"To be able to use the language to convey thoughts, intentions, wishes, information etc., a person needs a mastery of various elements" - John Haycraft
Learning a language can be attributed to mastering a set of skills to use the language. In other words learning a language means learning to speak, read and write in the language. We should also be able to understand when someone speaks that language.
So acquiring four skills is an important aspect of language learning. Language is a skill subject in contrary to content subjects like Mathematics, History, Geography etc.
Teaching of English or any language predominantly rests on developing of four main skills namely listening, speaking, reading and writing in the learners. Thomas and Wyatt said that it is necessary that the Indian pupil should not only understand English when it is spoken or written, but also he should himself be able to speak and write it.
Though listening and reading seem to be passive outwardly, they are active which need lot of concentration. Speaking and writing on the other hand are active skills. They are also called Productive skills or Expressive skills. Here a person is seen engaging actively transmitting or expressing the information.
Listening and speaking skills demand the exercise of auditory and speech organs (ears, tongue etc). So they are termed as Audio- Lingual or Aural-Oral skills. Similarly reading and writing involve visual (eyes) and psycho-motor organs (mind) leading them to consider as graphic motor skills.
Listening is an important language skill and yet the most neglected skill in our classroom. Listening is the primary channel in language learning. It is an activity of paying attention to trying to get the meaning from something we hear. We come across some people using listening and hearing as synonyms but there is a clear distinction between the two.
LISTENING AND HEARING
Hearing is a physical process of receiving sounds. Enjoying music while doing some work comes under hearing. Listening on the other hand is a conscious mental process or an active cognitive process. Listening is conscious and focussed where as hearing is casual and general.
Definitions of Listening
* "Listening is the ability to identify and understand what others are saying. This involves understanding a speaker's accent or pronunciation, his grammar and his vocabulary and grasping his meaning" - Howatt & Dakin
* Listening is an act involves decoding sounds and grasping the meaning behind them.
Diagrammatic Representation of the Process of Listening
Listening is an active process. It can be depicted as:
Input Processing Output
(Speaker's (Understanding/ (Listener's response)
Words) grasping, Pronounciation,
Vocabulary, Grammar, Meaning)
Fathers of Listening
James Brown, Ralph Nicholas and Cart Weaver were the eminent linguists of 1940s who established, listening as a skill and are considered to be 'Fathers of Listening'.
Kinds of Listening
Different situations require different types of listening. We may listen to obtain information, make discrimination or engage in critical evaluation etc.,
Wohin and Coakley (1982) describe five different kinds of listening: Discriminative, Comprehensive, Critical, Therapeutic and Appreciative.
1) Discriminative Listening: Listener distinguishes fact from opinion.
* Pay attention to specific speech sounds.
2) Comprehensive Listening: Listening to understand a message.
eg: Rly. announcements, weather forecast News Bulletin.
3) Critical Listening: Listening to evaluate the message whether to accept or reject.
eg: Advertisement of a product.
4) Therapeutic Listening: Listening to understand to solve problems.
eg: Listening to riddles, quizzes.
5) Appreciative Listening: Listening for enjoyment or for sensory impression or entertainment.
eg: Listening to poetry, plays on radio, stories etc.
Activities to develop listening skill
* Teacher's speech serves as a unique source of listening for the children. He/ She can give commands, instructions, make statements, draw a picture and ask questions based on it. All these activities provide the children an opportunity to get the exposure of listening.
* Dictation of words which differ in only one sound (Minimal pairs) be given as an activity to master different sounds of English.
eg: pat - bat, sit - seat, ant - aunt
* Short stories could be narrated and the learners may be asked comprehension questions or may be asked to re-narrate.
* Quizzes with simple questions evince interest in the class to make joyful learning.
* A tape recorder is highly helpful in the development of good pronunciation, differentiation of sounds, intonation patterns etc.
* Language games like 'Chinese Whisper' could be played in the class to give ample exposure to listening.