Teaching L2 Listening: Theory, Research and Practice*)
Willy Ardian Renandya, Maria Hidayati & Francisca Maria Ivone
*) This is a draft chapter for an edited book to be published by Routledge. Your feedback is most welcome.
Although listening is often regarded as a foundational skill upon which learners develop their other macro language skills of speaking, reading, and writing (Burns & Siegel, 2023), it has not received the kind of research attention that it deserves. There are literally hundreds of ELT scholars who devote their entire academic careers researching the nature of L2 speaking, reading and writing and how these skills can best be taught in the language classrooms, but the same cannot be said about L2 listening. There are only a handful of ELT scholars who have written extensively about L2 listening (e.g., Anna C.S. Chang, Christine Goh, John Field and Larry Vandergrift, just to name a few). This has resulted in a much smaller (though growing) body of literature in the field of L2 listening.
The same can be said of the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) listening in Indonesia. Listening is taught alongside the other three language skills – reading, writing, and speaking – at the high school level, where English is a compulsory subject. Listening has only recently been gaining the attention of secondary English teachers because it is one of the language skills tested in the national examination. At the tertiary education level, particularly in the English department, it is most frequently taught separately from other language skills. However, most of the research and publications on teaching listening in Indonesia are conducted in the later context in which listening is taught as a discrete course. When it is research at the secondary school level, it is always in the context of integrated language teaching and learning.
Listening does not seem to be a popular skill to teach either. Given a choice, most language teachers would say that they would rather teach the three macro skills than listening. Listening, they would say, is the most difficult and the least enjoyable skill to teach. They would ask: other than asking students to listen to an audio or video recording and then checking their comprehension using the standard listening comprehension questions, what else is there for the teacher to do to engage the students in the lesson? Their reluctance probably stems from their lack of experience in teaching listening also their lack of familiarity with recent discussions in the ELT professional literature on the theory and pedagogical practices of L2 listening. However, as we shall see in this chapter, the teaching of listening can be both enjoyable and rewarding for both the teachers and students. This is especially true when information and communication technology (ICT) is involved, as it has the potential to change the way EFL listening is taught and learned.
The chapter begins by providing an overview of the link between listening and speaking and how the former plays a key role in the development of the latter. The next part of the chapter discusses two major approaches for teaching listening: (i) teaching listening as comprehension and (ii) teaching listening as acquisition. While both have important roles in students’ listening development, we argue that the second approach should be adopted more widely in language programmes so that students can fully benefit from the frequent exposure to comprehensible, compelling, and rich language input. Following that, some methodological approaches, and pedagogical techniques currently in use in teaching listening in Indonesia will be examined, and some future research directions will be presented. The last part of the chapter presents practical suggestions on how the quantity and frequency of listening can be substantially increased in the language classrooms in Indonesia.
The primacy of listening in one’s language development is a well-established fact in both first and second language learning (Stephen, 2011). In first language learning contexts, children constantly hear the language spoken by people around them. After around 12 months, they begin to say one-word or two-word sentences in their attempt to communicate their needs, wants and desires to others. Another 12 months later, these children begin to use language more frequently and fluently, albeit with some noticeable grammatical errors. At around five years of age, most children will have developed a fairly complex linguistic system that allows them to express a greater variety of language functions (e.g., thanking, apologizing, requesting, complaining, complimenting, expressing concerns etc). Feldman (2019), for example, observes that by age 5, children already have several thousands of vocabulary words, can form complex sentences, can infer meanings, understand humour and are ready to learn to read.
It is important to note here that this early linguistic knowledge is largely implicit and intuitive, i.e., the kind of knowledge that enables children to engage in spontaneous and effortless oral interactions with the people around them. Their speech is characterized by the presence of a large number of stock phrases or formulaic expressions (e.g., what is it? How come? You wanna see my new toy? I wanna go home, etc). These fixed lexical phrases are subconsciously acquired from the language input and play a fundamental role in the production of fluent speech (Ellis, 2014; Wood, 2002).
