TEACHING THE RECEPTIVE SKILLS
Listening & Reading Skills
Dr. Fadwa D. Al-Jawi
Teaching English Language Skills
Language instruction includes four important skills. These skills are Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The main reason for isolating these skills and discussing them separately is to highlight their importance and to impress upon the teachers to place emphasis on their teaching and deal with them in a balanced way. Some language skills are neglected during the classroom practice and hence they are given insufficient and inadequate exposure; Research shows that listening and speaking are nearly neglected and not well recognized by' most EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia. These skills are largely considered as passive skills. Language skills are divided into receptive arid productive ones. The receptive skills include listening and reading while the productive ones are speaking and writing. Language skills could also be divided into aural and graphic ones. The aural skills deal with listening and speaking ability while the graphic skills focus on reading and writing (see figure 1). Extensive exposure to receptive skills leads to the productive one. Wilkins (1984: 1 00) maintains that "the transfer of linguistic knowledge from receptive to productive is probably a relatively slow process, but it does take place, as the study of language acquisition shows." Hence, a rich exposure to listening and reading is required to attain mastery and proficiency in natural production. Figure (1): differences between the aural and graphic skills
Part I: Teaching the Receptive Skills
Receptive skills are the ways in which people extract meaning from the discourse they see or hear. There are generalities about this kind of processing which apply to both reading and listening - and which will be addressed in this chapter - but there are also significant differences between reading and listening processes too, and in the ways we can teach these skills in the classroom.
How we read and listen
When we read a story or a newspaper, listen to the news, or take part in conversation we employ our previous knowledge as we approach the process of comprehension, and we deploy a range of receptive skills; which ones we use will be determined by our reading or listening purpose. What a reader will bring to understand a piece of discourse is much more than just knowing the language. In order to make sense of any text we need to have 'pre-existent knowledge of the world' (Cook 1989: 69). Such knowledge is often referred to as schema (plural schemata). Each of us carries in our heads mental representations of typical situations that we come across. When we are stimulated by particular words, discourse patterns, or contexts, such schematic knowledge is activated and we are able to recognise what we see or hear because it fits into patterns that we already know. As Chris Tribble points out, we recognise a letter of rejection or a letter offering a job within the first couple of lines (Tribble 1997: 35). have to work doubly hard to understand what they see or hear When we see a written text our schematic knowledge may first tell us what kind of text genre we are dealing with. Thus if we recognise an extract as coming from a novel we will have expectations about the kind of text we are going to read. These will be different from the expectations aroused if we recognise a piece of text as coming from an instruction manual. Knowing what kind of a text we are dealing with allows us to predict the form it may take at the text; paragraph, and sentence level. Key words and phrases alert us to the subject of a text, and this again allows us, as we read, to predict what is coming next. In conversation knowledge of typical interactions helps participants to communicate efficiently. As the conversation continues, the speakers and listeners draw upon various schemata -including genre,...