Direct Method

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I have been taking a Japanese course that is taught through the direct method or the audio-lingual method.   We spend our time on decontextualised drills focusing on a grammatical or lexical item, building up sentences of increasing complexity and surreality.

The teachers giving the course are very professional and it is extremely well done, with very good use of  props and visual aids.  It works very well in the early days; it's easy to follow and predictable.   However, the cracks also start to appear and after a couple of weeks, one of the other students asked whether something we were learning was what the book said or what people said.  It also  stifles creativity and there's little scope  to  explore and talk.

I am enjoying it, but the thought that this could be regarded as a complete method for teaching a language brings me out in a cold sweat.  I taught in such a place many years ago, where they expected teachers to follow the same patterns from beginner to advanced, remorselessly drilling third conditionals, and there was even a substitution drill for lest if I remember right, though that may be something that my memory has made up  in the years since.  I have no idea how they teach higher levels where I am studying, but there are places that still believe this is a complete method for language teaching, which must be soul-destroying to teach in.

Categories: Asian Blog


The decontextualised drills of the audio-lingual method can be mind-numbingly dull and, as you say, can stifle creativity.

I am surprised that you refer to this as 'the direct method or the audio-lingual method'.To me, the direct (or natural) method as pracised by teachers such as Sauveur and Berlitz, was rather different from the audio-lingual method. Teachers using the direct method would place language in context, and avoid drilling.

Like the communicative approach, the terms get bandied around so much that distinctions blur a bit, plus my sloppiness.

Peter Marteinson

Nice blog. Just a note that many of the links on the forums site are now not working at all. It's as thought the PHP server is not serving the pages in 80% of the links I have tried. Thanks

They are working fine for me. There may have been some downtime when you tried, but all are working fine now. I apologise for the inconvenience.

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