In EFL contexts, students typically get exposed to a lot more written than spoken language. In the classroom, teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching reading and writing skills. Listening and speaking skills are typically given less attention. One of the oft-cited reasons is that EFL teachers are less confident in teaching oral skills. They may have good literacy skills, but their ability to engage in spontaneous oral communications may still be at the lower end of the proficiency scale. In addition, in the context of teaching EFL listening, teachers lack professional development training, have limited knowledge of teaching methods, and are not familiar with the technology used in teaching listening (Songbatumis, 2017). Because students receive minimal exposure to spoken language in the classroom, their oracy skills tend to lag behind their literacy skills. Their speech sound inventory may be severely under-developed, resulting in their poor listening comprehension skills. Given the well-established link between listening and speaking (Nord, 1981; Winitz, 1981), students with limited listening skills tend to exhibit poor speaking skills.
In some EFL contexts, where students get a daily dose of listening lessons delivered using well-established teaching methods such as shared book reading or interactive reading, their oracy skills tend to develop rather quickly. Their listening improves, their grammar and vocabulary grow faster and their ability to use the language for oral communication also increases significantly (Elley, 1989; Elley & Mangubhai, 1981). Unfortunately, these language learning contexts are more of an exception and mostly found in well-resourced schools (usually private institutions) where the teaching is done by highly qualified teachers and where students can further enjoy greater amounts of oral language exposure from the school’s extensive language learning resources.
It should be clear from the brief discussion in the previous section that listening plays a paramount role in spoken language development. It serves as a springboard for the development of speaking skills. ELT experts believe students need to do a lot of meaningful listening practice before they can develop their speaking skills. This does not mean that during the listening practice we don’t allow students to speak. Students can practice speaking if they so wish. The focus of the listening practice is to provide students with ample opportunities to meet with familiar words and grammatical sentences multiple times until these language features become internalized in their linguistic system. This is how students develop a high degree of fluency in listening, i.e., the ability to comprehend spoken language quickly and effortlessly.
The role of fluency in language learning cannot be overestimated. Fluency, research suggests, is a key language acquisition process that often gets neglected in traditional language lessons (Nation, 2014). Nation (2007) maintains that fluency, the ability to process language rapidly and smoothly, involves students practicing what they already know on a daily basis so that they become better and faster in processing language skills. This often means that students doing a lot of listening and reading of familiar text and/or speaking and writing on familiar topics. Nation (2007) suggests that fluency development constitutes one of the four main strands in a balanced language programme and should occupy roughly about a quarter of instructional time. The other three strands, i.e., input-based learning, language-focused learning and output-based learning get an equal amount of instructional time.
However, what seems to be a fairly clear, straightforward relationship between listening and speaking as reported in the professional literature does not often get translated into instructional practices. Listening is either not given enough time and attention, or when it is taught, it is done in ways that may stifle rather than promote fluent listening skills.
So how is listening typically taught in foreign language classrooms? The section below discusses two dominant approaches to teaching listening, i.e., teaching listening as comprehension and teaching listening as acquisition
APPROACHES TO TEACHING LISTENING
This section discusses two dominant approaches to teaching listening: teaching listening as comprehension and teaching listening as acquisition. The first approach has been around for years and continues to be widely used by teachers. The second approach is not as popular yet, but given what we now know about the nature of instructed second language acquisition (see Ellis, 2014), we argue that a wider adoption of this approach is theoretically and pedagogically justifiable.
- Teaching listening as comprehension
Also known as the listen-then-answer-comprehension-questions pedagogy, this approach to teaching listening is by far the most widely used approaches in foreign language teaching. This approach considers listening as a developmental skill involving learners’ ability to resolve what they listen to (Feyten, 1991; Richards, 2008). As a result, learners’ time are devoted to a good deal of listening comprehension in learning the language. It is characterized by the following features (Renandya & Hu, 2018, p. 41):
- An emphasis on the product rather than the process of listening, with the main pedagogical aim being to help students extract meaning from the text;
- Use of inauthentic scripted materials devoid of features typically found in naturally occurring conversational/spoken language;
- Overuse of the comprehension-based approach, which puts students on the perpetual cycle of (i) listening, (ii) answering comprehension questions and (iii) checking answers.
