In teaching listening comprehension we must be careful not to go to extremes, either by being concerned too exclusively with theories without thinking about theirapplication to teaching, or by obstinately following frozen routines-opening the textbook and explaining new words, playing the tape recorder, and asking/answering questions. It is essential for ateacher to have an overall understanding of what listening is, why it is difficult for foreign-language learners, and what some solutions may be. The vital question is how to bridge the gap between ananalysis of listening and actual classroom teaching.
What is listening?
Listening is the ability to identify and understand what others are saying. This involves understanding a speaker’s accent orpronunciation, his grammar and his vocabulary, and grasping his meaning (Howatt and Dakin 1974). An able listener is capable of doing these four things simultaneously. Willis (1981:134) lists a series ofmicro-skills of listening, which she calls enabling skills. They are:
• predicting what people are going to talk about
• guessing at unknown words or phrases without panicking
• using one’s ownknowledge of the subject to help one understand
• identifying relevant points; rejecting irrelevant information
• retaining relevant points (note-taking, summarizing)
• recognizing discourse markers,e.g., Well; Oh, another thing is; Now, finally; etc.
• recognizing cohesive devices, e.g., such as and which, including link words, pronouns, references, etc.
• understanding different intonationpatterns and uses of stress, etc., which give clues to meaning and social setting
• understanding inferred information, e.g., speakers’ attitude or intentions
What are some listening problems?
Theevidence that shows why listening is difficult comes mainly from four sources: the message to be listened to, the speaker, the listener, and the physical setting.
Content. Many learners...