К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2012
Автор: Юрина Ольга Юрьевна
Listening, as an
integral part of communication process, is used in any verbal communication
subjected to different purposes. It is impossible to study and use foreign
language without listening skills.
in a secondary school is aimed at the development of the following listening
skills that learners should acquire up to 11th grade: to understand the main
information in authentic expressions of everyday situations, to understand
native speaker’s spontaneous speech, to extract particular or specific
information from audio and video texts of different genres and styles. They
should be able to evaluate information; use this information in communication,
determine the topic/ problem of philological character on the radio or TV,
provide evidence/examples/arguments in accordance with the question or problem
supplied, summarize audio information and determine or express their attitude
towards it. Time preferable for the duration of listening passage is up to 3
minutes. So, listening is one of the main sociocultural skills, which takes an
important place in the development of communicative competence and
sociocultural knowledge. The guarantee for the development good listening
skills may be the development of necessary sociocultural knowledge about the
target language country, matching the facts of native and target language
culture. Sociocultural knowledge and skills are developed during communication,
reading, writing, listening and discussions in a target language. All the main
language skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening are interrelated. So, it
is impossible to develop one particular skill separately from others.
should be able to communicate in a foreign language to be understood by native
speakers. They should try to avoid faulty pronunciation, errors in grammar or
vocabulary, inappropriate or offending style, otherwise, they confuse
It is important
for a teacher to have a clear understanding of what listening is, why foreign-language
learners have difficulties in it, and what solutions we can find. The burning
question is how to fill a gap between peculiarities of listening and up-to-date
classroom teaching. Traditionally, much classroom practice consisted of the
teacher reading aloud a written text, one or more times, slowly and clearly,
and then asking a number of comprehension questions about it. In such approach
much attention is not given to the skill itself, or the characteristics of
natural spoken English. There is nothing wrong with this approach in itself,
but it could claim to be teaching listening comprehension. There are many
current listening materials that can be found in the Internet and brought into
the classroom. They manipulate both language and tasks, and take into account a
range of skills, listener roles, topics and text types. Such approach will be
more useful for learners.
Yet, listening is
very motivating for language learners, because it gives them information about
current world events and the target culture, and puts them in touch with the
world outside the borders of classroom and the school.
So, what is
listening? Listening is the ability to identify and understand what others are
saying. This includes understanding a speaker’s pronunciation or accent, his
grammar and vocabulary, and grasping his meaning [6: 227]. A capable listener
is able to perform these four things simultaneously. The most important aspect
in listening is ‘comprehension’. ‘Comprehension’ involves extracting meaning
from a text, from participating in a conversation or from listening to a person
or people speaking [7:14]. On the assumption of these listening peculiarities Ur defines some listening problems.
1. Trouble with
sounds. The majority of listeners rely on context for comprehension; they are
often themselves unaware of inaccurate sound perception. Practice with pronunciation
will assist learners in identifying the sounds they are hearing.
2. Tendency to
understand every word. This problem is common among learners. When listening to
the recording learners often believe that everything that is said is important.
This leads to ineffective comprehension, feelings of fatigue and failure. So,
learners need practice in selective ignoring of heard information. The ability
to understand the main message is of primarily importance for effective
listening in a communicative situation.
understand fast, natural native speech. In the classroom learners usually
listen to their teacher’s speech, so they are used to their teacher’s accent,
formal kind of speech or to the standard variant of British English. It’s
difficult for them to understand speakers with American or other accents.
Learners often ask a teacher to slow down and speak clearly – it is convenient
for them when each word sounds in isolation. If a teacher does, she is not
helping them to learn to cope with everyday informal speech. Learners are accustomed
to seeing words written as separate units in their textbooks. The content of
listening material may not be well organized. During spontaneous conversation
speakers often skip from one topic to another. In such type of conversation it
is difficult for listeners to predict what speakers are going to say. They
should be exposed to as much spontaneous informal talk as they can successfully
understand as soon as possible. Teacher should get faster and more fluent as
their listening skills develop.
4. Need to hear
things more than once. When students listen to the types of text such as radio
and television programs, audio books, lectures, and so on it is often difficult
or impossible for them to stop speakers and ask them to repeat or clarify
something they have missed or failed to understand. Foreign-language learners
tend to read more than to listen, because teachers devote very little time to
listening in the classroom that is why it creates a need to listen a passage
more than one time.
point of view, it is useful for learners to listen to the same texts more than
once. But in real life they often have to cope with ‘one-off’ listening; and
teachers should improve their ability to do so. For this purpose, teachers can
use texts with ‘redundant’ passages in which the important information is
presented more than once and not too intensively.