A typical listening lesson often begins with a pre-listening phase, where the teacher conducts a warm-up activity to get students interested in the topic of the listening text. This phase may also be used to teach key listening comprehension skills (e.g., identifying main ideas, utilizing prior knowledge to make inferences and spotting discourse markers) or pre-teach some unfamiliar vocabulary and grammar. In the during-listening phase, students typically listen to the listening materials a couple of times to extract the main ideas and some important details. In the post-listening phase, students work individually or in groups to answer a set of teacher prepared comprehension questions. The questions may be of the literal or inferential and/or those that require students to synthesize and evaluate information presented in the listening text, The teacher then checks students’ answers and provide explanations on incorrect answers.
The teaching procedures discussed above are pretty standard and reflect a traditional belief about the nature of language learning. Language learning, including learning to listen in another language, is a complex process involving numerous inter-related linguistic and non-linguistic elements. The teacher’s job is to identify these elements and teach them in an orderly, systematic and sequential fashion. The linguistic elements of spoken text, for example, comprise the sounds, words, sentences, discourse structures, etc. These elements need to be taught one at a time and systematically so that students will eventually be able to master these linguistic elements. Similarly, the non-linguistic elements of listening comprehension, according to Richards (1983), consist of a large number of listening comprehension skills that need to be taught one at a time. These comprehension skills are a set of listening abilities required for learners to have effective and successful comprehension and the use of the information from listening texts. The following are examples of micro listening skills that students need to master to develop their listening comprehension (1983, pp. 228-229):
Micro-Skills: Conversational Listening
- ability to retain chunks of language of different lengths for short periods
- ability to discriminate among the distinctive sounds of the target language
- ability to recognize the stress patterns of words
- ability to recognize the rhythmic structure of English
- ability to recognize the functions of stress and intonation to signal the information structure of utterances
Micro-Skills: Academic Listening (Listening to Lectures)
- ability to identify purpose and scope of lecture
- ability to identify topic of lecture and follow topic development
- ability to identify relationships among units within discourse (e.g., major ideas, generalizations, hypotheses, supporting ideas, examples)
- ability to identify role of discourse markers in signalling structure of a lecture (e.g., conjunctions, adverbs, gambits, routines)
- ability to infer relationships (e.g., cause, effect, conclusion)
Richards further pointed out that in teaching listening, one of the key goals is to help learners acquire a set of listening micro-skills which have been pre-selected based on the needs of the students and the objectives of the teaching. According to Richards (1983: 232),
In teaching listening we can manipulate two variables, both of which serve to develop ability in particular skill areas. We can either manipulate the input, that is, the language which the learner hears, controlling for selected features such as grammatical complexity, topic, and rate of delivery, or we can manipulate the tasks we set for the learner. Manipulation of either (or both) is directed toward developing particular micro-skills.
The comprehension-based or skills-based approach to teaching listening, despite its popularity, has not produced the desired learning outcomes (Renandya & Hu, 2018; Wang & Renandya, 2012). EFL students continue to experience difficulties when listening to authentic language. Text, interlocutor, task, process, and listener characteristics have been shown in the literature to contribute to the success (or failure) in listening comprehension (Rubin, 1994). Among these characteristics, learners’ limited vocabulary and prior knowledge, as well as the type of input, speech rate, and speaker’s accent are known to be major sources of L2 listening problems (Goh, 1999). From the learners’ points of view, their learning attitudes, lack of learning strategy knowledge, and limited listening skills also contribute to problems in L2 listening (Graham, 2006; Hasan, 2000). For those with lower proficiency, real-time processing of aural texts, speech rate, words and phrases in connected speech, and blurry word boundaries often cause aural comprehension problems (Renandya & Farrell, 2011). Moreover, poor sound quality, the absence of visual aids, unclear pronunciation or fast speech, boring topics, and long texts also cause listening problems (Hasan, 2000).
