Traditionally, people overlook the role of listening, while overemphasizing the role of reading and writing in learning (Qiu, 2006; Cook, 2001; Rost, 2005). Listening is one of the indispensable abilities in language. As a kind of input, listening is the foundation of speaking and writing. If a student does not receive effective listening input, he or she may not perform well in writing and speaking since the two output abilities are more difficult. Listening is important because listening helps students lay the foundations of speaking and writing. Through listening, students can acquire decent pronunciation and learn many useful words, phrases, and sentences. Although there is an increasing recognition of importance of listening, there are still many problems for teaching listening to second language learners in the classrooms. For example, many task-based activities are dull and lack of personal interests, so that students may lose interest on listening» Yang, 2008#. For example, many Chinese teachers seem to rely too much on textbooks and overlook the interaction with students. The class is full of teacher-lecturing and group discussions are rare. Accordingly, it is necessary to introduce songs in listening teaching to ESL college students since English songs not only create the relaxed atmosphere but also provides enough input.
In order to get the main idea of the theoretical framework of the present study, the characteristics of the listening comprehension, factors affecting listening comprehension and the problems in teaching ESL listening will be provided. Based on Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, the rationales of using English songs to
ESL listening will be analyzed. After that, several parts with the English songs will be presented. These aspects will include the features of English songs, the functions of English songs to the ESL listening classrooms, the reasons for using English songs to ESL listening classrooms and the principles for selecting the songs. The final part of the literature review will be focused on strategies for using English songs in the ESL listening classrooms
In the book “Teaching and Researching Listening,” Rost (2005) proposes that listening is a cognitive, active intentional process. Ur (2000) points out the characteristics of listening: colloquial language, invisibility of the speaker, and the interactive. It is not hard to understand that. The materials shall be easy for students to get the main idea; usually it involves the colloquial language, so that students may predict the process. Since it is not the real listening, the speakers are invisible (except in the conversation between teachers and students). Listening comprehension also is interactive, that is to say students shall give feedback to teachers what they heard and teachers shall give their evaluations at the proper time. The listening process needs to be actively involved, both teachers and students, rather than receive the information passively.
Affective factors including various factors, such as motivation, attitude, interest, confidence, and anxiety. Dulary and Burt (1975) created the concept of “affective filter hypothesis” to illustrate the influence of the affective factors to foreign language learning. They defined it as “an inner processing development, hinder the absorbing of the language to learners by affective factors subconsciously.” Based on their theory, Krashen (1982) further divided affective factors into three aspects: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Those factors affect second language learning. Through the experimental studies on 189 Taiwanese ESL students in 2008, Chang and Ching received the feedbacks that 128 (80%) students feel more nervous in listening class than other courses. They consider listening very difficult and are afraid of eye-contact with the teachers. Chang and Ching (2008) also point out that listening anxiety related closely to the learners’ language competence, the characteristics of language input and nature of spoken English. Attitude influences the class participation and positive attitude makes it easier for students to learn a second language (Xiao, 2009). If people are unmotivated, afraid of failure or hold negative views on culture language, their affective filter is high, which will hinder the acquisition. On the contrary, those who are more confident and feel relaxed in language learning have a low affective filter, which will boost the effectiveness of learning.
Well known psychologist Maslow (1968, 1970), suggests a hierarchy of needs, in which he divided it into two main categories: deficiency needs and the being needs. The former included the basic needs for survival, security, belonging and self-esteem. If this need cannot be fulfilled, it is impossible for people to do other things. The latter needs contain the fulfillment of individual potential, with the representation of cognitive and aesthetic development. For college ESL teachers, it is necessary to provide a non-threatening atmosphere for students (Wang, 2008; Rost, 2005). For example, if the subject is too difficult for students, which can bring them worries or makes them afraid. In this case, the teachers shall consider carefully the materials or texts used in classes. What’s more, maybe to some opinions there is only one student who did agree or not to the idea. In many cases he or she did not have the courage to voice out his or her opinions since the majority holds the opposite view. In this case, the teachers shall encourage students to voice out his or her opinions so as to provide a non-threatening atmosphere. For students who engage different skills or talents, teachers shall design a variety of tasks and activities. Students shall encourage thinking and teachers shall be open to student’s questions. Another theory that needs to be mentioned is “Locus of control,” which was defined by Findley and Cooper (1983). Locus of control represents one’s attitudes towards control over their life events. Internalisers are those who feel responsible for everything that happens to them in their lives. Externalisers are those who believe that events are determined by the force beyond control. To college ESL students, the theory of “Locus of control” determines whether they accept or refuse the learning task, whether concentrated or not during the learning process, whether or not they can conquer difficulties. In ESL studying, externalisers rely largely on their teachers and consider teachers as the key factor to their academic success. Influenced by traditional models of teacher authority, the teachers dominate the classes. Chinese teachers spend much of their classroom time on lectures (Jin, 2005). Many ESL teachers still dominate the classrooms and ESL students have few chances to have a discussion or express their opinions in classes. It is advisable that teachers understand students’ strengths and give proper evaluation of their behavior, encourage students more and help them to face the setbacks positively.
As a concept from psychology, memory is also important for listening comprehension. There are three stages of the memory system: sensory memory, short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM) (Rost, 2005). It is difficult to store the information since the first two stages are relatively short. To ESL students, listening comprehension is not an easy task since memory span for foreign language is shorter than that for one’s native language. For example, listening takes 35% of the score in the CET-4 and CET-6 Test. Many students hold the wrong assumption that they have to understand every single word they have heard. Once they encounter a word they do not recognize, chances are they have missed the following information while still racking their brains. Under this circumstance, bottom-up processing should be replaced by top-down processing since the former focused on listening for words, while the latter focused on listening for the main ideas of the information (Richards, 2005)
Many writers infer that English songs have the great effect on listening comprehension (Lems, 2001; Vernon, 2006; Fonseca-Mora et al., 2011; Qiu, 2006; Rapport, 2005; Farrug, 2008). Lems (2001) Rapport (2005) Farrug (2008) put that English songs can improve comprehension skills, increase vocabulary and create fun. Vernon (2006) claims that English songs bring energy to the classroom and boost students’ confidence. Foneseca-Mora el al and Qiu (2011, 2006) point out another two functions of English songs in teaching listening: to improve the memory and practice the pronunciation.