As for the teaching of foreign languages in Europe and in America, the distance for students to practice oral skills had a great influence. European students did not have to travel very far to do it. This situation was not the same in the U.S.A. International events made FL methodology change. As Brown (1983:70) points out, “Then World War II broke out and suddenly the United States was thrust into a worldwide conflict, heightening the need for Americans to become orally proficient in the languages of both their allies and their enemies. The time was ripe for a language teaching revolution”. Again a new reaction to the traditional method takes place, but now firmly inspired on the supposedly most valid linguistic and psychological descriptive theories. Brooks (1960), Stack (1960), Lado (1964) and Rivers (1964) compile and analyse this influential method.
Thus, structuralism, which started facing the logico-semantic ambiguity of traditional grammars, adopted the empirically scientific description of languages based on form and distribution without taking meaning into consideration, as traced by Bloomfield and other linguists. The subjective reference to words was replaced by the objective precision of morphemes as the units which shape phrase and sentence structures. The current spoken language was the subject of description and a corpus of data was required to carry out the study.
From the psychological point of view, Skinner’s behaviourism and Osgood’s neo-behaviourism have provided an empirical perspective for language as a set of verbal habits. And like other human behaviours, language learning is essentially a habit training question in terms of stimulus and response. Verbal operant conditioning is shaped after the appropriate reinforcement. Errors as deviated behaviours must be avoided and corrected.
Moulton’s (1961: 63) slogans compile the descriptive and methodological features of this position:
1. Language is speech, not writing
2. A language is what its native speakers say, not what someone thinks they ought to say
3. Languages are different
4. A language is a set of habits
5. Teach the language, not about the language
features Content Grammar structures
Objectives In terms of separate skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing
Priority of oral skills
Materials Language laboratory
Procedures Direct techniques: without reference to the mother tongue
Mimicry and memorization: mim-mem techniques
Structural pattern drills: active and simple practice
Artificial dialogues to introduce the structures
Assessment Skill objective tests
Multiple choice and cloze tests