Delta task: real-life listening

In this task, I was asked to consider what is involved in real-life listening, and what the implications for classroom teaching are. Here is my reflection on the topic (I have dome this before reading the recommended book on the topic).

1. Informal nature of speech

80-90% of what we say in real life is casual in register and thus uses ellipsis, slang and other phonological, grammatical and lexical features typical of this register. Students need to be aware of and practice recognising all these features in order to understand spoken text successfully.

Implications for teaching: authentic, casual conversation is the most appropriate text we can get our students to listen to, as this will most probably be the vast majority of language they will have to understand in real life.

2. Purpose for listening

When we listen to something in real life, we generally have a genuine interest in what we are listening to, may it be to get the information we need or to maintain social relations. This is quite the opposite of what happens in class, where students have to sit and listen to some recording / video which they might find from boring to mildly interesting.

Implications for teaching: keep the listening text relevant to learners’ interests and needs, make listening tasks authentic and as real-life as possible (e.g.: we seldom listen to a conversation to answer comprehension questions about it in real life!).

3. Interactive, face-to-face nature of listening

Most listening is done face-to-face and with interaction purposes. We seldom sit and listen to someone talking (unless we are attending a conference or lecture of some sort, or watching TV). This means that we also have visual clues to help us understand what the other person is saying, and we can stop them and ask them to repeat or clarify if necessary.

Implications for teaching: interacting with the teacher or with other fluent speakers is probably the best listening exercise. Could it be that videos are to be favoured to audio recordings? I’m not sue about this, as videos can be distracting and still lack the interactiveness of real-life listening.

4. Chunks

Related to point 3, we also often listen to short chunks, to which we interact through back-channelling, interruptions, requests for clarifications, follow-up questions and other devices.

Implications for teaching: same as point 3. How can we teach the interactive nature of real-life listening through pre-recorded long speeches?

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4 thoughts on “Delta task: real-life listening”

  1. Interesting stuff. I agree with you about listening and interactivity. Could teachers use one side of a recorded conversation to prompt responses?

  2. I do sometimes, when I can be bothered to make it. Otherwise just pausing and thinking about as appropriate responses.

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