Callan Method of Teaching English

The Callan Method is a system of learning English which is a form of the Audio-Lingual Method of teaching.

The method relies on continual drilling through question and answer. In a 12 step program, beginner‎ students are asked a series of questions and then give their set answers (provided initially by the teacher).

The method is simple repetition of set phrases without looking into grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ or straying outside the set structures and the general aim is to get students talking as soon as possible and beginners will soon be giving stock answers to set questions.

History of the Callan Method

The method was developed by Robin Callan and first came to the fore in 1959 on the wave of Behaviorist thinking. Callan was a teacher for Berlitz who used a similar method to teach soldiers basic German‏‎ in crash courses.

Following criticism of the method by such figures as Noam Chomsky‏‎, the method fell from popularity but is still used today.


The method has come in for a deal of criticism from many quarters. General concerns raised against it include:

  • boring; classes are highly structured and do not allow for freedom of expression or thought
  • restrictive
  • fluency; whilst students can become very fluent in the set answers they know, when they need to use the language in real life situations not studied before they can become quite lost
  • course level; it is only useful for beginners
  • context; language is presented out of context
  • for teachers it is dull – much repetition with no real freedom to experiment or innovate or take into account different types of classes or learning styles

Useful Links

Boring Lessons‏‎ & Bored Students – why are you students bored and what yo can do to change this.

Accuracy vs Fluency‏‎ in Teaching English – how these two factors can determine the success of English language students.

Posted in How To Teach English.

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