|Teaching Additional Languages (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 28 p.)|
Students should be given practice naturally spoken additional languages.
Students need to comprehend natural spoken language - in lectures, the media (radio, cinema and television), and in face-to-face conversations. Many students have a greater need to understand than to speak an additional language. Listening is crucial for language acquisition because it provides comprehensible input (previously discussed).
How do we comprehend spoken language? One model is called bottom-up processing. According to this view, we piece together a message by first understanding the smallest units of language - sounds. Then, we connect the sounds together to form words. Our knowledge of words enables us to understand phrases, then sentences, and finally entire passages. An alternative view is known as a top-down approach. In this model, based on our knowledge of the topic and situation, we can figure out the specific meaning of a passage; and the sentences, phrases and words that form the message.
Current theory suggests an interactive model, in which listeners simultaneously use both top-down and bottom-up strategies. One strategy compensates for gaps in the other, until the entire message is understood.
There are many types of listening. Sometimes we listen for the general meaning of a message, sometimes for specific information. At times listening is a one-way process (e.g. a lecture or a movie), and at other times it is two-way and involves both listening and speaking as in a conversation. Some listening entails mainly information exchange; other listening may be more social or emotional in which feelings are more prominent.
In the classroom
For listening comprehension, the following teaching strategies can be recommended:
· Before listening to a passage, ask students what they know about the topic in order to remind them of their prior knowledge. A teacher may also preview difficult vocabulary and ideas prior to listening.
· Following the listening, ask students about the general points of the passage.
· If details are to be recalled, allow students to take notes.
· Use natural language for listening passages. It is better to use short pieces of real language at the beginning levels than artificial teacher-made language.
· Use a variety of different listening activities such as oneway and two-way, and informational and emotional.
References: Brown, 1992; Mendelsohn, 1994; Rust, 1990.