Listening is one of the key components of language acquisition. It is impossible to imagine language learning without developing listening skills. Without an exaggeration, listening is one of the basic aspects of foreign language acquisition, which allows students to communicate with each other and feel real spoken language.
Spoken communication is a great experience and it cannot be compared with written language. This experience is absolutely different from ability to read and understand written foreign language. That is why one of the most important aspects of language learning is developing a variety of listening strategies. They depend on listening situation and on the purpose of the student.
Although all listening strategies are equally important for language acquisition, we would like to focus our attention on top-down strategies. This type of strategies depend mainly on student. Student’s education and background knowledge allows him to understand foreign spoken language, recognize the main idea of a speaker, allows making some predictions, etc.
This listening strategy can be easily incorporated into any lesson plan. Also, top-down strategies can be used for students with different level of foreign language. It is vital to note that teacher should do everything possible for the student to understand spoken communication. First of all, this can be done by giving students some additional information about the topic of a dialogue. In addition, it is desirable to discuss with students the situation in which the dialogue takes place. Moreover, teacher should give explanation of the language used in the conversation, etc. All of the mentioned above tips will help students to understand the dialogue and the main idea of any conversation. This information can also stimulate students to make some predictions and suggestions concerning the future actions of the speakers and their next steps.
Teachers can introduce this listening strategy for students of any age. Level of foreign language also does not play the main role. It is just important to choose appropriate exercise, which will be interesting and clear for the certain group of students.
For developing top-down listening strategy students of intermediate level can be offered to listen to a dialogue and complete several activities closely related to the listening task. Listening activity should cover conversational topic and grammar, which are learned by students at this period of time. In our example, we would like to offer students to listen to a dialogue between a doctor and a patient. Their conversation can serve as a good additional material for the topic “At the hospital” and will help students to learn more about this theme.
Before students start listening to the dialogue, they will be offered to complete some pre-listening tasks. Such technique is rather helpful, because it will allow students to get prepared for their listening task. First of all, teacher should discuss with students specific vocabulary and grammar constructions, which can be found in the dialogue. It is a good idea to write some new and key words on the blackboard for the students to see them, while listening. Students can also be proposed to discuss their expectations of the dialogue, its content, etc. Before students begin listening, it is necessary to explain their task.
In our exercise, students will be offered to listen to the dialogue for several times. During the first time, they will be asked to listen to the main idea, key words and be able to tell the teacher what they understood from the dialogue.
Before the second listening students will be offered to look though the task, which they have to complete, while listening to the conversation. After clarifying the task, students will listen to the dialogue and complete a while-listening task. In the while-listening task, they will have to fill the gaps and find answers to several questions. When the conversation ends, students will have some time to complete the task and share their results with the rest of the class.
The first part of the exercise will help students to understand the main idea of the conversation, while the second part will allow students to focus on certain details and share their findings with other students.
Listening skills are rather important, but quite often students do not like this type of exercise, because they find it quite difficult. That is why the task of any teacher is to do everything possible to make listening an interesting and informative activity. Themes of conversations should be appropriate for the audience, their knowledge, cultural background, interests, etc. Pre and while-listening activities should help students to understand the dialogue and should not distract from understanding oral language.
As it can be seen, listening is crucial for development of the language. If you cannot understand oral speech, it is hardly possible to say that you know foreign language. Understanding spoken language is above all and students should realize this fact. Being able to understand oral language gives a lot of opportunities. The most important thing is that it allows learning foreign language easier and better.
Kegler, S. B. (n.d). Techniques in Teaching Listening for Main Ideas. The English Journal.
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Learning Through Listening. Classroom Tools. Sound Advice. Learning Ally, Inc. (2011).