Support for foreign language listeners: Its effectiveness and limitations


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The assessment of listening comprehension in a second language has
received relatively little attention until recently. This study investigated the effective-
ness of providing different types of listening support for learners in a foreign language
environment with a low level of English proficiency. The research was conducted with
140 students taking an English listening course at a college in Taiwan. The participants
took sections of a listening test under four different conditions. Two of the conditions
provided support in the form of either a set of pictures or a written background text.
The third condition was a repetition of the test input, whereas the fourth one was simply
no type of support. After the test, the participants completed a short questionnaire and
some of them were also interviewed. According to the results, repeating the input was
the most effective treatment, followed by having visual and textual support. However,
the limits of the learners’ English competence meant that all of the types of support
could improve their comprehension only to a certain degree. Nevertheless, the provi-
sion of appropriate support may motivate foreign language learners to improve their
listening proficiency by making adequate comprehension more attainable for them.

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  • 2. A number of studies have shown that 3. It appears that The expected results indicated that a similar effect may be found when learners are given specific preparation for a listening task before they undertake it.
  • although there is some evidence that
  • The study was conducted as an experiment with
  • To sum up the effects of using three different forms of listening support with learners of limited listening proficiency, we have found the following: 2. Regarding perceptions of different forms of support, the
  • Support for foreign language listeners: Its effectiveness and limitations

