Eight listening-research findings every teacher should be aware of and their implications for teaching and learning
1. Anxiety seriously affects listening comprehension (Elkhafaifi, 2005; Lund, 1991; Vogely, 1998; Graham, 2011; Vaefee, 2016)
2 Vocabulary Depth is a more decisive factor than Vocabulary Breadth with more advanced L2 learners in effective listening comprehension (Vafaee, 2016
It is a well-established research fact that vocabulary knowledge (VK) has a hugely important role in listening comprehension.
When it comes to listening comprehension and instruction it is important to note, however, that knowing what a word means in isolation and in its written form is different from being able to understand its meaning when it is heard in connected speech (i.e. as part of the speech stream we process aurally).
Whilst Breadth of VK is fundamental for effective aural comprehension at all levels of proficiency, it seems less important than Depth at Upper Intermediate to Avdanced Level (Vafaee, 2016).
3. Syntactic knowledge facilitates learning at intermediate levels of proficiency (Field, 2013; Vafaee, 2016)
Vafaee (2016) finally proved that syntactic knowledge (SK) plays a significant role in listening comprehension. SK ( knowledge of how sentences are correctly constructed ) is deployed by the brain (Working Memory) during the so-called Parsing stage of speech comprehension, i.e. the establishment of relationships between the meaning of individual words and whole utterances. Since Parsing involves pattern recognition, it is crucial in understanding the meaning of an utterance once the vocabulary items have been recognised.
SK, in order to play an effective role in listening comprehension, must be applied fast and accurately. Hence, it must be as routinized (proceduralised, automised) as possible. This means that simply knowing how a grammar rule works, e.g. scoring 100% in a gap-fill test will not help in listening comprehension.
4. The ability to segment the speech stream plays a huge role in listening comprehension (Andringa et al 2012; Zoghlami (2016); Simpson (unpublished master’s degree)
Until recently, the importance of the first phase of listening comprehension, what Field (2013) calls ‘Decoding’ was not fully acknowledged by researchers. Yet, when it comes to less ‘transparent’ languages such as English and French, this phase, as I have often maintained is pivotal. One specific process is particularly crucial as it primes vocabulary recognition: speech-stream segmentation, i.e. the identification of an utterance’s word boundaries
Since without successful segmentation one cannot successfully proceed to the Lexical retrieval and Parsing stages, it is clear how this process is the most important one in aural comprehension. In fact, Zoghlami (2016) found that Segmenting was indeed the single stronger predictor of successful aural comprehension.
5. Pre-listening-task single-word prediction can hamper aural comprehension (Graham, 2017)
Graham (2017) reports how she found that many secondary school modern language teachers tell their students to predict the sort of vocabulary that might come up in a listening task.. .
6. Metacognitive knowledge significantly facilitates listening comprehension (Macaro, 2003; Cross, 2010; Vandergrift et al, 2010; Graham 2017)
We know from much research that Metacognitive Knowledge (e.g. self-knowledge, task knowledge, planning, self-monitoring and evaluation) plays an important role in the listening process, especially at less advanced level.
7. Many foreign language teachers are not fully aware of the differences between Reading and Listening processes (Conti, 2014 – forthcoming).
Let us Lund (1991) remind us of the main issues in which reading and listening comprehension diverge:
In listening, the complete text is not available for perusal. It is heard as it is uttered. In other words, whilst in reading text exists in space, in listening it exists in time, lasting in the brain only two seconds whilst the listener is only 0.25 seconds behind the speaker. The difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that in listening tasks the students only hear the text twice;
The listener cannot control the pace of the text (unless s/he is in control of the output source);
Listeners are compelled to resort to parallel distributed processing. In other words, they need to juggle several processes at the same time at each stage of comprehension, having to tap into many micro-skills simultaneously with the obvious interferences this causes, especially at lower levels of proficiency;
The sound system of the L2 poses a significant problem;
Gaps in speech are not the same as the gaps one finds in written texts;
Cognates identical in print usually sound differently in continuous speech;
Spoken texts, moreover, have intonation, stress, regional accents, background noise and other variations of acoustic features;
Whereas intermediate readers benefit (as Lund’s experiment showed) from repetition of text, intermediate listeners don’t (they make a first-pass hypothesis and stick to it);
An L2 reader remembers more ideas and details about a text they read than an L2 listener about a text they heard.
Macaro (2003) adds another important difference: in listening we use more top-down strategies and prior knowledge to compensate for the issue Lund lists above (such as: guessing from context, prediction, knowledge of the task, etc.)
8. Reading aloud as a catalyst of listening proficiency (Kato and Tanaka, 2010)
Although reading-aloud (RA) techniques have not always been favourably considered in L2 classrooms, the usefulness of this approach for the development of lower-level processing efficiency has been widely confirmed in L2 reading research (e.g., Birch, 2007; Janzen, 2007; Gibson, 2008). Much research has clearly shown that reading aloud helps:
(1) develop L2 learners’ accurate phonological representations (e.g., Gibson, 2008);
(2) raise their awareness of rhythm, stress and intonation, by using connected texts rather than decontextualized vocabulary items (e.g., Kato, 2012);
(3) significantly improve silent reading rate (Suzuki, 1998),
(4) enhance reading performance (Miyasako, 2008), and
(5) reproduction of key words and phrases https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com/2 ... -learning/