Zeng (2007, p. 46), for example, found that his college students in China continued to encounter difficulties when listening to spoken language. Table 1 below shows oft-reported listening problems.
Table 1. Top Ten Listening Problems
|No.||Sources of Listening Problems||%|
|3.||Unable to recognize known words||90%|
|5.||Missing subsequent input||80%|
|9.||Anxiety and frustration||45%|
It should be noted that most of the listening problems in Table 1 are associated with what experts have referred to as lower-level problems, i.e., problems to do with basic language (e.g., vocabulary) and processing problems (e.g., speech rate, inability to segment known words in connected speech). These lower-level listening problems are so pervasive among beginning level EFL students that L2 listening experts call for the need for listening teachers to give greater attention to these small but important lower level, bottom-up listening problems (e.g., Burns & Siegel, 2023; Field, 2008; Renandya & Farrel, 2011).
These issues are also present in the context of EFL listening in Indonesia, at both the secondary and tertiary levels. Unfamiliar words, speech rate, unfamiliar accent, unclear pronunciation, recording quality, and inadequate facility were identified by Nadhira and Warni (2020) as factors that make EFL listening difficult at the secondary school level. A study on English department students’ EFL listening problems by Izzah and Keeya (2019) identified new vocabulary, limited phonological awareness, text complexity, and speaking rate as some of the key EFL listening problems for English department students. Similarly, Rakhman et al. (2019) also identified homophones and speech rate to be challenging for EFL learners studying at one English department in Indonesia. English department students are also highly anxious when listening to spoken English (Agustiana, 2018), with the major factors contributing to the listening anxiety to be inadequate listening proficiency involving inability to deal with the rapid speech rate and lexical complexity (Hidayati et al., 2020). Another study conducted in an Indonesian initial teacher education context reported learners’ perceived problems in speech rate of the listening text due to unfamiliar vocabulary and the speakers’ fast rate, even though the study exposed them with repeated listening (Rozak et al, 2021). These studies also emphasise the often-neglected role of environmental conditions in increasing the difficulty levels of EFL listening. When listening in class, audio or video recordings are played over a room speaker to the entire class. Students must listen to aural input from low-quality devices, made worse by outside noises such as vehicles, road drills, construction noise, and many others.
Later developments in the teaching of L2 listening saw a plethora of research studies that examine the role of cognitive and metacognitive strategies in supporting students’ listening skills (Goh & Vandergrift, 2021). This line of research has resulted in the so-called strategy-based approach to teaching listening. This approach sees the students as active participants in the learning process who deliberately plan, execute, and evaluate their learning. The teacher’s job is to systematically teach the students a set of (meta)cognitive listening strategies so that they can later use these to guide and direct their own learning. Renandya (2012, p.1) provides the following description of the strategy-based approach:
In a strategy-based approach, strategies often used by so-called good listeners such as predicting, comprehension monitoring, inferencing, clarifying and summarizing are selected for systematic and intensive teaching in the classroom. These strategies are mostly metacognitive, i.e., they are mental processes that can be used to direct, organize, monitor, and evaluate learning. A typical model of strategy training normally involves some sort of presentation of a strategy, which is then followed by practice of the strategy and then an evaluation of how the strategy works.
The strategy-based approach is often regarded an improved version of the skills-based teaching. Strategy-based listening scholars for example found that this approach is often associated with students becoming more strategic in processing spoken language and more able to identify their listening problems and find ways to cope with these problems. The rather substantial body of L2 listening research on strategy training generally show positive results. The bulk of the studies however are correlational in nature, demonstrating positive relationships between strategy training and increased strategy use, which in turns is positively associated with students’ proficiency (i.e., higher proficiency students report using more strategies compared to lower proficiency students). Few if any of the studies show that strategy training unambiguously results in substantial improvement in students’ listening abilities (see Renandya & Farrell, 2011).
