Education - Learning
By: - at May 13, 2013

The Role of Listening in Language Learning

Listening as a Language Skill
Listening as a Language Skill We have the unique ability to learn from listening. With it comes our ability to understand the world. This separates us from the other species on Earth. As babies, we acquire language by listening to the way our parents or family members talk. We then start to copy the words we hear and this will eventually develop into speaking in sentences of our first language. This proves how important the role of listening in language learning is.

Living in a competitive society requires us to learn continuously. As young individuals, most of our years are spent attending school where there is a need to listen and comprehend what the teachers say. To prove that we listen to lectures, we ask questions to clarify points and eventually increase our knowledge on a variety of subjects.

Listening has an important place in learning. In fact, it is one of the four macro skills in language acquisition. Other skills, namely reading, speaking, and writing along with grammar are essential to developing language proficiency. Listening as a receptive skill first develops as early as infancy. It awakens awareness of the language, in fact, of any language.

The Importance of Listening
The role of listening in language learning has been considered the least understood of all the language skills. But, in a study conducted in 1950, it has been found that when we communicate, 45% of this comes from listening, 30% from speaking, 15% from reading and 10% from writing. People develop sound judgment from their experiences and this can be shared to others in the form of communication. With the highest percentage of involvement in the exchange of information, listening has to be considered an English language forerunner. As humans communicate at about 71% of their waking time, it can be concluded that listening is utilized in most parts of the day.

Listening plays a vital role in learning, not just languages but any branch of knowledge. When students attend classes, they are expected to comprehend and retain information from lectures. In language classrooms, most of these lectures would range from grammar, pronunciation, word stress, vocabulary, syntax, and the like. It should be emphasized that comprehension of messages conveyed can be based on tone of voice, pitch and accent; and it is only possible when we listen.

girl listening with hand

Listening is not only utilized as a language skill for academics but is also considered an essential life skill. Mastering this skill is crucial to understanding messages we encounter every day. Additionally, it plays a part in bridging gaps for context meanings as we make use of gestures, facial expressions and body language when we speak to others.

Listening in Language Learning: Tips for Teachers
We can never deliver the language curriculum when students are poor in listening. As teachers, we must look for ways to keep students engaged in class, and that means, to listen. Seeing our students demonstrate that they listen by use of nods, eye contact and asking of appropriate questions can be a guarantee we are fulfilling the goals of language teaching. The following are the tips you can use to help develop students’ listening skill and eventually, language proficiency.

  1. kids singing lessons to learn betterStart easy with songs and rhymes. Almost everyone likes music. As infants, we are put to sleep with lullabies. As with children, language learners love to listen to lines with rhymes. This makes them become familiar with the words, their pronunciation and intonation. Songs can also be utilized but must be chosen based on student levels. In class, songs in the language being learned are played and students are asked to listen. During the activity, they may be required to listen out for words. This will help the teacher know how many words the student has identified. After the sound clip, teachers may ask students to draw conclusions on the meaning or intention of the song based on the words they have listed. This is learning vocabulary and inference through listening.
  2. Make the class enjoyable with storytelling.Make the class enjoyable with storytelling. Storytelling has been used for centuries. In fact, this is how ancestors passed information from one generation to another before paper was made available. Just because students are not very good in the language yet doesn’t mean you have the right to bore them to death. Try to spend time reading stories to students. Make use of gestures and facial expressions as you go along the lines. Use proper pitch and tone of voice to differentiate characters and events. Doing this gives students the opportunity to be exposed to the language in a relaxed and fun classroom environment. After reading the story, ask questions about the characters, personalities, the actions, and even the possible ending. This will enhance students’ ability to formulate opinions, understand the culture, and respond to text which eventually leads to developing speaking skills.
  3. Use scripts for listening activitiesUse scripts for listening activities. Scripts are generally used to help students who are poor in listening improve faster. Unlike written words, voices or sounds are quickly forgotten and misunderstood. This is true when students fail to listen to the entire clip attentively. When provided with scripts, students will be able to predict the missing words in a line. With this, students put to practice the principle of coherence they have learned in writing classes. Additionally, when given a sheet of paper with many unfamiliar words, it requires the students to make use of the dictionary to find meanings. With scripts on hand, hearing words in a clip played by the teacher will enable students to associate pronunciation with spelling and meaning, recognize contractions, and even differentiate spelling and pronunciation of words when spoken by two non-native speakers. Pairing listening clips with scripts develop students’ skills in writing, spelling, meaning, and variations in pronunciation.
  4. Get the most out of popular moviesGet the most out of popular movies. To learn a foreign language effectively, one must be exposed to the culture where the target language is spoken. Since not many students have the chance to live or experience life in a country where the target language is used, movies can bridge this gap. When teaching language through movies, students are given the chance to listen closely to what words the native speakers utter, and how to say them. Though many would consider film showing a language teaching peripheral, experts agree that utilizing this medium of communication develops aural skills. As students view the film, they are given sample situations and contexts in which a word or an expression is used. This can also be used to help students associate type of language with gender, race, and social status. When they get to hear exactly the same line in the absence of a video, they might start to draw conclusions about the speaker. Making use of movies in listening classes gives the students the chance to virtually immerse in the culture where the target language is spoken.
  5. Use authentic listening clipsUse authentic listening clips. The use of audio clips in language classrooms may be fun when teachers choose the correct materials. Listening gets boring when a majority of the clips are staged and stilted. Even if it’s just a simple line like “Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the nearby library?” the way they are done in staged or stilted clips are very different from those that are taken from real context. When authentic listening clips are used, students are given the advantage of getting to listen to expressions used in real-life situations. Instead of boring materials obviously made for commercial purposes, teachers can choose from any authentic listening-viewing materials like news clips, radio ads, documentaries, TV commercials and even cartoons. Authentic listening clips are sources of idioms, contractions, and pronunciation practice that can help students grasp ideas on how to cope with actual speech with native speakers when the need arises.

Without listening skills, language learning is impossible. This is because there is no communication where there is no human interaction. Learning to listen to the target language improves language ability. As students listen, learners construct meaning and make sense of the words they have heard. The sound, rhythm, intonation, and stress of the language can only be perfectly adapted through listening. We practice using our second language by reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Since the first three skills are to be learned by the time we are three years old, our early schema can only be through listening. To understand the nuances in the target language, one must be able to listen. As we get to understand spoken language, it is easier to improve the other skills and gain confidence. Other than being the primary form of communication, listening opens the opportunity to understand the elegance of a language which is not obviously present in grammar or reading.





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