Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 1Different perspectivesabout the listening skill:a comparison between Jeremy Harmer and Douglas Brown.Víctor A. GonzálezandJuan A. RosalesUniversidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 2Many authors have analyzed and studied the listening stage in the learningand acquisition process of a second language, which is in this case English.Throughout time they have proposed several views about the stage. Currently, asa result of several researches we have the opportunity to look at them and todistinguish which one is the most suitable for us according to our reality, likes andthe way we see or illustrate the teaching process in this particular area. In thefollowing Comparative Essay we will expose, review, compare and contrast twoviewpoints about how to teach listening. We will introduce Jeremy Harmer’s andDouglas Brown’s view. Later on we will compare and contrast these two positions,analyzing similarities and differences between them. The idea is to show theirperception about the listening teaching process, the composition of assessmenttools, the way teacher should conduct a listening activity, the changes ineducational environment and the different resources that a teacher can use toprovide the students enough tools for making this process easier for them. Finally,a summary will be presented stating the main conclusions and implications of thisComparative Essay.First of all, is important to mention the main characteristics of both authors.On the one hand we have Jeremy Harmer’s view. In his book called “how to teachEnglish” he reviews and gives an analysis of all the different parts of what teachingEnglish is about. He demonstrates and covers the language skills that we possess(reading, listening, writing and speaking) and that have to be considered whenteaching English. In addition, he provides the way in which a teacher should
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 3conduct the teaching process; giving emphasis on how to address to the students,how to give them clear instructions, how to define the stages of a lesson and howto motivate students. This last one is certainly the elemental part of this entiresubject. Otherwise students would not get involved in the process. Moreover, heanalyses different types of teaching listening activities for the different levels ofEnglish that learners can have. Furthermore, he proves that not only audio-listening activities are permitted, but also the use of videos to cover the listeningarea proposing 4 different types of organizing the students and the classroom, inorder to get this work properly.On the second hand we have Douglas Brown’s view. In his book called“Principle and classroom practices” he mentions two concepts that interact witheach other. These are performance and observation. According to Brown (2004),we as teachers can observe performance no matter what the skills are. However,there is another concept called competence which refers to the student’sknowledge about a piece of information. Brown states this cannot be observed butonly assessed. In addition, this concept is conditioned by a series of factors, suchas, anxiety or tiredness. Thus, the teacher has to consider different ways ofevaluating the students’ competences. He also points out that observation isessential for teachers in order to perceive and determine what students know.Moreover, he claims that in receptive skills, in this case listening, neither theprocess of performing nor the product can be noticed because you observe theresults of the listening but the listening process is mental and individual. Therefore,the product of what students listened to is in the brain. The teacher can only
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 4appreciate what students express in whether written or spoken for; thus, theinference capacity is required so that a teacher is able to assess listening.Furthermore, since inference is demanding process, Brown proposes several sortsof assessments task. This will be useful for a teacher when observing students’performance and it will facilitate the conclusion making about the students’comprehension.Secondly, it is necessary to declare the main differences between bothauthors. At first glance, both authors present a notorious difference on theirperspectives about the listening process. On the one hand, Brown’s view is morerelated with the cognitive part of acquiring listening skills. He focuses on the typesof listening and the student’s mental abilities. This means that the abilities shownby the students will depend on the activity. He also mentions different types oflistening; intensive, responsive, selective and extensive. In addition, he explainsthe abilities that a student can use; note-taking, editing, interpret and retelling.Moreover, he highlights that the relation between the type of activity and the abilityis essential for accomplishing the objective of the listening. On the other hand,Harmer’s view is close to the pragmatic part of language that is achieved throughthe learning and acquiring of listening skills. He gives an answer to the question ofwhy teaching listening. His answers are stated pragmatically. Here he notes theimportance of exposing the students to the listening part. The purpose is gettingthe students engaged to the lesson simulating different social context related withthe English language. The development of these abilities will allow the learners totalk and use the language in real situations; thus, they will feel comfortable at the
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 5moment of speaking in English and expressing their thoughts to a native speakeror a second language user.In addition, another big discrepancy between the two authors is their focus.Harmer (1998) states and categorizes the different levels that the students mayhave. He proposed different activities and ways to approach these levels(beginner, elementary, intermediate and upper intermediate) that go fromconsidering general features to specific ones. However, he does not distinguishbetween types of activities or types of skills, he just keeps away this categorizationand states these four major levels in which every student belongs depending ontheir listening knowledge. On the contrary, Brown does not consider the differentlevels. Instead, he makes a more complex distinction between the activities andwhat he explains as micro and macro skills. The first group has to do withidentifying smaller bits and chunks of language in more of a bottom-up processwhereas the second group is related to the recognition of larger elements of thelanguage, being more of a top-down process.Moreover, Brown mentions the impediments that students may have duringa listening task which are clustering, redundancy, colloquial language, reducedform, etc. Thus, it implies that the students may get confused and have a wrongperception during the listening, so they will not perform correctly. Nevertheless,Harmer only states distractive problems. He argues that during the listening thestudents may get distracted by something external to the classroom. Thus, hesuggests to the teachers to pay special attention to the environment of the
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 6classroom and the type of listening selected, which must be meaningful for them inorder to ensure motivation.Thirdly, a similarity between both authors has to be considered. As Harmeras Brown manifest the significance of giving meaning to what students hear ratherthan just paying attention to details or to identify particular language features. Thiscan be observed and explained by one of Harmer’s principles in which heestablishes the importance of encouraging the students to respond to the contentof a listening, not just to the language in detail. For instance, he gives the ideaasking a question like “do you agree?”, which implies open answers, rather than“what language did she use to invite him?”, in which the answer is limited.Finally, it is important to express the appreciation and importance of eachauthor about the listening process. Harmer highlights the importance of teachinglistening because if you expose the students to different accents they will get useto these variations; thus, they will understand a greater variety of listening taskswithout getting confused. He also claims that teaching listening is beneficialbecause it helps students to acquire language in a subconscious way. Therefore,they obtain vital information not only about grammar and vocabulary, but also interms of pronunciation, rhythm, intonation, pitch and stress. On the other hand,Brown states that listening should be taken into account because we are prone tolisten more and speak less. In addition, he claims that the listening process isimportant because it allows students to acquire knowledge about the language thatis being object of study.
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 7In summary, both authors present their arguments about why listening is afundamental skill to develop in students. What is going to be mentioned is what wepreserved from the readings about both authors and their insights. The followingcomparisons will be enumerated. 1. While Brown states that listening is importantfor acquisition, Harmer believes that it is important in terms of pragmatic. 2. Harmerdoes not present a detailed list of activities as Brown does, but he presentsdifferent levels to which students could belong. 3. The disadvantages of thelistening process are opposite from each other. Brown states that students may getconfused during the listening whereas Harmer argues that students may getdistracted in it. The most noticeable aspects of the authors is the fact that Brownmakes great emphasis on activities and skills whereas Harmer only makes thedistinction in terms of technical issues because he presents general characteristicsof the listening activities. For example, the difficulty of the recording, the accent orthe concern about whether TICs are operating. Yet he does not refer to specifictypes of activities or specific types of listening.
Running head: DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ABOUT THE LISTENING SKILL 8REFERENCESBrown, D. (2004). Language assessment: Principles and classroompractices. NY: Pearson Education , Inc.Harmer, J. (1998). How to teach English: Malaysia: Pearson EducationLimited.