Renandya (2012) offered several reasons as to why strategy training may not be the most productive approach. First, as was pointed out earlier, EFL students’ listening difficulties are mostly to do with basic perception (decoding) problems, i.e., problems to do with word recognition in connected speech. This has a knock-on effect on their ability to put the words they hear in meaningful chunks, which in turn may disrupt their ability to construct a coherent understanding of the whole text. Thus, teaching students (meta)cognitive strategies may not be the best way for students to overcome their basic listening problems. What they need more is extensive practice in how to deal with these basic decoding problems.
Second, students probably do not need strategy training as they may already have acquired comprehension strategies such as inferencing, monitoring and evaluating comprehension in their first language. Once they have reached a reasonable threshold of proficiency in English, they may just be able to transfer most if not all of these strategies when dealing with challenging text in the target language. The question then is: what can we do to help students to increase their overall proficiency in the target language? ELT experts believe that one of the most effective ways is to immerse students in meaningful and comprehensible language via extensive reading and listening (Hedgcock & Ferris, 2018; Renandya, Krashen & Jacobs, 2018; Renandya & Day, 2020).
Third, since the impact of strategy training on listening comprehension is rather limited (Renandya & Farrel, 2011), the bulk of instruction should perhaps be directed at improving students’ ability to perceive and parse speech more efficiently and fluently. Focused instruction on some speech features (e.g., weak forms, sound blends and word boundaries) can be very useful for beginning learners. A variety of instructional procedures (e.g., dictogloss) can be used to help students perceive how words are pronounced differently in slow and fast speech (e.g., going to vs gonna, isn’t it vs init, went out vs wen tout). But focused teaching alone is not enough. Students will need to engage in meaningful listening practices where they get to hear these speech features numerous times. The next section discusses how extensive practice in listening can enhance students’ ability to listen more fluently and with greater comprehension as well.
- Teaching listening as acquisition
Teaching listening as acquisition, also known as extensive listening in the ELT professional literature, is based on the belief that listening is best learned via listening, pretty much like how young children develop their listening comprehension skills by simply being immersed in the language spoken by people around them. This belief can be traced back to Krashen’s input hypothesis, which he now calls the optimal input hypothesis (Krashen & Mason, 2020). He theorizes that listening is one of the two main sources of language input (the other being reading), suggesting that when input is available in sufficient quantity, students will gradually and subconsciously acquire the language (see Krashen et al., 2018a).
There are two major considerations when applying the input theory in the language classroom. First, the input has to be comprehensible. This means that the listening materials should be pitched at the right level, that is, either at or below students’ current proficiency levels. Occasional use of materials at slightly above students’ competence is okay, but the bulk of the materials should be those that students can comprehend without difficulty. Frequent opportunities to experience familiar language in familiar and meaningful contexts will enable students to perceive the phonological features of spoken language more fluently and efficiently as well.
Secondly, the input has to be affectively appealing. When students find the listening materials uninteresting, they may find the listening practice a bit of a drag. They do it because they have to, not because they want to. When the listening materials are both comprehensible and compelling, they become more motivated in doing the listening practice, both in and out of the classroom. We all know that time for listening practice in the classroom is very limited, so unless students continue the practice outside the classroom, they may not be able to enjoy the full benefits of the input hypothesis. Fairly rapid improvement in listening competence is possible when students receive a daily dose of interesting and comprehensible aural input.
Krashen et al. (2018b) offer a three-stage pedagogical recommendation for teaching listening. Stage 1 involves the use of familiar and interesting stories read aloud by the teacher in ways that help students comprehend the contents. Props, pictures and other visual contexts can be used to increase students’ positive experience with the stories. If necessary, occasional translations can be used to make the stories even more comprehensible. Stage 1 provides the foundation and motivation for Stage 2, which involves students doing self-selected, recreational listening and viewing in the form of short or full-length films, movie cartons or TED Talks. These materials can be rather challenging but are a great source of rich and authentic language input. One way to make listening to these materials less challenging and more enjoyable is to encourage students to turn on the subtitles and/or to look at the written transcript before listening or viewing the films.
