Paul Kei Matsuda
Reexamining Audiolingualism: On the Genesis of
Reading and Writing in L2 Studies

Linking Literacies: Perspectives on L2 Reading-Writing Connections (2001)

Most of the existing historical accounts of second language reading and writing begin in the 1960s because, as many researchers have pointed out, written language was largely neglected in the early years of second language (L2) studies. The neglect of written language in the early years is usually attributed to the dominance of the audiolingual approach, an approach to language teaching that privileges spoken language over written language. Although this existing explanation regarding the genesis of reading and writing in L2 studies provides a convenient placeholder for our understanding of the history of L2 studies, it seems to oversimplify the complex historical relations that have shaped this particular approach to language teaching as well as the status of written language in contemporary L2 studies.

There are at lest three reasons to believe that the dominance of the audiolingual approach was not the direct cause of the neglect. First, the rise of the assumptions that emphasized speech over writing predates the emergence of the audiolingual approach in the mid-20th century. Second, the audiolingual approach in its distinct form became popular only in the late 1950s and the early 1960s—just when the teaching of writing became an important concern in L2 studies. Third, even after the decline of the audiolingual approach, reading and writing, while they have become quite visible in journals and at conferences, have not been fully integrated into professional preparation programs or important subfields of second language studies, such as second language acquisition.

To contribute a better understanding of audiolingualism and the audiolingual approach as well as of their impact on the status of reading and writing in L2 studies, I trace the development of audiolingualism in its historical context and, in the process, consider the place of written language in its various pedagogical manifestations. I then explain how reading and writing became part of L2 studies in the early 1960s despite the popularity of the audiolingual approach.

Matsuda, P. K. (2001). Reexamining audiolingualism: On the genesis of reading and writing in L2 studies. In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), Linking literacies: Perspectives on L2 reading-writing connections (pp. 84-105). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Updated on April 28, 2013