Six Myths about the Teaching of Listening

There are six myths or half-truths that are related to the teaching of listening during the process of language learning. They are false rituals which need to be analysed and put into question. Let’s consider them.

1. Listening can’t be taught:

In fact there are many things teachers can do to help students listen effectively. Teachers can continually expose their students to appropriate listening material which should be followed by good practice activities which give students opportunities to listen successfully and build confidence in listening skill. Teachers can teach students some strategies which can guide them to efficient listening.

2. Listening is a passive skill:

Listening is not passive but on contrary it is extremely active. During listening students do many activities. They guess, predict, infer, criticize and above all they interpret. Clearly it is a receptive rather than a passive skill.

3. For students, understanding foreign speakers of English is easier than understanding native speakers.

Of course it depends on other conditions such as the speed of the speaker talk and the amount of exposure to the target language. A further point is that the type of English students are exposed to affects their performance in the listening work they do in classroom.

4. Listening to a foreign language and listening to our native language involve same skills:

There are some differences in applying these skills. When we listen to our language we listen with “half an ear” that is without concentrating fully but still we understand the message. On the other side when we listen to a foreign language, we often need to pay full attention to the message to understand.

5. Students should understand every word while listening in the classroom:

It is not necessary as speech usually consists of words that are not important. Spoken language includes redundancy which makes listening easier because it allows us not to focus fully on every word. But one important point must be considered here, students can afford not to listen to every word when they have a command of basic grammar and vocabulary. In this case, they will be able to decide which words are significant and which ones they can ignore.

6. Students shouldn’t be allowed to read the scripts of recordings:

When it happens, it may be said that students will focus on the reading more than the listening. The solution here is to use the script at the final stage after students listen to the text at least twice. Overall, it must be said that the exposure to the script has its benefits such as allowing students to see the difference between the written and spoken form of words. It also allows them to see which words are “swallowed” and notice prominent grammar points.

Guidelines to Consider When Teaching Listening

listening is learning

1. Relate listening to students’ interests, goals and experiences to keep their motivation and attention high.

2. Select authentic material both in language and tasks. Language should reflect real discourse using videos, audio tapes and TV or radio broadcasts of actual exchanges.

3. Give opportunities to develop both top-down and bottom-up processing skills

* Top-down activities = discussing what students already know about the topic.

* Bottom-up activities = practicing components of the language ( sounds, words, intonation, grammatical structure )

4. Encourage development of listening strategies such as predicting, asking for clarification, using non-verbal cues, … that increase the chances for successful listening.

* e.g. using videos:

When sound off, students make predictions and answer questions about setting, actions, interactions, …

When sound on, students confirm or modify predictions.

5. Teach activities not test them:

– Don’t focus on memory rather than on the process of listening.

– Don’t give practice rather than help students develop listening ability.

e.g. * having students listen to a passage followed by true/false questions might focus on the learners’ ability to remember rather than help them to develop the skill of determining main idea and details.

– Pre and post listening activities should help students focus attention on what they listen so that they can transfer the listening skill to the world beyond the classroom.

Eight Steps to Teach a Listening Lesson

The EFL teachers can teach a listening lesson easily if they do eight steps in the following order:
1. Determine a reason for listening ( Assign a simple task to be done during listening) .
2. Give a general idea of the topic ( Say the title & introduce the topic ).
3. Identify the type of the speech (conversation, radio ad, passage, …) and the functions included in the text (persuade, request …)
4. Present and practice the lexis included in the text.
5. Ask students to predict the information they will listen to.
6. Activate background information & build some more knowledge related to the listening text.
7. Show & point to a visual support to assist the meaning.
8. Elicit the answer for the pre-assigned task and then give some more exercises or activities to check students’ understanding of the information included in the listening text.

13 Tips you should consider in listening & speaking lessons

listen and speak

1. plan & organize your talk clearly and use vocabulary precisely.

2. use gestures, tone and facial expressions so that your talk becomes interesting.

3. organize your ideas and give them in a logical order.

4. express your thoughts clearly.

5. talk confidently and fluently.

6. simplify your language to suit your students’ level.

7. make regular comments and ask questions.

8. listen carefully to other views, accept all suitable and relevant ideas even if they are opposite with yours.

9. concentrate on the main points of the lesson.

10. make notes of common errors.

11. involve as many students as possible.

12. check students’ comprehension all the time.

13. care for giving and receiving authentic language.