Finally, in Stage 3, students listen to more challenging genres, i.e., academic listening and discussions on topics related to their academic pursuit. The language may be more complex but since students already have had enough practice in Stages 1 and 2, and they have sufficient background knowledge, they may not experience a great deal of difficulty here. Teachers can help students select academic talks and videos from TED. TED talks are usually short, covers a wide range of highly interesting topics and are delivered by experienced speakers using an engaging story-telling presentation style and accessible language. A recent study by Gavenila et al. (2021) found that EFL college students from Indonesia seem to enjoy doing their independent, out of class extensive listening practice with TED talks; they do not seem to encounter major difficulties in comprehending the talks.
METHODS FOR TEACHING LISTENING
As was pointed out in the previous section, significant improvement in L2 listening is possible when students get to listen to massive amounts of spoken language that is comprehensible and compelling and that contains rich and authentic language features (i.e., a wider range of vocabulary words, grammatical and discourse structures). While it is not possible to replicate the rich linguistic experience children learning their first language, we can substantially increase the amount of aural language input in our language programmes. We offer pedagogical suggestions below as to how we can either increase the quantity by providing students with a lot more listening input or having students experience the same materials multiple times via repeated listening or viewing.
Dictation is a common activity that EFL teachers are already familiar with. Instead of focusing on students’ ability to reproduce the dictated passage verbatim in writing, teachers can easily turn this into repeated listening activities. For example, teachers can prepare two dictation passages that share similarities and differences. Students listen to the two texts several times in order to spot the similarities and differences between the two. Dictation can be easily incorporated into the curriculum so that students get to practice listening in most if not all of the language lessons (be it a grammar lesson, reading lesson or speaking lesson).
Dictation in class using teacher-directed dictations and read-alouds. According to the findings of their research, Saragih et al. (2022) suggest that dictation is a very useful EFL listening activity for senior high school students in Indonesia as this technique assists students in improving their listening skills, increasing their confidence and motivation, and mastering English pronunciation. However, dictation can also be conducted outside of class using freely accessible resources on the web from websites such as https://www.englishclub.com/listening/dictation.htm and https://dailydictation.com/. Ivone and Renandya (2019) suggest that learners should be encouraged to use texts spoken by highly competent speaker of English so that they have access to a better model of the spoken language.
In addition to the traditional dictation activity, teachers can also use a special form of dictation known as Dictogloss. Dictogloss involves students listening and noticing speech features that often cause comprehension problems. Teachers select materials that contain problematic speech features (e.g., sound blends) and encourage students to take note of these features when listening to the spoken text. This form-focused dictogloss activity can increase students’ ability to process problematic phonological aspects of spoken input.
Dictogloss can also be performed as a collaborative learning activity at the meaning-focus level. In fact, this is a common technique in EFL/ESL settings. It is a dictation activity in which students listen to a passage, take notes on key words, and then collaborate to create a reconstructed version of the text (Vasiljevic, 2010). It is usually carried out in four stages: (i) Preparation, (ii) Dictation, (iii) Reconstruction, and (iv) Analysis and Correction. In the preparation stage, students are first introduced to the topic, language focus, or key vocabulary. They then listen to the text being read twice, preferably at a slower rate than the native speaker’s speech rate. At this point, students are encouraged to take brief notes. Following that, the dictated aural text is reconstructed in pairs or small groups. Finally, students can compare the reconstructed text to the original text or to other groups’ reconstructed text. They can then collaborate to revise the texts. High intermediate and advanced EFL students can summarise the dictated text rather than reconstruct it.
