Listening is one of the most complex types of speech activity. Even people who are fluent enough in the language have difficulty in listening to the natural speech of native speakers.
Demanding an extremely intense mental activity, the listening causes a rapid fatigue and disabling the listener's attention. Unfavorable conditions for the auditor will complicate his/her understanding. Thus, the presence of significant and varied listening difficulties is an indisputable fact. Obviously, for successful learning, listening requires a methodological system that takes into account these difficulties and provides for their overcoming.
In methodology, there are two ways to deal with difficulties: their elimination or overcoming them. Removing difficulties, naturally, facilitates mastering listening and gives quick and tangible results. However, such artificially facilitated listening does not prepare for the perception of natural speech, since all the removed difficulties are present in it, and the student is not prepared for overcoming them.
Since the main purpose of the training is to prepare the student for speech communication in natural conditions, it is not the elimination but the gradual and consistent overcoming of difficulties in the learning process that seems to be correct.
In order to focus on teaching listening to overcoming difficulties and develop on this basis skills and abilities capable of successfully operating in natural conditions, it is necessary to clearly imagine these difficulties. The difficulties of listening can be related:
- with the language form of the message;
- with the semantic content of the message;
- with the terms of the presentation of the message;
- with sources of information.
We will consider consistently all these groups of difficulties and outline the ways to overcome them.
1. Difficulties associated with the language form of the message.
These difficulties arise for two reasons:
- due to the unexplored language material contained in the message;
- due to the presence in the message of a familiar, but difficult for listening comprehension language material.
Overcoming the difficulty of understanding a text containing unexplored language material is provided by the formation of the ability to guess the meaning of new words, as well as the ability to understand the meaning of the phrase and the text as a whole, despite the presence of unfamiliar elements in it, as if “jumping over” them. For this purpose, it is possible to recommend exercises that teach a guess based on word-formation elements, a guess about the meaning of common root words with studied, international words, as well as a guess based on context.
The second group of difficulties at the level of language material is related to the fact that when familiarizing with new words, grammatical phenomena or speech patterns, the attention of students is usually attracted to the difficulties of reproducing this material, while the difficulties of recognition remain unworked. This leads to the fact that not all studied language material is easily learned by students during reading and listening.
In order to ensure the correct recognition of linguistic material, one should pay attention to the difficulties that may arise when listening to it. It is also necessary to perform special exercises for recognizing these phenomena in phrases and microtexts.
It should be mentioned about the length of the sentences. If it exceeds the amount of memory, the listener forgets the beginning of the phrase and cannot synthesize its meaning, and for students who have not yet mastered a foreign language, the amount of memory is much less. It should also be noted that the depth also affects the retention of the phrase in the memory. It is easier to remember simple sentences than complex ones. Therefore, at the beginning of training in the texts should use mostly short simple sentences.
2. Difficulties associated with the semantic content of the message.
As is known, obtaining information is the goal of receptive types of speech activity. It is the desire to understand the meaning that will force the listener to mobilize attention, memory, and all mental activity, make it necessary to overcome difficulties. Therefore, the effectiveness of teaching listening depends primarily on the student's interest in understanding the content of speech.
The main requirement for the content of texts for listening should be considered their entertaining and informative. By entertaining include texts that have an interesting plot for this age.
Taking care of the content of the texts, one should not overload them with information. The feasibility of the text is one of the basic principles of selection. Along with the new information, the texts should contain information already known to students. The presence of such elements creates favorable conditions for the functioning of the mechanism of probabilistic forecasting, increases its reliability and thereby facilitates the understanding of the meaning.
The difficulties associated with the audited speech message should include its volume. In order not to cause information overload, the volume of the text should correspond to the student's mental abilities. At the beginning of training, it should not exceed 1.5-2 minutes of sound. In case you need to listen to a longer text, it is useful to present it in parts with interruptions.
3. Difficulties associated with the conditions of presentation of the message.
Under the terms of presentation understand the number of plays and the pace of speech of the speaker.
Observations indicate that repeated listening of the text is widely used by teachers in order to facilitate understanding and memorizing the content and language form of the text. This practice seems to be harmful. It is advisable to immediately “teach” the psyche of the student to the natural conditions of functioning and at the beginning of training to present texts only once. Also, it should be borne in mind that the optimum for the listener is such a pace of audited speech, which corresponds to the pace of his own speaking.
4. Difficulties associated with sources of information.
In the process of learning to listen, audiovisual and auditing sources of information are used. Audiovisual sources include: all kinds of visual clarity (pictures, slides, etc.), accompanied by the teacher’s story, sounded movies, television and the teacher’s speech. Audience sources include records, sound recordings and radio programs.
It is known from psychology that the more analyzers participate in receiving information, the more successfully the activity is performed. That is, it is easier to perceive speech from audiovisual sources than from auditing sources.
The next most difficult source of information will be a filmstrip accompanied by the teacher's speech. Students will not be able to observe the facial expressions and gestures of the speaker, but the presence of substantive clarity in the form of filmstrip frames and the familiar voice will facilitate understanding.
Listening to a teacher’s speech without substantive clarity is somewhat more complicated. However, the teacher's speech has such qualities that make it understandable for students. These include, above all, the habit of the teacher's speech. Abundant practice has taught students to the pace of the teacher's speech, to its timbre and diction, facial expressions and gestures. In addition, the teacher knows the capabilities of his students well, and therefore his speech is always available both in language form and in content.
The movie is the most difficult of audiovisual sources of information. The rate of speech in the movie is always stable and cannot be slow. The frame change occurs without pauses, and the repeated demonstration of the frame is excluded. The student, being distracted by the details, may not catch the main content of the frame, which will interfere with the correct understanding of speech information, which, as a rule, is less visual and covers only the main content of the frame.
As you know, familiar voices are audited easier for strangers. You can start working with audio recording by listening to the teacher's speech. Then go to the hearing of unfamiliar voices, first male, and then female and children's. With the help of a tape recorder, you can listen to speech at a different pace: from slow to fastest. However, when working with a tape recorder, repeated listening and interruptions in listening are possible, making them an easier source of information than radio broadcasts. The value of radio programs lies in the fact that in the process of learning, students use language as a means of natural communication, receiving new interesting information with their help. Listening to radio programs, the student gets acquainted with the life of the country of the language being studied, learns about important events. The desire to understand the meaning of a radio program stimulates mental activity and makes the listener make every effort to understand the information of interest.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized once again that effective listening instruction is impossible without taking into account and the gradation of the difficulties of this type of speech activity. A system of exercises designed for teaching listening should be aimed at overcoming these difficulties. The feasibility of the exercises is ensured both by the gradual and sequential inclusion and working out of difficulties, and by the focus of the exercise on overcoming only one new difficulty. Also, for successful learning to listening, it is necessary to observe all stages of work on it. Having studied the main difficulties of listening comprehension and overcoming them, we proceed to the consideration of the stages of work on listening.