PROBLEMS IN TEACHING LISTENING IN EFL CLASSROOMS By Gary McCloud
OUR FOCUS IS: How To Improve Listening Comprehension by the L2 Student OUR SOLUTION IS: By Increasing L2 listener’s Use of Cognitive Listening Strategies We begin by asking: Why do so many L2 students in EFL classrooms have trouble understanding what they listen to? From beginners to advanced, most L2 students often say “… but I didn’t understand what they said...” why? why? why? why? why?
To answer this, we must take a look at exactly what the listening process is The listening Process can be defined as: “an active process in which listener’s select and interpret information that comes from auditory and visual clues in order to define what is going on and what the speakers are trying to say” (Thompson & Rubin, 1996). But as we know, many L2 listeners believe they can’t do this well. What exactly are some of the reasons they give:
Three major reasons that L2 listeners give for not understanding are: Speed of Speaking: what L2 listeners hear seems to be spoken too quickly; they can’t control the pace at which the speaker speaks Phonology: L2 listeners often can’t hear or pronounce letters/sounds that don’t occur in their mother language; they often can’t decode reduced forms Interpretation Problems: L2 listeners often hear words/phrases correctly but get the wrong meaning. They get lost in the idioms and colloquialisms Therefore, how can we as teachers help L2 learners who have such difficulties improve their listening comprehension?
Teachers Can Focus on Listening Strategies Now, we will focus on the cognitive listening strategy and how it relates to the 3 problems above The cognitive listening strategy can be partially defined as “situation-specific techniques used during the performance of a speaking/listening task to facilitate comprehension, for example, listening for details, making inferences, using background knowledge (top-down processing), getting the gist of material, etc.” Cognitive listening strategy as it relates to L2 problem “Speed of Speaking”: Since L2 learners think speakers speak too fast, teachers need to be aware of why this happens. Teachers need to understand how to better organize a listening activity in the classroom. Teachers need to understand that students, when hearing a recording in class, are unable to get non verbal clues or pick up on sounds or catch the gist.
Therefore, when planning a listening activity that includes a recording, a teacher could: Explain the situation in the recording and have students predict what the dialogue might be, before they listen to it Repeat the recording several times Have students take notes of the recording Explain the dialogue Role paly the dialogue so as to reveal nonverbal clues Have students get into groups and role play the dialogue Have the students change some words in the dialogue to keep the same meaning, or to get new meaning