- Doubling or tripling the amount of input in the listening lesson
One of the reasons students’ listening competence remains low is that the amount of listening they do in the classroom is rather limited. In a typical lesson, students listen to a short text two or three times only. The rest of class time is used to engage students in listening-related activities (e.g., warm-up activities, matching exercises, language and/or content-related discussions etc.) that take up the bulk of classroom time. The actual listening practice that students do in class is quite minimal.
While these activities can help make the listening lesson more interesting, they do not add much to helping students develop facility and fluency in listening. Our suggestion is that teachers can reduce these activities and increase the amount of listening that students can do in the classroom by doubling or even tripling the number of listening materials. If class time is limited, teachers can adopt a flipped classroom pedagogy and provide students with greater amounts of listening materials before they come to class. This means that a larger portion of listening activities can be conducted outside class before and/or after the listening lesson.
One technique that can be adopted to double to triple the amount of L2 aural input is narrow listening or narrow listening and viewing. When performing narrow listening and narrow listening and viewing activities, learners are given the opportunity to comprehend aural texts better by using easy or very easy texts, focusing on narrow topics at a time, and receiving multimodal input because they understand most of the vocabulary and grammar in the text, repeatedly listen to words used within the narrow topics, and relate the spoken and written forms of words presented simultaneously (Ivone & Renandya, 2019). They can choose the text by themselves before class to prepare them for the topic and vocabulary items related to the topic. After a listening class, students can also be encouraged to listen to recordings or watch videos of the same topics so that they can encounter more repetitions. Renandya (2012) states that narrow listening as well as narrow listening and viewing, use similar language that leads to more profound comprehension of aural texts, improvement in listening skills, and vocabulary acquisition.
As an alternative, learners can also be encouraged to listen to or watch materials that allow them to listen to or watch series, such as TV, radio shows, or podcasts. TV and radio series are ideal for focused listening or viewing because they present texts of the same genre and contain recurring words and expressions throughout the episodes (Ivone & Renandya, 2019). This repeated exposure to words, expressions, and phrases will make it easier for learners to acquire the target language vocabulary in rich context. Students can then discuss the series in class with the teacher and peers.
This alternative method has the potential to broaden the scope of EFL listening activities to include extensive listening. Short films or movies with subtitles can also be repeated-listened-to (Nation, 2014). Movies can be watched multiple times. For example, when watching movies for the first time, learners can watch with the subtitles in their first language. Reading the subtitles in the target language can be done as a second viewing. Finally, students can watch the films without subtitles. These repetitive viewing sessions can last for several weeks.
- Increasing listening input in the speaking lesson
Given the close link between listening and speaking, it makes pedagogical sense to give students opportunities to do listening practice on topics related to their expected speaking performances. For example, if students choose to discuss and later present orally on a topic on climate change, teachers can begin the lesson by providing students with model texts on how competent speakers present on this topic. These model texts can even be given to students before they come to the speaking lesson. This way, students will have listened to the model texts (hopefully several times) before they come to class and engage in group discussions on the topic with their peers. Thus, the provision of listening materials can help increase students’ listening comprehension, which in turn can help them improve on their ability to engage in meaningful discussions on the topic.
- Speech Shadowing/Overlapping
Language learning activities that involve listening and speaking include shadowing and overlapping. When performing shadowing, students first listen to a spoken text and then speak along with it (repeat orally and immediately what they have just heard). Similarly, when overlapping, students read aloud from a script or text while listening to it (Yonezawa & Ware, 2008). These are little-known language learning techniques that have only recently received scientific attention. Shadowing and overlapping can help learners improve their fluency, correct their pronunciation, and automate the recognition of spoken words or chunks of language (Ivone & Renandya, 2019). Both can be performed silently or vocally. Yonezawa and Ware (2008) and Ginting (2019) suggest that shadowing helps students improve their listening skills. Similarly, according to Hamada (2018), frequent speech shadowing activities can help increase students’ listening and speaking skills. The following steps are generally recommended in the language classroom. As can be seen, shadowing involves students doing multiple listening and speaking activities, the kind of activities that facilitate fluency development.
- Students listen once to get a sense of what the listening text is about.
