Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field

By John Field

This ebook demanding situations the orthodox method of the instructing of moment language listening, that is established upon the asking and answering of comprehension questions. The book's imperative argument is preoccupation with the thought of 'comprehension' has led academics to concentration upon the fabricated from listening, within the type of solutions to questions, ignoring the listening procedure itself. the writer offers an educated account of the mental techniques which make up the ability of listening, and analyses the features of the speech sign from which listeners need to build a message. Drawing upon this knowledge, the booklet proposes a thorough substitute to the comprehension technique and offers for in depth small-scale perform in features of listening which are perceptually or cognitively challenging for the learner. Listening within the Language school room was once winner of the Ben Warren overseas belief residence Prize in 2008.

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To form another analogy, we might say that safe handling of a vehicle is the goal towards which driving instruction strives. But nobody would suggest that the learner driver can get by without a great deal of hands-on, step-by-step guidance along the way. The emphasis on comprehension has had an unfortunate effect in that it has led many commentators to focus their attention on how listeners construct wider meaning and away from the nuts and bolts that enable the operation to take place. It has led to a received view that difficulties in recognising sounds and words in the input are of a lower order of importance, and that many of them can be resolved by the use of ‘context’.

It brings the benefit of all pair work: namely, that two minds are usually better than one (in this case, four ears are better than two). It can also be used to foster a degree of competition, with listeners vying with each other to see who manages to come up with the correct answer. At the very least, each member of a pair feels a compulsion to try to contribute something to the joint interpretation. The attention of every learner is thus engaged – a very different situation from what commonly happens when individuals listen in isolation.

Learners are given feedback on whether their answers are correct or not; they are sometimes allowed to hear problematic passages again. But that does not mean that they take away from the experience the kind of generalised technique that will enable them to avoid a similar problem of understanding if one occurs in future. A learner might come to realise that a sequence that sounds like mightadun in the voice of a male taxi driver corresponds to the grammatical pattern might + have + done. Learning has taken place in respect of this sample of speech, and the knowledge will assist the learner if she ever hears the same recording again.

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