Listening listening and the last approaches about improving


Listening Sskills frompast to presentAbstractListening as a skill is essential forthe human being and it has always been a crucial part of interaction. It isdifferent from hearing.

Listening is, understanding the speakers’ accent orpronunciation, his grammar and his vocabulary, and grasping his meaning. A goodlistener is capable of doing these 4 elements simultaneously. So Listeningcomprehension is an important skill to develop and it lies at the heart oflanguage learning, but unfortunately, it is the least understood and leastresearched skill. Most activities involve more than just one language skill,but there are moments in which learners are engaged in a one language skill,such as when they are watching a film or writing a report, for instance.

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Thispaper brings together past approaches to recent researches and developments in thefield of second language (L2) listening and the last approaches about improvingand teaching listening skills. IntroductionAliciaMartínez-Flor and Esther Usó-Juan in their researchesbriefly outlines advances in the understanding of listening over the pastdecades. They present the theoretical foundations for a communicative approachto the teaching of listening. We overview a set of research areas that have adirect impact on L2 listening instruction: accessibility of input, top-downprocessing, bottom-up processing, and listener status. After that we representdifferent approaches which are propsed about listening skill. In this article,the role of the teacher is to teach learners how to listen by using a strategy-basedapproach. Then, we point out the ways in which the listening skill iscurrently taught and all aspects of the listening skill.

This paper, alsopresents critical overview of the methods employed to investigate listeningthat includes an overview of recent research dealing with: Past approaches to learningand teaching  L2 listening; recentapproaches to learning and teaching L2 listening; the use of technology inlistening instruction.  Pastapproaches to learning and teaching L2 listening (1960-1990)In this part we investigate listeningskill from point of view environmentalist, the innatist and the interactionistlanguage learning approaches. 1.

     Listening withinan environmentalist approach Up to the end of the 1960s listening was viewed as a passiveprocess without any role in language learning. In this approach, repeating,imitating and memorizing had the most important role in listening comprehension.Consequently, it was audiolingual teaching methodology which helped learners toimprove their hearing habits (Rost 2001; Flowerdew and Miller 2005). 2.

     Listening withinan innatist approach By the late 1960s Chomsky (1957, 1965) as an innatistresearcher, emphasised to the mental and cognitive processes involved in thecomprehension act. So it was assumed that for listening comprehension to takeplace, understanding language rather than simply repeating, imitating andmemorizing was the primary condition (Rost 1990). This approach highlighted theexplicit role of listening as a critical element for language learning andclaimed that reception should precede production (Peterson 2001). But relevantaspects such as the interactive nature of listening, the role that contextualfactors play while listening, as well as the fact that we listen for meaningand have a purpose when listening, were not taken into account. 3.      Listening within an interactionist approach By the late 1970s, the interactionist approach claimed that listeningshould focus on all piece of discourse instead of listening to single words orshort phrases spoken in isolation. So, listeners’ role changed from being justhearer toward listening for content and meaning (Rost 2001). In fact, whateverhad been previously neglected such as meaningful intent and communicativefunction, were now paramount aspects of the listening act.

This new conceptionof listening was termed purposeful listening, since, as claimed by Brown(1990: 147). The schema theory Task-Based or Interactive approachto listening In such an approach, the process listeners have to employ inorder to solve the task is more important than understanding the whole spokenpiece of discourse presented to them (Morley 2001; Flowerdew and Miller 2005).In the Interactive approach to listening, learners follow a decoding,critical-thinking, speaking model. Here, listeners have to interactwith speakers and respond to what they hear in order to establishcommunication. Teaching listening within acommunicative competence frameworkIn the 1970s, Hymes (1971, 1972) propounded the term communicativecompetence. The construct of communicative competencehas been proposed into different models which have evolved over the last twodecades in an attempt to increase the efficiency of the L2 teaching process(Canale and Swain 1980; Canale 1983; Savignon 1983; Bachman 1987, 1990; Celce-Murcia, Dörnyei, and Thurrell 1995; Alcón 2000; Usó-Juan and Martínez- Florthis volume).

All those models had some defects, but in this model that hasbeen proposed by Martínez-Flor and Usó-Juan, they have tried to resolve them.Four key areas in which researchhas provided insights into the teaching of second language listening1.     Accessibility ofinput: Access to relevant and appropriately challenging input is anessential factor in listening development. Factors thataffect quality of input Relevance: The morerelevant the listening opportunities, the more motivated the learner is to beto seek comprehensible input. Difficulty: Textdifficulty is a reflection of the cognitive processes required for an adequateunderstanding of a text and is known to consist of several variables involvinglength, speed, familiarity, information density, and text organization.Authenticity:It refers to the way the language is actually used.

 2.Top down processing: Activating background knowledge andexpectations by lexical access– guides the listening process and providesconnection with higher level reasoning. 3. Bottom up processing: Training in bottomup processing is a critical element in listening comprehension. Although effectof the first language may prevent efficient bottom up processing (metricalsegmentation and word recognition), particular training will promote betterlistening.  Components of bottom up processing In continuous speech, there isn’tauditory equivalence to the white spaces in reading continuous text, so the listenersdon’t have reliable cues for marking word boundaries.

Therecognizing of these boundaries is possible by word recognition.Word recognition is achieved onlyby phonological competence. There are 2 complementary phonologicalprocesses that help the listener: ·        Featuredetection: Speech processing research has shown that all of us have awide range of phonetic feature detectors in our auditory cortex which enable usto decode speech into linguistic units. ·        Metricalsegmentation refers to the use of stress and timing rules to segmentincoming speech into words, which are used for lexical processing and meaningconstruction.  4. Listener status: The listener’s statusinfluences comprehension, participation, and value of input for languageacquisition.

Engagement by the L2 user –assumption of an “active listening”role –promotes acquisition of listening skills and strategies. Cues Used by ListenersConrad(1981, 1985) investigated the types of cues to which learners and native speakersdevote their attention when listening. Results show that native speakers ofEnglish use primarily semantic cues to process aural texts, whereas bothintermediate and advanced learners tend to direct their attention to syntacticcues. Accordingto Harley, nonnative speakers of English, regardless of grade levelor L1 (Chinese or Polish), tended to rely on prosodic cues to interpretambiguous sentences or they adjusted the syntax to suit the prosodic cues. Alsothis was true of native English speakers in the primary and middle grades. Justwith native speakers at the secondary level did Harley observe a switch fromrelying on prosodic cues to relying on syntactic cues.

As a result of thesefindings, Harley argues that it was essential to familiarize learners with theprosodic patterns of the second language because these prosodic cues provided avery important linguistic foundation for successful inferencing. The findingsof these researchers suggest that learners should be encouraged to improvelistening strategies that focus more on prosodic and semantic cues and less onsyntactic cues.A main part of theteacher’s role in developing L2 listening skills is to sensitize students touseful signals, cues and other sources of help available to them in the spokenforms of the language.

Teachers should make some practices in which languagelearners make conscious use of both top and bottom as they try to understandwhat a speaker is saying

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