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Better listeners versus more listening: rethinking the Comprehension Approach John Field Universities of Reading and Cambridge, UK. The Comprehension Approach. Pre-listening: motivation, mental set Extensive listening: general questions Pre-set task or questions Intensive listening
Universities of Reading and Cambridge, UK
‘Until we have some diagnostic procedures, the teacher [of L2 listening] can only continue to test comprehension, not to teach it. We need to move into a position where the teacher is able to recognise particular patterns of behaviour in listening manifested by an unsuccessful listener and to provide exercises for the student which will promote superior patterns of behaviour (superior strategies)’. (Brown, 1986: 286)
Who thinks the answer is A? Who thinks it is B? Shall we hear it again?
Why do you think answer A is right? Why do you think answer B is right?
Language instruction is not the solution:
Teachers need greater understanding of the nature of the input, and its problems for learners;
Teachers need a methodology that trains better listeners instead of just providing practice;
Learners must be helped to crack the code of speech at an early stage, despite their lack of a) language knowledge b) experience of L2 listening.
* Much variation in the signal
* No consistent boundaries between words
* No physical evidence: the listener needs to carry meaning forward in the mind.
* Time pressures
assimilation – elision
pressures inside the intonation group
voice – speech rate – context – accent
Write down what you hear. [samples of authentic or naturalistic speech]
Rationale: long exposure has enabled L1 listeners to adopt routines which are more effective and more highly automatic than those of L2 listeners.
L1:[ˡspɔ:t] L2:[eˡspɔ:t] [sɪˡpɔ:t]
DOCTOR – nurse
had been written by Shakespeare
did better than their colleagues
was finally kept.
a nice cream … dress
the way to cut it … is like this
some boxes have … arrived
I want to drive a … train.
I found out that the thud was the cat
the sound was the cat
I found out that the front was the cat
the thing was the cat the fog of the cat
I found that the sun in the cat
I found out the frog and the cat
I found out that is a cat
I found that was the cat
I thought it was a cat
in the front was the cat
I found out where was the cat
what I thought that a cat
I found out that the thud was the cat.
summer – autumn – string – winter
purple – yellow – drown - green – orange
cousin – sister – nephew – ankle – daughter
Familiarising the listener with L2 input
Training the listener in L1 processes.
Raise awareness of strategy use.
Present the strategies one by one.
Practise the strategies individually.
Learners evaluate their own strategy use.
Many standard check-lists of L2 strategies were constructed with speaking in mind.
The strategy that is chosen depends heavily upon the problem of understanding that has occurred.
Effective strategy use is
[But we need to rethink the way in which we implement the comprehension approach in the classroom]
1. diagnoses why understanding fails
2. identifiesphonetic features of the TL which are likely to cause decoding problems for L2 listening;
3. recognises processes which characterise the performance of the L1 listener;
Uses this information to build a programme of micro-listening practice, with exercises that involve the transcription or interpretation of short pieces of input.
Supports with larger-scale comprehension work to ensure that the skills that are acquired become integrated into overall competence.
a. in combination with each other
b. in ways that take account of:
the demands of the problem - the listener’s goals - the listener’s own listening style
Dr John Field,
Dept of Applied Linguistics,
University of Reading,
Reading RG6 6AA, UK