Friday, January 11, 2013

Teaching listening: time for a change in methodology

RRR Unit 6: Teaching listening: time for a change in methodology

Goodith White

     In the introduction, the author suggested that listening is the most neglected skill in the second language classrooms. In most EFL course books, it is practiced as a skill and seen as a means of exposing learners to new language .She agreed with Asher(1988) who suggested the importance of the “silent period” in which learners are not required to produce the language rather they listen to it before starting production. The author argued that listening is more than providing rich source of language input for preparing learners to reading and writing. It should be for both transactional and interactional aspects. Moreover, she briefly discussed the current trends of the new philosophy of education addressing the following points:
1.Learners should be scaffolded to take some responsibility for their own learning.
2.The concept of authenticity explores the field of authentic tasks, teachers, learners and classroom.
3.The move from PPP to TBL which involves “goal-oriented communicative activities” focuses on process rather than product.
4.Learners should be exposed to range of cultures to broaden their “intercultural competence “
5.The new future context for English users is communication among L2 speakers which are to be called “Lingua Franca” than communicating with native speakers.
     To address the problem of the traditional model of teaching listening skill, the author provided a model of a lesson plan.  Then she analyzed its problems as follows:
1.The lesson is a teacher centered and learners are passive over-hearers.
2.No authenticity for the text. All learners were expected to listen in the same way for the same purpose!
3.This lesson is a typical PPP which focuses on product in which learners are required to get the correct answers for the tasks.
4.In some cases, learners might feel that this kind of listening is a type of “test” which might lead to tension and anxiety.

     Hereby, the author suggested some ways to improve listening and gave examples of three different listening activities which could be used with different levels of learners.
      The author was aware of the arguments she might expect from teachers regarding the suggested activities, so she gave fair justifications and clarifications for the she discussed. She also gave a model of “self assessment grid” suggested by the Council of Europe to show how learners could progress in acquiring L2 listening skill. In addition, she provided an adapted framework for describing listening competence and sociolinguistic knowledge. The other area was the strategic competence which consisted of cognitive, metacognitive and interactive strategies.
     From her own experience in teaching listening skill, the author outlined some important aspects which might be applicable when teaching listening. She also suggested some activities for each area.

     If I consider my own content (Oman), I might disagree with the author in which listening skill is neglected! For instance, if I talk about the situation in the Omani Basic Education classes, young learners are exposed to variety of listening texts aimed for pedagogical purposes e.g. songs, stories, instructions ….etc available in different materials such as CDs , cassettes and DVDs.
       Nowadays, other learners not just basic education students  are also exposed to media which provide plenty of programs through different channels. Yet, the problem is not of the quantity of the exposure, but of the quality of what is provided. The question is how do teachers help learners benefit from all these resources to improve their listening skill and how do they apply sub skills and strategies to reach a higher level of competency in listening?
       Moreover, as it was mentioned by the writer of this paper, most of the listening activities are formed in a “test form”. This might cause tension and frustration to the learners especially if they are unable to deal with the amount of information provided due to some technical problems from materials used or even clarity of sound and so on. Another important point is that teachers have doubts on the best way to help learners move from passive over -hearers to become active participants during the listening stage. The suggested activities by the author are really useful, but by the end they turn the listening into speaking and this is natural , so in my opinion we can not ignore the importance of skills integration. Thus, I believe that listening is a skill that opens the door to the rest of the other skills bearing in mind integration of skills and the need for other subskills.

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