5. Find it
difficult to keep up. Learners feel that incoming information overloads them.
Teacher should not slow down the discourse but rather encourage them to relax,
learn pick out essential information and allow themselves to ignore the rest.
6. Get tired. Due
to this reason listening comprehension passages should not be too long overall,
they should be broken up into short ‘chunks’ through pause, change of speaker
or listener response. It is a fact, that in a long listening comprehension
exercise a learner’s attention and understanding of the content is much better
at the beginning and becomes worse as he goes on. One reason of it is a
psychological phenomenon (people tend to perceive and remember the first of a
series of visual or aural stimuli better than they do later ones). Another
reason is fatigue: the listener runs out of energy to absorb and interpret the
strange sounds and unfamiliar words.
7. Coping with
redundancy and ‘noise’. There is a certain amount of ‘noise’ on the recording
which listeners usually have to put up with. Some words may be indistinctly pronounced
others may be drowned by outside interference. The foreign-language learner
finds it difficult to cope with them. There are two reasons. First, he cannot
understand some items just because he does not know them, others which he is
not enough familiar with he cannot grasp during rapid speech. Second, he is not
familiar with some sound-combinations, lexis and collocations of the language
to predict or guess what was missing.
colloquial vocabulary. It is obvious that a learner will not understand a word
he has not learnt yet in a listening passage. He will also fail to recognize
many words he has learnt but is not sufficiently familiar with to identify or
recognize them when they occur within a fast stream of speech. Most of learners
may not be familiar with these expressions. Mastering new words to the point of
total familiarity is a gradual and long process. Learners also need to know
that some expressions are common in colloquial English and more or less taboo
in formal style. Students usually learn written and spoken form of a new word.
Recognition of the word is linked to the knowledge of what it look like and
what it sounds like when pronounced, whether in isolation or in context. If a
word is not pronounced the same way in informal and formal speech, the listener
may simply not recognize it as the same word, or even miss it completely.
different accents. The speakers usually suppose that their audience is native
users of the language, and that is why they make no concessions for non-native
speakers in terms of things like speed or accent. Many learners are often
surprised and discouraged and have difficulties understanding someone else
because they are used to the accent of their own teacher. Some of them believe
that the second speaker’s accent is ‘wrong’ or somehow inferior. There is no
such a thing as a ‘wrong’ accent; there are accents that are more or less
difficult to understand. It should be taken into account that students will
need to understand non-native English speakers. Today, two people who do not
speak each other’s language will very often use English as the instrument of
communication. It is impossible to teach students all the ‘native’ accents, so
teachers can try to give them a reasonable familiarity with the two most useful
English accents – the British and American standard varieties.
Sometimes listening discourse is divided into short chunks. Stretches of heard
speech are broken up by being spoken by different people from different directions.
Even when there are long periods of uninterrupted discourse – talks,
instructions, anecdotes, stories and so on – they are often broken down into
smaller units by the physical movement of the speaker, pause, and audience
reaction. Speaker also may omit some parts of sentences. Stretches of speech
that are more formal – lectures, broadcast reports – are usually less
visibility. Sometimes the visibility of the speaker coincides with the
necessity for listener-response. In some cases we can see the person we are
listening to but are not expected to react to him personally (during a
television programme), and there is a situation where we cannot see the speaker
but must respond to what he says (during a telephone conversation). Opportunity to see the speaker facilitates perception of listening information because
listeners obtain other visual (environmental) clues that help them to grasp the
meaning. Speaker’s facial expression, posture, eye direction, gesture, tone of
voice enriches the content and implications of what is said. Such items
contribute spoken information and facilitate listener’s comprehension [8: 225].
We should also
define such factor as is lack of sociocultural and contextual knowledge of the
language studied that creates some difficulties for learners in listening comprehension.
To help learners
we should provide them with some listening strategies for coping with listening
problems in real life situations. There are some ways how teacher can help
students to cope with the listening challenges.
In the classroom
it is possible for a teacher to make listening easier for learners by helping
them to see that, to choose texts which are organized in certain predictable
ways, grade listening materials from easy and short to more difficult and
longer, get them listen to the speakers with different accents and so on.
