Lecture 7 Teaching receptive skills. Teaching to Listen
1. Listening as a crucial skill in the formation of Intercultural communicative competence
2. Ways of teaching LC
3. Difficulties in TLC
4. Specific principles of LC
5. Activities and ex-s for TLC.
Listening is an act of interpreting speech that one receives through ears. Hearing is an act of receiving the language through ears without interpretation. In real life we can hear somebody speak but actually do not listen to what is being said. Listening is a communicative skill to get the meaning from what we hear. People listen in order to remember what they hear verbally or for the sake of meaning retention. They listen in order to evaluate critically what they hear or to give supportive empathy. They can derive aesthetic pleasure from what they hear or to produce a listener’s feedback. They can fulfil the instructions in the heard text.
Listening to the spoken language involves hearing the sounds, recognising words, understanding different accents, understanding intonation, coping with “noise” (external interference and indistinct pronunciation), recognising sentences, predicting the meaning, understanding whole discourse (Ur, P. 1998. Teaching Listening Comprehension. CUP. P.11-34)
Spoken language is generally recognised by a combination of bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing is driven by what the listener hears. Top-down processing is driven by the ideas that are ready in the listener’s head. The experiments show that if the listeners have got a correct idea ready in their minds about the heard text, they do not even notice the sounds that were deliberately deleted from the recorded text (Eysenck, M. And M. Keane. 1997. Cognitive Psychology. Psychology Press. P. 278-
The process of listening. Listening as a receptive communicative processes has its “product” i.e. the information received. The ultimate purpose of listening is to get the “ideational structures” of the message, which makes a coherent whole. This coherent whole on paper can take the form of the “story map”, “flow diagrams” and “tree diagrams” (After Burgess, J. 1996. The Teaching of Listening Skills in a Second Language. University of Manchester. Unit 2. P. 18-20).
The process of teaching to listen is guided by principles.
Principle 1. Teaching to listen as a communicative skill. This principle means that listening activities develop in the language learners the ability to listen to the language in the real world settings and to use this skill for receiving information from the heard discourse.
Principle 2. Teaching to listen to authentic materials. The principle implies that the discourse for listening is expected to be either “authentic made”, i.e. produced by the native speakers for the purpose of natural communication or “authentic like” i.e. produced by native/non-native speakers for teaching purposes but having all the features of the natural English discourse.
Principle 3. Teaching to listen as an integrated skill. Listening is very seldom done for the purpose of “listening only”. Usually people listen and speak, listen and write, listen and read. This is how listening is integrated with other communicative skills of reading, writing and speaking.
Listening can be taught as an active, extensive and intensive process.
Active listening is a serial process (done step by step) the purpose of which is to get a very accurate grasp of the information. As a result the listener can get the heard facts, summarise the information and remember it. Essentially, active listening is listening for details. Extensive listening is a holistic process with the purpose of grasping the general meaning (the gist) of the heard language. The information that is received as a result of extensive listening is usually compressed and lacks details. Extensive listening is listening for the gist. Intensive listening is a parallel process of both listening and making assumptions about the heard discourse. “Intensive listening” is task driven and purposive, because listeners have a purpose of solving a certain cognitive problem. “Intensive listeners” can be judgmental and critical (have opinions and put to doubt what they hear). Intensive listening is listening for inferences.
Activities for teaching listening. Listening exercises include: making a tape-script, repeated listening with wandering gaps in the played text, ticking lexical items and grammar structures used in the text, ticking what was mentioned and what was not mentioned (some items on the list may not have been used at all in the text), listening and doing, drawing, marking, dramatising, answering questions, guessing from the text, sequencing the order of speakers and/or events, listening and matching (texts, graphs and pictures), completing gaps in the text (cloze procedure), completing the chart, ticking in the list the paraphrased sentences with the same meaning as in the text, ticking true or false sentences, predicting the continuation of the text, commenting on the text, giving personal associations, reasoning, picking up details, remembering details, transferring information to a table or to a graph etc.
Activities for teaching to listen can be of the following types: listen and do, listen and transfer and listen and infer. “Listen-and-do” activities imply that the language learners listen to the language and while listening they perform commands, follow instructions, draw, tick off items on the list, sequence the text, match strip cartoons (picture stories), maps, plans, family trees, pictures with the heard texts etc. “Listen-and-transfer” activities mean that while listening to the language, the students transfer information to tables, diagrams, graphs, drawings, notes etc. “Listen-and-infer” activities are based on the tasks to interpret situations, moods and attitudes in the heard discourse, draw conclusions, make assumptions and have judgements, e.g. of the “true – false” type.
Teaching to listen can involve listening to monologues and dialogues. A monologue (one speaker language performance) can be of the “spoken” and “written” type. Listening to spoken and written monologues makes a difference. Written texts have longer sentences. They are more organised into meaningful units thanks to syntax, intonation and rhythm. Information in “written” monologues is more concise. Oral monologues are more spontaneous and “word-loose”. Their information is ‘redundant”, i.e. many details are repeated and reworded. Compared to the economical language use in written texts, oral discourse is a “language explosion”. Oral discourse is made redundant because the speaker monitors the process of the message intake by the listener through eye contact and comprehension checks.
Teaching to listen to a dialogue has certain typical features. Dialogues (language performance of two or more interacting participants) can be scripted or spontaneous. While listening to a dialogue, the listeners can be concerned with who is speaking (gender, occupation, age), how many are speaking, how they are speaking (emotional attitudes), what they are speaking about and which is the message they are actually communicating, why they are speaking (what is the information gap between them)
There can be a variety of factors that make listening difficult. Difficulty can be caused by the unknown words, complex and strange grammar structures, strange cultural context, uncertain message, too many inessential details, lack of essential details (sometimes a tiny detail is a cure to comprehending the whole text), tempo of speech, interfering noises.
Pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening activities
Exercises for teaching listening are divided into pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening. Pre-listening activities are preparations for listening. Pre-listening work can consist of a whole range of tasks including the teacher giving background information, the students reading something relevant to listening, the students looking at the pictures and eliciting from them, the students discussing a topic situation, answering questions, writing what they know about the topic of listening, considering what language they might need to understand the oral text, getting full understanding of how they will perform the listening task (Underwood, M. 1997.Teaching Listening. Longman. P. 31-37). While-listening activities are what students do during listening to the text. The purpose of while-listening activities is to help learners develop the skill of eliciting messages from the heard text. While listening the students are to look at the pictures of the traffic and to put a cross where the rules have been broken Other tasks can be: Listen to the text and decide which pictures represent the story. Arrange the pictures in the correct order according to the heard text. Listen to the text and complete the chart. Listen to the text and tick off from the lists the items that have not been mentioned. Listen to the text and mark the sentences that follow the text as True or False. Listen to the text and complete the gaps in the text. Listen to the text and correct the printed version (Underwood, M. 1997.Teaching Listening. Longman. P.49-69). Post-listening activities are done after the process of listening is completed. The most common form is to check comprehension. Another purpose of post-listening tasks is to know why some students failed to comprehend the heard text and missed essential points of information. Yet another purpose is to expand on the topic or on the language of the heard text. (Underwood, M. 1997.Teaching Listening. Longman. P.74-86).