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  Home > TEFL Clinic > Teaching Knowledge > Listening Skills

Listening Skills


Listening plays an important role in language learning for several reasons. First, listening provides comprehensible input for the learner which is essential for learning to occur. Second, listeners need to interact with speakers to achieve understanding. Third, listening exercises help learners to focus on new forms of vocabulary and grammar.

Many EFL learners find that they have difficulties in understanding natural spoken English delivered at normal speed. Therefore, practice of this skill is essential to improve students language development. Often, learners’ perceptions of their problems are incorrect and do not correspond to what actually happens. For example, some listeners might think that a spoken passage is difficult to understand because speakers speak too fast. In actual fact, it is more likely to be another feature which causes the difficulty, such as pronunciation, hesitation, pauses, or varied accents.

At this stage, it is important to make clear the difference between listening and understanding. They are two separate processes. We should distinguish between listening as a process which requires mere listening to the message and which does not necessarily involve interpretation or reaction to the text, and listening comprehension as a process which involves the meaningful interactive activity for an overall understanding of the text. Listening comprehension often requires listeners to focus on selected input, construct meaning, and relate what they hear to existing knowledge.

Awareness of effective listening strategies benefits both learners and teachers. Research findings show that unsuccessful learners are generally less aware of effective ways of approaching the learning tasks. For example, learners may wrongly think that they need to listen to every word and detail to get the main idea of a text. They may be unwilling to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from context. Similarly, teachers may wrongly encourage learners to use the ineffective strategies in class. For example, insisting on complete understanding of every phoneme, syllable, word or phrase in the text. Teachers can help their students to overcome listening problems by using effective listening strategies in the EFL classroom. This, in turn, will allow students to become better listeners and thus better language learners.

Stress

In English words can only have one stress, there can be a secondary stress but this is not as strong as the primary one and only happens in multi-syllabic words. The stress can only come on a vowel, never a consonant. There are some rules to English word stress, however there are also many exceptions.

Syllabus Stress

Stressing the first syllable
Most 2-syllable nouns PAper, IMport, WAter, BIRTHday
Most 2-syllable adjectives DIRty, CROWded, MODern, NARrow

Stressing the second syllable
Most 2-syllable verbs imPORT, deCREASE, proGRESS, proTEST

Stressing the ante-penultimate syllable (the third syllable of a word counting from the end)
Words ending in –cy, -ty, -phy and -gy buREAUcracy, aBIlity, phoTOgraphy, ecOLogy
Words ending in –al PHYsical, hiSTOrical

Stressing the penultimate syllable (the syllable next to the last)
Words ending in ic STATic, hisTORic
Words ending in sion and -tion colLIsion, nuTRItion

Compound words
Compound nouns- first part stressed CAR park, LETTER box
Compound adjectives- second part stressed Worn-OUT, well-KNOWN
Compound verbs- second part stressed underSTAND

Elision

It is common in informal speech that not all the letters in a word are annunciated. The /h/ and the /t/ sounds can be lost e.g. Have you seen her? Becomes ‘ave you seen ‘er?

It is important to draw students’ attention to this fact otherwise they will have problems understanding.







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