationally recognised qualifications in English: Cambridge English Exams and Qualifications,   or Trinity College London English Language Qualifications
  2. You were good at English in school. You should be aware that a degree in English Studies typically covers far more areas of expertise than you faced in your school English lessons, and will involve exploring these in significantly more detail. Most school pupils have no experience with English linguistics, for example, although this is generally an integral part of degrees in English Studies.
  3. You like watching (English-language) films. This may well help you motivate yourself for certain parts of your degree, but there is a lot more to English studies than lounging on the sofa with popcorn and beer!
  4. You don’t know what else to do. This is never a good reason to study any subject!!

If you want to study English Studies, you should…

  1. Already be able to communicate well in English
  2. Be a communicative person
  3. Like reading various types of literature
  4. Show interest in cultures of English-speaking countries
  5. Be interested in how (the English) language works
  6. Keep up-to-date with current events and issues in Anglophone cultures
  7. Enjoy working with various primary and secondary sources
  8. Have good computer skills
  9. Be happy to spend time in a majority English-speaking country
  10. Hope to specialise in one area of English Studies

    Our computers
    COMPUTERS (Photo credit: aranarth)

Why you should study “English Studies”

If you’ve read the short list above and are still considering studying English or American Studies, then you should know in the end it will probably be a good choice. There are hundreds of reasons I could list for why a degree in English Studies will be beneficial, but overall the key word is SKILLS.

Studying English Studies at university will endow you with a wide variety of skills which will be useful in almost any future profession. Not only might you have the opportunity to train these ‘transferable skills’ in specific courses, such as Presentation Skills, Academic Writing, Research Methods, Translation, Professional Communication, etc, but you will develop and further improve your abilities in areas such as working with sources, researching, logic, intercultural competence, critical thinking, application of theoretical knowledge, group projects, presentation of research findings, … and the list goes on.

I remember an open day I attended whilst trying to choose a university. The presenter told us;

it often doesn’t matter what specific subject you study, the point is that you can prove your intelligence and ability to deal with a certain field of study at a certain level, and that’s what employers are looking for.

In my experience, he was right. So instead of worrying about which job a degree English Studies directly qualifies you for (not many… it’s a degree after all, and not an apprenticeship!), you should focus on studying something that interests you, doing well in your studies, and gaining as many skills and as much experience as you can. Then, as they say, the world is your oyster!

But just in case you are interested in the kinds of fields English Studies graduates go to work in….

Career Options

Advertising / Marketing Assistant


Business Administration

Company Director

Court Liaison


Fiction Writer

Integration Commissioner

International Officer


English: Juerg Vollmer, Journalist Deutsch: Jü...
English: Juerg Vollmer, Journalist Deutsch: Jürg Vollmer, Journalist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Library Management / Assistant

Market Researcher

Museum / Exhibition text production

Personal Secretary

Press Officer

Project Manager


Public Relations

Public Sector Manager

Radio Reporter / Presenter

Research Assistant


Speech Writer

Teacher / Teacher trainer


Translator / Interpreter

TV Reporter / Presenter