Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing

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Transcript of Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing

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    Chapter 4

    DEVELOPING LISTENING SKILLS

    1. EVERYDAY LISTENING: PURPOSE AND TEXT TYPESListening is the first receptive skill developed by language learners in both their first and

    second language. In the latter case, the level of listening comprehension normally increases in

    parallel with the students linguistic competence, but this does not mean that the listening

    skill can develop naturally or by itself.

    To develop listening proficiency, learners still need intensive and extensive exposure

    to authentic listening material, as well as relevant classroom training. Using authentic

    materials provide exposure to a wide range of more or less culture-bound contexts and topics,as well as to varieties of English (British, American, Australian) or particular regional

    accents. This is not only more challenging than listening to the teachers voice, but also

    helpful in teaching elements of culture and developing cross-cultural competencies regarding

    the English speaking world.

    That is why any balanced language programme should include a wide range of

    listening activities on a variety of topics. The materials should be relevant for the students

    age, level and interests. Classroom listening is essential in developing effective listening

    strategies and skills, even if students can also train these skills independently, through

    extensive exposure outside the classroom, by listening to music, watching films,

    documentaries, etc.

    In any language, listening is an essential part of everyday social or professional

    interaction. Alongside reading, listening is the main channel through which we get

    information and learn about the world. Whatever the medium involved face to face

    interaction or the mass media we listen to a wide variety of context-bound discourses and

    for different purposes, which determine the listening strategies we use. According to their

    context and implicit purpose, the kinds of text types we listen to can be categorised as

    follows:

    a) Social/PersonalThis refers to small talk and social chat, personal conversations, anecdotes, jokes or stories.

    b) Transactional/informationalThis concerns the area of social and professional transactions and interaction involved in:

    service encounters (shop, bank, healthcare); transactional conversations in the workplace, in

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    school or in society (instructions, explanations, directions descriptions); phone conversations

    and messages; public or professional meetings.

    c) Mass media and entertainmentIf the previous categories involve listening for social and professional communication, this

    type of listening is intended for information, pleasure and entertainment. It includes TV or

    radio programmes such as news, weather forecasts, interviews, reports, reviews,

    documentaries, commentaries, talk-shows, phone-ins, quizzes, games or artistic productions

    such as films, plays, sketches, stories, songs, poems.

    d) Educational/Professional/SpecialisedThe listening contexts in this area may consist of lessons, lectures and seminars, speeches,

    discussions and debates.

    By and large, the categories above refer to the kind of listening we do in real life and

    in our mother tongue. The listening text types that students of English are most likely to be

    exposed to in their real life are those in the area of media and entertainment, which provides

    them with good, meaningful opportunities for independent listening practice. However, any

    balanced general English course should contain text types from different categories, aimed at

    training them to develop various listening strategies likely to benefit potential future needs in

    real life. Moreover, classroom listening is more actively engaging and productive, as it

    always entails a communicative response which leads to the integration of skills through

    speaking, reading or writing activities.

    Effective listening comprehension in the foreign language involves a number of

    important sub-skills that are at work in decoding oral communication

    2. LISTENING SUBSKILLSa) Hearing

    This sub-skill refers to our recognition of the phonological aspect of language. It involves the

    following abilities:

    Identifying words and phrases in the stream of speech, by making sense of sound andstress patterns despite speech phonological phenomena such as reduced vowel sounds,

    elision, or assimilation

    Interpreting the use of stress and intonation to identify sense groups and words carryingkey information and the use of intonation in discourse management (turn-taking,

    changing topic)

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    Interpreting the attitudinal or emotional significance of paralinguistic features (loudness,speed, tone of voice)

    b) UnderstandingUnderstanding processing the meaning and information received in terms of:

    Using knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to interpret spoken sentences Predicting potential meaning from syntactical clues (word order) and morphological clues

    (suffixes, prefixes)

    Retaining longer chunks of language in short term memory Interpreting reference and discourse markers to relate parts of discourse Using knowledge of the world and context to interpret what is being said

    c)

    RespondingListening to a message usually entails a response on the part of the listener, which can

    involve:

    - Following instructions;- Completing a task (non-verbal, spoken, written);- Participating in a conversation: showing attention and interest (Uh-huh/I see/ Im sure she is/Really? Echo questions:

    Does she?/Have you? );

    asking for clarification (Sorry?/Who did you say?/What was that again?/Sorry, Ididnt quite catch that.);

    checking ones understanding (Does that mean...?/So what Youre saying is.../So am Iright in saying...?

    - Reproducing the text in speaking (repeating, retelling, summarising) or writing (notes,dictation, summarising)

    - Reacting to what has been saidd) Abilities of the proficient user

    A proficient listener adapts his strategies to the context and text type, but also to his personal

    purpose and interests. Apart from this, a native speaker or proficient user of a language has

    the capacity to use the above sub-skills in operating a number of important distinctions

    regarding context and content. In real life, a proficient listener will be able to:

    Identify the type of discourse(story, interview, etc.) Identify the topicof the discourse Distinguish between the main points and supporting detailsor irrelevancies

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    Identify or infer the roles of speakers and the relationshipsbetween them Infer unspoken meaning Infer attitudes, intentions, emotions

    These are also the abilities which a listening programme should be aimed at developing. Inorder to achieve these aims, the teacher should employ materials and tasks which can train

    the students to replicate the listening strategies used in real life listening.

    3. PRINCIPLES AND STRATEGIES IN TEACHING LISTENINGIn organising a listening activity based on recorded materials, the teacher will bear in mind

    the following principles, which underlie the strategies and abilities involved in real life

    listening:

    a) Activating the students general knowledge of the topicA proficient listener naturally uses his knowledge of the world and context to interpret what

    is being said, as well as his previous knowledge of the topic in question, making associations

    between known and new information. That is why we should start by a lead-in activity,

    which means introducing the topic and getting students to thing and talk about it before the

    actual listening.

    b) Activating relevant topic vocabularyIn order to warm the students up to the listening activity, we should also pool together the

    vocabulary they already know on the respective topic. The activities aimed at re-familiarising

    the students with topic and vocabulary aid comprehension by alleviating the impact of any

    new situation involving totally unknown information.

    c) Encouraging students to predict likely content and vocabularyProficient listeners have the natural ability to predict what they are going to hear by

    exploiting their previous knowledge of the context, topic, text type or speakers involved. We

    should try to replicate this by having students to predict ideas or words likely to come up in

    the material.

    d) Setting tasks which give students a sense of reason and purposeIn real life listening, we always have a reason and a purpose to listen we need the

    information to do or learn something or to interact with others. In the classroom, the purpose

    can only be replicated by setting a task to be done while listening. Even if we can generate

    sufficient interest in and curiosity about topic and content, the task gives them a clear

    purpose.

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    e) Providing guidelines and focus for listeningIt is important to direct the students attention while listening so they may have an idea of

    what to listen for. Setting guiding questions and tasks will help them focus on particular

    items. To this effect, we should also encourage students to exploit the redundancyof spoken

    English and to guess meaning from context.

    f) Integration of skillsListening activities do not usually