as speech rate (e.g. Blau, 1990; Conrad, 1989; Griffiths, 1990; Khatib & Khodabakhsh, 2010; Mc Bride, 2011), lexis (e.g., Johns & Dudley-Evans, 1980; Kelly, 1991), phonological features (e.g., Henrichsen, 1984) and background knowledge (e.g., Long, 1990). Research over the past number of years attempted to define which factors contribute to making a particular passage difficult or easy to comprehend. Among the most notable work is that of Brown (1986, 1995b) and Rubin (1994). Rubin’s excellent review of listening identified five characteristics that affect listening:
– Text characteristics.
– Interlocutor characteristics.
– Task characteristics.
– Listener characteristics.
– Process characteristics.
Brown’s characterization of the first of those characteristics relate to the text itself. It has been shown that a listening text will be easier:
– If there are few speakers and objects.
– If the speakers and objects are distinct and different from one another.
– If the spatial relations are clear (for example, when describing a motor accident).
– If the order of telling the events matches the order in which the event occurred.
– If the inferences called for are those that one would have predicted.
– If the content of the text fits with what the listener already knows (exploiting an existing schema) (Schmitt, 2002: 204).
2.5. How to Develop Listening?
As stated above many researchers have studied the ways to develop listening comprehension (e.g. Berne, 2004; Hayati & Mohmedi, 2009; Hinkel, 2006; Jia & Fu, 2011). Nunan and Miller (1995) asserted that developing cognitive strategies (i.e., listening for main idea, listening for details, etc.) as well as integrating listening with other skill areas like speaking, vocabulary and pronunciation is important. To develop this skill different strategies and techniques has been used. Yet listening remains one of the least understood processes in language learning despite the recognition of the critical role it plays both in communication and in language acquisition (Morley, 1999). Learning strategies for listening comprehension has been an interest of many researchers (e.g. Chamot & Küpper, 1989; Murphy, 1985; O’Malley & Chamot, 1990). Chamot (1987: 71) provides a basic definition of learning strategies: ‘techniques, or deliberate actions that students take in order to facilitate the learning and recall of both linguistic and content area information’. Research into strategy use has led to the development of what Mendelsohn (1994) terms a ‘strategy-based approach’ to teach listening comprehension. Learning strategies are usually divided into meta-cognitive, cognitive and social/affective – a tripartite classification developed by O’Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kuper and Russo (1985).
Good listeners use them in combination, according to the needs of specific situation. A meta-cognitive strategy of particular value for listening is developing a conscious awareness of strategies we find ourselves using as we listen (Schmitt, 2002: 200). An example of cognitive listening strategy would be listening to the way people address each other (Darling, or Dr. Rose) as a clue to the interpersonal relationship between them. An example of social/affective strategy of particular importance in interactive listening is asking for assistance from the interlocutor. In a similar vein, Vandergrift (1999) presents listening strategies in three categories as metacognitive strategies, cognitive strategies, and socio-affective strategies.
According to Vandergrift (1997), metacognitive strategies are defined as “mental activities for directing language learning” (p. 391) which include, planning, monitoring, and evaluating one’s comprehension. These strategies refer to the thinking about the learning process such as selective attention and comprehension monitoring (also Goh, 1997, 1998). Buck (2001) presents a very similar definition to these strategies as “conscious or unconscious mental activities (such as assessing the situation and self-testing) that perform an executive function in the management of cognitive strategies” (p. 104). Cognitive strategies are “mental activities for manipulating the language to accomplish a task” (p. 391) that involves applying specific techniques to the learning task such as elaboration and inference. Also Buck (2001) defines these strategies similarly as “mental activities related to comprehending and storing input in working memory or long term memory for later retrieval” (p. 104). Vandergrift (1997) also adds socio-affective strategies, which involve cooperating with other learners or the teacher for clarification, and/or employing specific techniques to decrease anxiety. These strategies include activities involving questioning for clarification, cooperation, lowering anxiety, self-encouragement, and taking emotional temperature. Whatever strategy may be referred to, in order to develop listening skills, it is crucial to employ listening strategies. It is vital for every single learner that she/he applies individual strategies according to her/his own learning (Mendelsohn, 1995).
