Thursday, January 19, 2012
I can’t remember who said it (I have a feeling it may have been Penny Ur), but I remember hearing a quote about teaching listening once that really made me stop and think:
We don’t really teach listening; we just keep testing it.
Whoever it was, I think he or she had a very valid point. Our standard methodology for teaching listening is a cycle of giving listening tasks and then asking questions in order to test the learners’ comprehension of what they have heard. In our defence, of course, it is difficult to see how we could do otherwise. Like reading, listening is a receptive skill that can only be developed through repeated practice, so there are good reasons for teaching it the way we do. Anyway, I was recently asked to do a presentation on this topic, and I started thinking about aspects of listening that do actually need to be taught rather than simply practiced. The first thing that came to mind was a list of general principles of which learners often seem to be unaware, and I want to write about the first of those today.
The first point is that we listen with our brains, not our ears.
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