Why Teaching Listening Strategies to Beginner Learners in Mexico May be Helpful
Listening is an important skill in which learners need help in developing their abilities. Listening strategies are so helpful. By giving a learner, tools to listen to the learner can develop more control over his/her listening abilities. Many learners ask “ Teacher, how can I improve my listening?” The truth of the matter is with training from teachers. We can apply strategies in class to help learners overcome the obstacles, which they encounter while listening. The spoken text varies greatly from written text, and these differences can affect the listeners’ understanding. For example, when listening to spoken text the learner must process the information right away, and in some cases, there is often no chance to listen to it again. (Richards, 2008). Listening is seen as one of the more challenging aspects of the language learning process. There is a range of linguistic difficulties in listening to a foreign language. It may be unknown words, lexical density, or complex grammatical structures. Other areas of difficulty may include lack of control of the input, such as speed, vocabulary, and the fact there is no opportunity for repetition when pronunciation is incomprehensible. (Wilson, 2008). Another area is the lack of exposure to accents. Students need to hear different accents because English is global.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Georgette K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Approaches to Languages Learning
There is a focus on language learning on the bottom-up and the top-down approach to learning the language. The bottom-up approach uses the information which is being heard as the base for decoding the message. The comprehension starts with analyzing the oral text and categorizing information into sounds, words, clauses, sentences until meaning is found. Comprehension with this process is seen as decoding. (Richards 2008). Richards 2008 pg 7, states the difference between the two approaches, “Top-down processing, refers to the use of background knowledge in understanding the meaning of a message. Whereas bottom-up processing goes from language to meaning, top-down processing goes from meaning to language.” The top-down strategies which can be applied to listening may include; the listener using background knowledge of the topic, the situation or context, the type of input, and the language. This background knowledge activates a set of possibilities that help the listener to interpret what is heard and anticipate what will come next (Richards 2008). Some of the top-down strategies used with listening include; listening for the main idea, predicting, drawing inferences, summarizing (Wilson 2008).
These strategies help build on more than just acquiring information for the task at hand theses strategies help organize information. These strategies also provide a setting for focusing on lexical input and, phonological variables, thereby giving room to teach new vocabulary and grammar (Hinkel, 2006).
My Personal Approach to Teaching
I like to start teaching the following sets of strategies with beginner learners. Pre-listening strategies to activate the schemata, which included visual stimulation, vocabulary, predicting what the listening task would be about, and brainstorming vocabulary. (Wilson 2008) shows pre-listening activities activate the schemata. Since many learners are visual learners and visuals are immediate and evocative I use visuals in pre-listening activities. Wilson (2008) states that visual students (which is a large portion), may learn better when seeing pictures that correspond to things being taught.
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In the area of while-listening, the strategies that I like to apply are; listening for gist, listening for detail, fill in the gap, and note-taking. Then there are post-listening strategies these strategies help not only the leaner but also the teacher. Reflecting, in the form of students comparing information from the note-taking and gap-fill in. The learners can follow up by discussing what they understood. This is where the teacher can reflect and see what strategies are being effective and which need more time for developing with the learners.
It is important to engage the listener before listening because it makes the goal more feasible and realistic. If students have invested time and effort before listening, they are more likely to try and listen attentively (Wilson, 2008).
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Understanding how students’ attitudes may change when having had the opportunity to use listening strategies, may encourage teachers to use listening strategies.
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