- For beginning students, the first step can be repeated a couple of times to ensure that students understand the contents.
- They then do the shadowing activity, i.e., listening and speaking along. If necessary, students can use the written transcript to do the shadowing.
- They continue doing the shadowing a couple more times until they are satisfied that they can do it fluently and smoothly.
- If time permits, students can have their final shadowing activity recorded and have it reviewed by their peers.
- Technology-enhanced listening activities
Today, the internet is the best resource for locating a wide range of aural texts in the target language that are appropriate for a specific level of language proficiency or in the form of authentic language. As shown in Table 2, Setyawan et al. (2022) identified 17 types of aural texts that English department students preferred to listen to and watch during out-of-class extensive listening sessions. Many web developers label their materials with specific levels, making it simple to find texts for a specific level of language learners. When finding extensive listening materials that match learners’ comprehension level is difficult, Ivone and Renandya (2019) suggest that learners can use any aural text and conduct listening-while-reading, watching-while-listening, and simultaneous watching, listening, and reading to make the texts more comprehensible.
Table 2. Multimedia Resources Used by English Department Students (N=1579)
|14||Any kind of Youtube videos||217||13.74|
The most effective tool for making aural input more comprehensible for learners of all levels of proficiency is information and communication technology (ICT). Audio and video playback control, for example, can be used to replay aural text from the start or only a specific section of a recording. Depending on the needs of the learners, the speed adjustment control can be used to reduce or increase the rate of speech. Transcripts, captions, or subtitles can be used to help students better understand aural text, perform comprehension tasks, and confirm words they do not know or unable to catch in the form of spoken English (Ivone, 2017).
English listening websites not only provide L2 learners with access to the target language input, but they also offer comprehension activities that require learners to use lower and higher order thinking skills. Sites such as https://www.esl-lab.com/, https://www.elllo.org/, https://www.englishlistening.com/, and http://www.manythings.org/, to name a few, are full of listening comprehension activities learners can do on their own as the exercises are levelled and instant feedback is given. Website such as https://ed.ted.com/ provides a wider range of interesting activities that can be adopted and adapted for classroom use.
ICT has enabled language learners to access and create learning content, allowing emergent learning to occur in a variety of language learning contexts (Ivone, 2018). It also allows EFL learners greater access to multimedia input. Using multimedia resources, teachers can present elements of interactional language and raise learners’ awareness of interactional strategies through exposure to video and authentic conversation. They can learn to use paralinguistic features like body language, gestures, facial expressions, as well as tone and pitch of voice.
CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS
In this chapter, we have examined L2 listening from theoretical as well as practical perspectives. On the theoretical front, we have surveyed current views of the nature of listening and how listening is closely linked to the development of oracy skills in our students and argued for the need to give students greater access to rich and comprehensible listening input. On the practical front, we have presented a number of pedagogical options that EFL teachers in Indonesia and elsewhere can consider using in their teaching. Although we note with concern about current practices in L2 listening, we are heartened by the fact that a growing number of ELT researchers have now begun to examine listening from a more principled theoretical perspective.
We envision that L2 listening will receive greater research attention in the future, for two reasons. First, as research has clearly demonstrated that the ability to use language for communicative purposes depends largely on implicit (not explicit) knowledge (Ellis, 2014), we can expect to see more research studies that seek to understand how teachers can support students in acquiring this knowledge. Pedagogical approaches such as extensive listening and viewing, storytelling, shared-book reading, and other teacher read-aloud methods are strong candidates.
Second, given the increasingly multimodal nature of modern communication, technology-enhanced listening pedagogy will become an important research agenda in the near future. Future researchers may for example explore research questions such as (i) To what extent technology can be used to increase comprehension and enhance listening fluency development? (ii) To what extent does the use of subtitles/translations support listening comprehension? (iii) To what extent technology can be harnessed to develop students’ implicit language knowledge? (iv) To what extent AI-powered language learning tools can propel students’ listening comprehension?
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