    1. 1. Reporter: Cindy Shen Anna Ching-Shyang Chang & John Read RELC Journal, 38 (3), 375-394 Support for Foreign Language Listeners: Its Effectiveness and Limitations
    2. 2. <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Method </li></ul><ul><li>Results and Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul><ul><li>Outline </li></ul>
    3. 3. I. Introduction <ul><li>3 principal sources of information used in the </li></ul><ul><li>process of listening </li></ul><ul><li>system or linguistic knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>schematic or non-linguistic information </li></ul><ul><li>context </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>Listening is considered more difficult for EFL </li></ul><ul><li>learners (Graham, 2002, 2006) . </li></ul><ul><li>formal instruction </li></ul><ul><li>exposure to authentic input is limited </li></ul><ul><li>comprehend it can be painful and frustrating, </li></ul><ul><li>particularly for low-level students </li></ul><ul><li>in a test situation (Chang 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>it is not so vital that the listener understands </li></ul><ul><li>all that is said right away </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Therefore, it is desirable to include various forms </li></ul><ul><li>of listening support in a listening test because </li></ul><ul><li>they can provide learners with a context for </li></ul><ul><li>interpretation and also activate background </li></ul><ul><li>knowledge (Buck, 1995). </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Pre-listening activities activates students’ </li></ul><ul><li>background knowledge (Mendelsohn, 1995; </li></ul><ul><li>Underwood, 1989). </li></ul><ul><li>Having relevant background knowledge of the </li></ul><ul><li>topic has a significant effect on listening </li></ul><ul><li>comprehension (Chiang & Dunkel, 1992; Jensen & Hansen 1995; Long 1990; Markham & Latham 1987; Schmidt-Rinehart 1994; Teng, 1996) </li></ul><ul><li>Introducing learners to key vocabulary in a </li></ul><ul><li>listening text may have an effect only when </li></ul><ul><li>combined with other pre-listening activities </li></ul><ul><li>(Chen & Graves, 1995; Hsieh, 1999). </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>Repeating the input improves L2 listeners’ </li></ul><ul><li>comprehension (Berne, 1995; Cervantes & </li></ul><ul><li>Gainer, 1992; Chang, 2004; Chang et al., 1993; Elkhafaifi, 2005; Lin, 2005; Teng, 1998). </li></ul><ul><li>Low-proficiency listeners have insufficient </li></ul><ul><li>linguistic competence to be able to take </li></ul><ul><li>advantage of the repetition </li></ul><ul><li>(Chiang & Dunkel, 1992; Chang & Read, 2006). </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>Test-takers’ affective schemata can influence </li></ul><ul><li>their responses to the task </li></ul><ul><li>either facilitate or limit the flexibility with which </li></ul><ul><li>they respond in a given context (Bachman & </li></ul><ul><li>Palmer, 1996 ). </li></ul>
    9. 9. Research questions: <ul><li>Q1. Can the comprehension of low-level listeners be enhanced through listening support? </li></ul><ul><li>If so, which form of listening support is more </li></ul><ul><li>facilitative? </li></ul><ul><li>Q2. What effects (if any) will different types of </li></ul><ul><li>listening support have on students’ perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>of the task? </li></ul>
    10. 10. Method <ul><li>Participants : 140 Taiwanese college students </li></ul><ul><li>who obtained a scaled score of 165 out of 495 in the listening section of TOEIC. </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>Design </li></ul><ul><li>three experimental treatments and a control </li></ul><ul><li>condition </li></ul><ul><li>Visual Support (VS) with pictures or illustrations </li></ul><ul><li>to the talk </li></ul><ul><li>Textual Support (TS) means reading materials </li></ul><ul><li>represented in the short text in Chinese to be read </li></ul><ul><li>in advance </li></ul><ul><li>Repeated Input (RI) indicated the participants </li></ul><ul><li>heard each talk twice </li></ul><ul><li>No Support (NS) involved simply taking the </li></ul><ul><li>listening test without any support </li></ul>
    12. 12. Instruments and Materials <ul><li>Listening Test. (1) multiple-choice (2) gap-filling </li></ul><ul><li>Support Material. </li></ul><ul><li>(1) For the VS treatment , the </li></ul><ul><li>listening passages are accompanied by a series of line </li></ul><ul><li>drawings to illustrate their content. </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Textual Support treatment , a short text of </li></ul><ul><li>around 100 words was written in Chinese for </li></ul><ul><li>each of the three listening passages. </li></ul><ul><li>(3) Post-test Questionnaire. rank all three </li></ul><ul><li>forms of support in terms of their perceived </li></ul><ul><li>effectiveness. </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Voluntarily to take part in an in-depth, retrospective interview </li></ul><ul><li>Participants in four classes were counterbalancedly presented in the four listening conditions. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Data Analysis <ul><li>A one-way ANOVA was conducted to evaluate </li></ul><ul><li>the effects of the various forms of support on the learners’ listening comprehension. </li></ul><ul><li>For the responses to the post-test questionnaire , a non-parametric technique, the Friedman Test , was used to compare the differences between </li></ul><ul><li>groups. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Results and Discussion <ul><li>Test Results </li></ul><ul><li>repeating the input was the most effective </li></ul><ul><li>treatment, followed by having visual and </li></ul><ul><li>textual support . </li></ul><ul><li>However, the limits of the learners’ English </li></ul><ul><li>competence meant that all of the types of support </li></ul><ul><li>could improve their comprehension only to a </li></ul><ul><li>certain degree (Chang, 2006). </li></ul>
    16. 16. Conclusion <ul><li>Students’ comprehension scores were </li></ul><ul><li>found to be consistent with their perceptions , </li></ul><ul><li>particularly in the case of RI . </li></ul><ul><li>With VS, there were difficulties in interpreting the </li></ul><ul><li>pictures </li></ul><ul><li>TS text was considered less helpful by these low-ability </li></ul><ul><li>students due to the threshold of linguistic knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>needed to comprehend more detailed questions. </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>Advantages: quantitative and qualitative </li></ul><ul><li>(in-depth, retrospective interview) research </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestion: </li></ul><ul><li>- APA format </li></ul><ul><li>- Instruments (listening test) with examples </li></ul>
    18. 18. Pedagogical implications: <ul><li>conduct remedial teaching in cognitive and affective domains </li></ul><ul><li>This study also implied that repeated input has a </li></ul><ul><li>psychological effect in reducing the anxiety that foreign </li></ul><ul><li>language listeners experience (Buck, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>RI is the most effective type of listening support both in </li></ul><ul><li>comprehension and from questionnaire, i.e., listening to the </li></ul><ul><li>input material at least twice (Teng, 1998) as Language </li></ul><ul><li>Proficiency Test in Taipei City and TASA </li></ul><ul><li>Friedman Test </li></ul><ul><li>a realistic and authentic context </li></ul>