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Developing Academic Listening Skills

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  1. Developing Academic Listening Skills

  2. Features of Listening Comprehension • Real-time processing • - Must be perceived as it is uttered • Phonological and Lexico-grammatical features • - Problems posed by sound system: • Print (written forms) differ in the way they sound • hearing unit boundaries (end of one word and beginning of next) • recognising irregular pausing • Recognising false starts & hesitations • stress and intonation patterns

  3. Features of Lecture Comprehension • Differences with conversational listening skills include: • Large degree of background, specialist, subject knowledge required • Ability required to distinguish between what is relevant and what is not • e.g.. digressions, jokes etc. • Turn taking conventions not required (as in conversation) • Implied meaning or indirect speech acts not important – info is factual • Need to concentrate on long stretches of talk without opportunity for ‘facilitating functions’ such as: asking for repetition, repair strategies etc. • Note-taking process is required • Integrate incoming message with other media such as handouts, text books, visuals etc.

  4. Specific Skills for Lecture Comprehension • 3 categories: • Information from Comprehension Theory • Information from Lecturers • Information from Students

  5. Information from Comprehension Theory • Ability to: • identify purpose and scope of the lecture • identify topic of lecture and follow topic development • recognise role of discourse markers of signalling structure of a lecture • recognise key lexical items related to subject/topic • deduce meanings of words from context • recognise function of intonation to signal information (e.g. pitch, volume, pace & key • (Richards, 1983)

  6. Information from Lecturers 144 faculty members in the U.S.A. were asked to rate the relative importance of 21 lecture-related micro-skills in connection with academic performance. The nine most important skills were: Identifying major themes or ideas Identifying relationships among major ideas Identifying the topic of a lecture Retaining information through note-taking Retrieving information from notes Inferring relationships between information Comprehending key vocabulary Following the spoken mode of lectures Identifying supporting ideas and examples (Powers, 1986)

  7. Information from Learners • Problems often encountered by NESB students include: • - Delivery is perceived as too fast • - Too much new terminology and too many new concepts • - Difficulties in concentrating • Strategies employed by NESB students include: • - pre and post reading of the set text • -Peer help • -Lecturer/tutor help • - Highlighting relevant sections of the set text during lecture • -Note-taking* • -Efforts to concentrate harder

  8. What to teach ESL students Analysis of lecture discourse has created an awareness of what should be taught to EFL/ESL students, as well as helped lecturers structure their lectures in an optimally effective way. Such analysis includes: LectureStyles - Awareness of different styles: formal/reading; informal/conversational (more common); rhetorical; participatory What is the effect of more informal styles on NESB students?

  9. What to teach ESL students Discourse Structure Much research based on Sinclair & Coulthard’s model of Primary School classroom discourse (1997). Lectures are monologue but the following similarities can be observed: - Use of markers e.g. Right everybody Use of starters e.g. Well now, Let’s get on with ... Informatives e.g. For the three forces to be ........ asides e.g. My pen’s running out.... metatstatement e.g. I want to state two examples conclusion e.g. So there you’ve got three examples..

  10. What to teach ESL students Discourse Structure (cont..) Lectures typically consist of frameworks or structure Main discourse vs. Subsidiary discourse An inability to recognise macro-structure is thought to be one of the major issues for non-native speakers in understanding lectures For example: a study by Olsen and Huckin (1990) showed that despite understanding all of the words, non-English speaking Engineering students failed to understand the main points or logical arguments of the lecture. This was seen as a failure to employ knowledge of overall discourse structure

  11. What to teach ESL students Metapragmatic Signalling Signalling devices which facilitate comprehension have been deemed important by numerous researchers and writers of ESL texts Reading style lectures are often hard to follow because they lack such devices These devices are like ‘macro-organisers’ as they signal what is coming up in the lecture e.g. Let me start with.... = TOPIC MARKER So let me shift to... = TOPIC SHIFTER To tie this up....... = SUMMARISER

  12. What to teach ESL students Interpersonal Features Lectures now seen as way of conveying not just info but also attitudes and opinions For example: Asides Anecdotes Overtly marking major points Developing cohesion within/between classes by ‘linking’ talk & repetition Using questions in a timely fashion

  13. What to teach ESL students Lexico-Grammatical Features Limited research on the lexis of academic lectures however, Studies suggest lexis is manageable and divided into technical, semi-technical and colloquial (Flowerdew, 1991) Syntax of lectures generally similar to other spoken text (apart from read lectures which are similar to written text) Common features e.g.. ‘that’ clauses; subordinate cause clauses; subordinate conditional clauses; first & second person pronouns, contractions

  14. How lecturers can help Non-native speakers understand lectures Make lectures more interactive Use of macro-markers or signals of major transition Speech Rate - Native speakers more able to use their knowledge of the language and prediction when they miss something (Conrad, 1989) - Non-native speakers tend to attempt ‘perfect decoding’ and are therefore less able to cope with contractions and reductions (Henrichson, 1984) Both studies highlight bottom-up processing being a hindrance to NNSs. Accent

  15. How lecturers can help Non-native speakers understand lectures Research suggests avoiding fast speech rates may help but exaggerated slowness has no major impact More research on optimum speech rate is needed Are lecturers able to moderate their speech rate? Accent Non-natives are likely to encounter different accents Unfamiliar accents do cause difficulties Local accents will therefore be more easily understood than standard Exposure to different accents in ESL training is thus desirable

  16. References Conrad, L. (1989). The effects of time-compressed speech on native and EFL listening comprehension. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 11, 1-16 Flowerdew, J (1991). Pragmatic modifications on the ‘representative’ speech act of defining. Journal of Pragmatics 15, 253-264 Flowerdew, J. and Miller, L. 1992. Student perceptions, problems and strategies in second language lecture comprehension. RELC Journal. 23:60-80. Flowerdew, J. and Miller, L. 1997. The teaching of academic listening comprehension and the question of authenticity. English for Specific Purposes. 16, 1:27-46.

  17. References Henrichson, L. (1984). Sandhi-variation: a filter of input for learners of ESL. Language Learning, 34, 103 – 126. Olsen, L.A. and Hickin, T.N. (1991). Point-driven understanding in Engineering lecture comprehension. English for Specific Purposes 9, 33 – 47 Powers, D.E. (1986). Academic Demands related to listening skills. Language Testing, 3(1), 1-38 Richards, J.C. (1983). Listening Comprehension: approach, design procedure. TESOL Quarterly, 17 (2), 219-39 Rost, M. (1990). Listening in Language Learning: Longman