Of course, some
problems that were mentioned above cannot be overcome. For example a teacher
cannot change or influence speaker’s accent or remove background noise. Though,
s/he can provide them with necessary linguistic and cultural knowledge,
listening material, stimulate/facilitate their skills, find or design useful
exercises to help them cope with these problems and find useful listening
First of all, a
teacher should classify listening materials from the easy to more difficult
ones and use materials according to their level. A teacher also should
familiarize students with authentic material as well as former sentences and
expressions. From time to time listening material should become more and more
complicated and totally authentic.
Yet, a teacher can
design task-oriented exercises that aim learner’s interest at listening material.
Such kind of tasks helps them to develop listening skills. As Ur had said,
“Listening exercises are most effective if they are constructed round a task.
That is to say, the students are required to do something in response to what
they hear that will demonstrate their understanding” [7: 25]. She recommended
the following tasks: taking notes, answering questions, true or false
statements, putting pictures into the order according to the listening passage.
It is important
and facilitates listening comprehension when students are provided with
background information and various inputs, such as lectures, films, interviews,
everyday conversation, TV programs, storytelling, English songs, and so on.
According to Brown
and Yule audio texts can be divided into three types: static, dynamic and
abstract [5: 192]. To static texts they refer texts of descriptive and
instructive character; dynamic texts are the texts of narrative character which
recount an incident; those that express someone’s ideas or beliefs refer to
abstract texts. All types of texts present different kinds of difficulties, so,
to prevent them three types of input should be provided.
recommendation for teachers to help students simplify listening understanding
is to use visual aids, pictures, diagrams related to listening topics. This may
stimulate students’ imagination and guessing. A teacher should help learners
develop a set of listening strategies and choose an appropriate strategy to
certain listening situation.
To help learners
understand speaker’s accent or pronunciation a teacher may give examples of
colloquial patterns of speech, ask students to practice and imitate native
speaker’s pronunciation. Students should be aware of at least two speaker’s
accents: British and American.
learners (low-level students) a teacher should use simple listening texts, and
more complicated ones for advanced learners. Because, low-level learners are
not capable of accepting extra information in long listening passages. On the
contrary, advanced learners may benefit from complex, broadened and
sophisticated listening materials.
One more important
feature is to provide feedback on learners’ performance and observe students’
reaction. Thus, a teacher can keep activities purposeful. It can help fulfill
error correction and learners’ encouragement. Following students’ feedback a
teacher is aware how the class succeeds and should be managed [3: 134].
A teacher can
develop students’ listening skills by putting different goals in tasks. For instance,
s/he can aim learners’ perception at listening for specific information,
listening for the main idea, for intended meaning, for expressing attitude or
opinion and so on.
exercises are divided into three stages: pre-listening, while listening,
post-listening. Each stage contains different types of activities. For example,
activities (warm-up exercises) referring to pre-listening stage are discussion,
prediction about the topic (based on visuals), brainstorming, games, guiding
stage may include the following activities: comparing passage with prediction,
filling in gaps, repetition of the phrases, completion utterances recorded,
monitoring mistakes or differences, search of the information, paraphrasing,
information transfer, filling in blanks, matching.
exercises are: true/false or multiple choice questions, problem solving,
summarizing, jigsaw listening, writing based on listening material – letters,
telegrams, messages, postcards, speaking as a final stage of listening
activities – interview, debate, discussion, dramatization, role play related to
It is a teacher
who can arrange listening process with the help of various pre-listening,
while-listening and post-listening tasks so that students were completely
engaged and benefit from the listening process.
A teacher should
try to make listening exercises success-oriented. When students succeed they
feel more confident in their listening ability. Yet, students should be aware
of listening goal. If a teacher conducts a lesson in a foreign language using
audio and audiovisual means, he creates a prototype of foreign environment,
approaching learning process to real foreign language communication.
Listening takes a
significant place in language learning and teaching, that is why it is
important for language teachers to help pupils become effective listeners,
capture their interest, stimulate their imagination and motivate them. However,
listening is to be the most difficult skill for students to acquire. The
problem is that students lack skills in listening, motivation and memory
retention. Due to different approaches to language teaching that commonly used
today a teacher can motivate learners, help them develop listening skills and cope
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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2012