A Talk on Listening Strategies in English Learning
Abstract: Among the four main language learning skills, listening has always been the most basic and fundamental. But in China, the training of listening skills in English learning to students is not paid enough attention to. As a result, it is difficult for students to improve their listening ability. This essay involves listening strategies and how to use them in English learning. Key words: English learning; listening comprehension; listening strategies
According to some survey, it has been estimated that of the time spent in communication activities by adults, 45 percent is devoted to listening, 30 percent to speaking, only 16 percent to reading, and a mere 9 percent to writing. The importance of listening can be seen as simple as the common sense that if one does not grasp what is heard, then one has no ground to communicate. Thus, listening comprehension is the prerequisite measure of language proficiency. Yet, developing listening skills is never easy for those who learn a foreign language without going to the foreign countries where the target language is spoken. It takes little insight to see the importance of language environment either as a major barrier of a catalyst in listening comprehension. It seems natural for children to start speaking their mother tongue as soon as they start speaking; it is also common for scholars who spend years learning a foreign language and are able to read and write well yet doing very poorly in oral communication. The difference between the two lies in the language environment as the children are exposed to their mother tongue everyday while the scholars have few opportunities to be challenged by a foreign language environment in which oral communication is a must for daily life. Regarding learning English in China, the situation was particularly true in the past for that listening and speaking English were largely a classroom activity. Lacking such language environment, we see much of the foreign language learning has been focused on reading and writing rather than listening and speaking. 2. Definition of listening and listening comprehension
In the 1940s and earlier, the main stream of English (as a foreign language) teaching emphasized reading and writing, listening was largely neglected. In the late 1950s and 1960s, listening started to gain some attention yet the scope was still limited to pure linguistic such as identifying the sound making up the words. It was only after the 1970s that considerable changes in listening teaching took place, in which a much broader understanding of listening started to emerge including the very definition of listening itself. One of the definitions is: Listening is the activity of paying attention to and trying to get information from something we hear. To listen successfully, we need to be able to work out what speakers mean when they use particular words in particular ways on particular occasions and not simply to understand the word themselves. (Underwood, 1983: 13) It is worth noting here that a successful listening demands more than understanding the words that have been spoken, implying that special training is needed on how to listen, which is the central concern of listening comprehension. With the development of active listening theory, scholars became critically aware that listening comprehension is an active and complex process (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990). Various conceptualizations have been developed for better understanding of the complexity of such process. According to O’Malley and Chamot, the steps of listening comprehension involve three interrelated processes: perceptual processing, parsing, and utilization. Those processes are recursive in that uninterrupted shifts may occur from the one process to the next and back to pervious process. In perceptual processing, parts of the texts are retained in...
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