links in the discourse and to anticipate. During these processes of identifying sounds, imposing structure, inferring meaning, and anticipating what comes next, memory clearly plays a crucial role. The limitations of echoic memory enable us to hold word sequences for only a few seconds and only initial analysis of the language is possible, concentrating on key words or pauses or other significant features. The load on the short-term memory is heavy as listeners try to hold various parts of the message in mind while inferring meaning and deciding what is necessary to train. In fact, overload can occur if these are too much unfamiliar information and greater part of a message can be lost. Ultimately, too, it is the gist of the spoken message rather than its detailed structure that is retained and stored in the long-term memory. Memory, as an ‘active’ and ‘constructive’ process (Neisser, 1982), is still not fully understood, but the points outlined briefly above begins to suggest that its functioning can be facilitated through choice of texts and tasks.
Bottom-up processing involves piecing together the parts of what is being heard in a linear fashion, one by one, in sequence (Schmitt, 2002). For a long time, this was seen as a complete and accurate description of successful listening. Anderson and Lynch (1988: 9) described this view as ‘listener as tape recorder’. Even if, top-down processing is important, bottom-up processing of what they hear at the acoustic level, for example, discriminating between different but similar sounds (Byrnes, 1984; Brown, 1990), in order to facilitate subsequent top-down processing.
2.5.2. Top down processes in listening
Top-down processing is going from whole to part, and focused on interpretation of meaning rather than cognition of sounds, words and sentences – listeners actively formulate hypotheses as to speaker’s meaning, and confirm or modify them where necessary (Schmitt, 2002). Top-down processing has been called ‘listener as active model builder’ (Anderson and Lynch, 1988: 11). Top-down comprehension strategies, as stated in the previous literature, involve knowledge that a listener brings to a text, sometimes called ‘inside the head’ information, as opposes to the information that is available within the text itself. Top-down listening, then, infers meaning from contextual clues and from making links between the spoken message and various types of prior knowledge which listeners hold inside their heads. Contextual clues to meaning come from knowledge of the particular situation, i.e. the speaker or speakers, the setting, the topic, and the purpose of the spoken text and from knowledge of what has been said earlier. Prior knowledge has been termed schematic knowledge (Carrell and Eisterhold 1983).
This consists of mental frameworks we hold in our memories for different topics. Misunderstanding can arise, even between speakers of the same language, when schematic knowledge differs, perhaps because of cultural differences. There are two categories of schemata: (1) formal schemata which consist of the knowledge we have of the overall structure of some speech events. For example, we know that ‘ Once upon a time’ heralds a certain kind of story which is likely to have a description of characters, an event, an outcome, and possibly a moral comment. (2) content schemata which include general world knowledge, sociocultural knowledge, and topic knowledge. Local knowledge might also be necessary to infer meaning. For example, arriving by rail at Midlands station one morning, I joined a queue at an empty taxi rank. The man next to me turned, smiled, looked at his watch, Each word was comprehensible but local information was needed to understand the comment.
If we take into account the role of schematic and contextual knowledge, then we can add top-down strategies to those bottom-up strategies already described in 2.7.1:
– Listeners will work out the purpose of the message by considering contextual clues, the content, and the setting.
– Listeners will active schematic knowledge and bring knowledge of scripts into play in order to make sense of content.
– Listeners will try to match their perception of meaning with the speaker’s intended meaning, and this will depend on the many different factors involved in listening, both top-down and bottom-up.
It would be mistaken to see top-down and bottom-up strategies as somehow in opposition. It is now generally accepted that both function simultaneously and are mutually dependent. The current model of listening is therefore an interactive one in which linguistic information, contextual clues, and prior knowledge interacts to enable comprehension. However, it is important to note that comprehension, even for first language listeners, is always only selective and partial. Learners need to be aware that both of these processes affect their listening comprehension, and they need to be given opportunities to practice employing each of them.
2.5.3. Interactive processing in listening
The view that listening comprehension actually involves interactive processing is an extension of the ideas of bottom-up and top-down processing. That is listening comprehension is a combination of both. It was suggested by Richards (1990) that in accounting for the nature of processing spoken language, bottom- up and top-down modes work together in a cooperative process. O’Malley, et al (1989) also found that effective second language listeners used both top-down and bottom-up processing to construct meaning while ineffective listeners try to decode the meaning of individual words. The point is simply that listening comprehension is the result of an interaction between a numbers of pieces of knowledge. To comprehend spoken language, listeners have to use many types of knowledge. The knowledge of individual linguistic units such as phonemes, words, or grammatical structures and the role of listener’s expectation, the situation, background knowledge, and the topic all are important for listeners to be able to understand speech.
Studies have been done to specify the types of processing skilled listeners mostly rely on. It was found that skilled listeners are better able to use top-down, or knowledge based processes whereas less-skilled listeners tend to rely on bottom-up or text-based process. Hildyard and Olson (1982, cited in Robin, 1994), for example, studying the comprehension and memory of oral versus written discourse, found that skilled listeners use a knowledge-based mode of text processing whereas less- skilled listeners attend mostly to local details. Similarly, Shohamy and Inbar ( 1991), in a study of the effect of text and question type on listening comprehension, found that less-skilled listeners performed much better on ‘local questions’ which requires the listener to identify details and facts, then on ‘global questions’ which required the listener to synthesize information, draw conclusions and make inferences. They, therefore, concluded that while high level listeners seemed to process the text in a knowledge-based manner, the low level listeners seemed to process the text in a data-driven manner.
However, some studies have found that skilled listeners are those who are able to monitor their developing interpretation of the incoming text by constantly checking it against the incoming linguistic cues and to modify their interpretation accordingly. Thus in listening comprehension, bottom-up and top-down processing are co-related in a complex relationship and both are used to interpret meaning. For the understanding the message, listeners must understand the phonetic input, vocabulary and syntax (bottom-up processing), and at the same time, use the context of situations, general knowledge, and past experiences (top-down processing). It means that to construct the meaning, listeners are not passively listening to speakers but are actively reconstructing the speakers’ intended meaning and getting meaningful information by decoding the sounds, words and phrases. < br />2.6. Material for teaching listening
Materials used for L2 listening comprehension instruction should reflect the features of real-life spoken language like using everyday dialogues or listening texts extracted from radio and TV programs. Therefore, classroom materials need to be authentic and reflective of real-life listening situations. When materials are not reflective of authentic language (e.g., recordings of a written text onto a tape), they hardly represent any real-life listening situations. Although listening to materials written to be read provides a certain type of exercise, that is, a formal-transactional speech exercise, it is not enough to prepare students to listen to real-life speech (Ur, 1984). Lectures, which are thought to be highly reflective of transactional speech (Brown & Yule, 1983), represent an important listening genre because they are also a part of real-life listening (Ur, as cited by Timson, 1996).
Richards (as cited by Timson, 1996) also states that lectures should be considered an important component of language learning and thus should not be restricted to advanced learners. Authentic materials can and should be used even with beginner learners (Field, 2002). Using authentic materials does not necessarily mean using real life listening texts in the classroom. Teachers should adapt authentic texts in terms of cognitive load and task demand instead of just simplifying the language of the text (Field, 2002). Adapting texts might be as easy as not having students to respond to the all of physical task demands, such as listening and marking places on a map. Teachers of English as a foreign language should consider all of the characteristics of real-life speech and provide their students with exercises representing as many of its features as possible. One of these features is to make learners aware of the nature of
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…