Listening, though being the basic input skill in language learning, has been an ignored area in language teaching-learning for a long time. Before thinking about how to teach listening, this fact has to be considered so as to appropriate tools and strategies and approaches.
Listening is a cognitive activity. It involves a great deal of mental involvement at every stage. Unlike hearing – which is hardly anything beyond a physical activity – listening involves understanding and responding as well. When we consider listening as apart of the classroom, we have to understand it in relation with speaking as well, because unless and until listening is done well efficient speaking is not possible. One more aspect to be considered is that listening doesn’t unnecessarily mean only aural input. It includes many moles. Comprehension of a speech is done through listening text as well as the other accompanying features like body language, paralinguistic features, situation, and contexts etc. It is truly said that a language is an art of ears.
One of the major reasons why the learners’ listening behavior is very weak is that there is a vast difference between the language spoken in classrooms and that spoken in the real world. Ranging from the speed of utterance to the presence of contextual information and lack of “reply’ of the same content, the features of the real-life language provide a sheer contrast to the language of the classroom. If we could incorporate the typical features of a real-life language to the one used in classrooms, leaders are less confused, so clearer and faster in the acquisition.
We listen to with two purposes:
To get information, and
To get enjoyment.
Apart from this, there could be purpose like evaluation, criticism, prediction etc. All these require different kinds of skill-sets. Broadly categorizing these purpose into the above-mentioned way, when we listen to for getting information, we tend to pay attention to each and every word. On the other hand, when the purpose is to develop an overall understanding of the content, we may or may not bother to know the meaning of each and every word. Sometimes, both these kinds of exercises become essential in order to get a comprehensive understanding.
An Ability to understand the connected speech is also one of the important sub-skill of listening. The spoken words may be ‘connected’ structurally as well as contextually. Real life language is full of contracted forms and weak forms. It is spoken at a fast pace, and so there may be an omission of certain words or parts of sentences. Besides, cultural and situational contests may also be there as connection factor. The major thing that could enable a learner to understand all connected speeches is a treatment and varied exposure to these aspects.
The pre-listening stage should be designed in order to make the learners familiar with the topic, kind Of language and the vocabulary items they will be exposed to during the lesson. The teacher could use visuals, topic-related discussions, prediction oriented activities etc. at this stage. While-listening stage exposes the learners to the listening text for a number of times each time extending a clearer and newer understanding as itself. It could be a series of interactive tasks that require the response from the listeners. The number of tasks having a wide range of variety would make the process of listening faster and clearer. The tasks focus should move from general to specific understanding. Initial tasks may invite a general understanding of the idea Of the listening text; the later ones should gradually be focusing more specific information. While listening to the given text, the teacher could allow the learners to ask questions in order to gain more clarity.
At this stage, the teacher tries to reinforce learners’ understanding of the listening text through some tasks that would expand the text or would give the learners a chance to present their understanding of the same using other language skills like writing or speaking about it. At all the three stages, from learners’ side, there could be a variety of responses, and they may vary from learner to learner. The teacher has to keep only one thing about it in mind that in the case of the individual learner, there should be an increasing progress in the pattern of responding to the listening text. Largely speaking, the responses could be divided into four categories depending upon the type of activity done in the class.