However, using strategies alone will not aid in improving this involved process. The previous literature suggests integrating various techniques into classrooms such as benefiting from authentic materials, and use of technology (e.g., Rixon, 1986; Rubin, 1995). Using technology can promote the development of listening comprehension by providing learners with compelling, interesting material (McBride, 2009; Rost, 2007) and it can also aid listening comprehension development by enhancing listening input (Chapelle, 2003). Using authentic materials include use of songs, TV serials, movies, documentaries; and using technology includes use of videos, computers, and the Internet. With this respect, it is not difficult to conclude that authentic materials and technology are interwoven with each other since they are overlapping; in addition, technology is needed to operate authentic materials (Ak, 2012).
The result of various research studies examining the effects of using technology and authentic materials within classes on listening comprehension indicated that learners watching the videos with captions scored significantly higher than the ones watching the videos without captioning. In their study exploring the efficacy of videos with subtitles on listening comprehension, Hayati and Mohmedi (2011) formed three groups: L1 subtitled group, L2 subtitled group and without subtitle group. The findings indicated that the group with English subtitles (L2 subtitled) outperformed the other groups. Another important point to take into consideration is integrating different language skills in order to enhance the development of each skill. Integrating skills will make the activities, classes more meaningful, motivate students and create interesting contexts. For listening, the case is similar. Many researchers (e.g2001; Hinkel, 2006; Snow, 2005) emphasize the strength of integrated presentation over the segregated presentation of skills. Listening can be used as an aid to reading or speaking skills throughout different sections of classes; similarly, listening can benefit from particular skills like pronunciation.
However, understanding listening process can help us to rethink the methods of teaching listening. The previous literature on listening suggests that the skills or the processing types of listening can raise strategies, and these listening strategies can be divided into three groups; bottom-up strategies, to-down and interactive strategies. It is now generally accepted that learners need access to these strategies. A competent listener uses these kinds of processes in order to fully comprehend spoken language, and a key factor in successful listening is the individual’s ability to integrate information gathered from them. For this purpose there are three components for clarifying the listening process.
2.5.1 Bottom-up processe
s in listening
In the bottom-up part of listening process, we use our knowledge of language and our ability to process acoustic signals to make sense of the sounds that speech presents to us. In other words, we use information in the speech itself to try to comprehend the meaning. We segment speech into identifiable sounds and impose a structure on these in terms of words, phrases, clauses, sentences and intonation patterns. At the same time, we use whatever clues are available to infer meaning from the developing speech (Hege, 2000: 230-231). These clues are of several kinds:
– In the English language, the placement of stress on the meaningful words, the use of pauses which mark the edge of ‘sense’ groups and the relationship of stressed to unstressed syllables, plus increased tempo, and accompanying non-verbal behavior such as head shaking and frowning, all provide us with information as to the meaning, function, and implicit emotion of a message.
– We employ our lexical knowledge to assign meanings to words and use logical reasoning to infer relationships between them. These are logical categories and relations which derive from our experience of the world and which enable us to impose meaning on what we hear (Bever 1970).
– In the English language we tend to expect a typical structure of noun phrase as agent, verb phrase as action, followed by a noun phrase as object. This expectation helps us to impose a structure on what we hear. Native speaker children, for example, tend not to have difficulty with active constructions such as ‘The truck damaged the car’ but might interpret the equivalence passive form. ‘The truck was damaged by the car’, as meaning the same, simply by inferring agent and object from the word order.
As listeners infer meaning from what is heard, using these strategies, this will determine expectations about what might come next. Various clues enable us to work out the
place of articulation. Figure8. Errors and problems by EFL learnersAs demonstrated in the table, there are different reasons behind making such errors ranging from the absence in first language to different manner of articulation. The Read more…