viernes, 2 de octubre de 2009

Skills and Strategies for Proficient Listening by Pat Wilcox Peterson

Theories of language Comprehension

Listening is the primary channel for language input and acquisition:

It is important to take into account the primacy of listening in the process of comprehension, retention of information, and acquisition of second language competence.

“Learning to speak a language is very largely a task of learning to hear it”. Nida (1957)
“Reception should precede production because reception enables production”. Nord (1981)

Listening comprehension is a multilevel, interactive process of meaning creation:

Many levels work simultaneously to understand the incoming speech. The higher level processes (top-down) involves the listener’s expectations and understanding of the context, the topic, and the nature of the world. On the other hand, the lower level processes (bottom-up) starts with the listener’s attempt to decode sounds, words and phrases.

Going beyond, those sounds itself carries an implicit meaning; the listener in this stage uses his/her own knowledge of the language to recognize words, meaningful sounds units, syllable boundaries, etc. (Perceptual stage)

In the next stage the listener decode the sounds into meaningful units of language and stores them in his/her short term memory (Parsing stage)

The listener links the new information with existing information (Schemata) in his/her long-term memory. When a match is made between the old and new information, comprehension occurs. (Utilization stage)

In proficient listeners, higher and lower level processes compensate each other, the lack of information at one level is supplemented by the other.

Schemata: “Data structure for representing generic concepts stored in memory” Rumelhart 1980.

According to Carrel and Eisterhold there are two kinds of schemata: Content schemata and formal schemata. Content schemata are based in cultural knowledge, topic familiarity, and previous experience with a field.
Formal schemata have to do with people’s knowledge of discourse forms: types of texts, structural organization, etc.

Models of the comprehension process:

The listener does not receive meaning, but rather constructs meaning. The constructed message differs somewhat from the intended message and is influenced by context, purpose for listening and the listener’s own prior knowledge.

Principles for Listening Comprehension in the classroom:

*Increase the amount of listening time in the second language class. (Listening should be the primary channel to introduce new material).
*Use listening before other activities.
*Include both global and selective listening.
*Activate top-level skills. (Provide advance organizers, script activators, or discussions; encourage top-down processing of information)
*Work towards automaticity in processing. (Include recognition and retention of the material)
*Develop conscious listening strategies. (Let them notice how processing operations interact with the text)

Skills and strategies

It is important to differentiate between listening process, listening skill, and listening strategy.

The comprehension process (listening process) is constituted by some simultaneous, interactive operations. These operations are made up of various subprocesses (recognizing words, recalling relevant schemata, etc.), the skills.
When the comprehension process breaks down, the listener becomes aware of the need for repair and seeks an appropriate strategy for comprehension.

At lower proficiency levels the urge to translate is so natural that is recommendable to explicitly encourage students to avoid it.

Types of Strategies:

The categories of strategies are metacognitive, cognitive and socioaffective. Metacognitive strategies involve planning, monitoring, and evaluating comprehension. Cognitive strategies are used to manipulate information. eg. Rehearsal, organization, summarization, etc.
Socioaffective strategies are important when the listening is two way and meaning can be negotiated between speaker and listener. eg. Cooperative learning, negotiation of meaning, etc.

Strategy use varies with proficiency; the more advanced learners use a greater number of strategies than beginners.

Effective learners select strategies depending on the processing phase. In the perceptual phase they use focused, selective attention; in parsing the prefer top-down strategies; and in the utilization phase, they draw on personal experience and world knowledge.

A Developmental view of listening skills

Characteristics of the beginning-level student in listening:

*Lack adequate bottom-up processing skills
*Perception of new language as undifferentiated noise (not yet able to segment the speech stream)
*Not familiar with rules for word formation, inflections, or word order.
*Vocabulary practically nonexistent.

Suggestions to improve listening input:

*Global listening should be short (one to three minutes of duration)
*Teachers’ monologues are most effective at this level if they are delivered in a simplified code.
*Try to add new material gradually.
*Global listening exercises delivered to large classes, offers an option to use the class time wisely.
*Selective listening exercises focused on structures or sounds are easy to prepare.
*Listening discrimination tasks can focus on tenses, word order, or new vocabulary.

Techniques for global Listening:

Global listening is the presentation of new material. Until students are skilled readers, it is the best to present new material orally.
Texts for global listening should be short, and must be preceded by a prelistening activity. The theme and situation of the story should be presented visually.
Use new vocabulary supported by the context of the classroom, so meaning is clear.
In this stage the listening should include pauses; teachers should not slow their speech, because students’ short-term memory capacity is too limited.
Short phrases can be held in working memory until the next pause; during the pause, the phrase is analyzed, interpreted, related to the rest of the message, and comprehended.

Selective listening techniques:

These techniques consist on bringing some of the new contrasts and patterns into conscious awareness through selective listening exercises.

An exercise is classified as bottom-up if focus is on form and the exercise deals with one of the structural systems of English.

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between intonation contours in sentences
*Discriminate between phonemes
*Recognize syllable patterns, number of syllables, and word stress
*Be aware of sentence fillers in informal speech
*Select details from the text

Top-Down Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between emotional reactions
*Get the gist or main idea of a passage
*Recognize the topic

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use speech features to decide if a statement is formal or informal
*Recognize a familiar word and relate it to a category
*Compare information in memory with incoming information
*Compare information in memory with incoming information.

Profile of the Intermediate level learner:

*Listening is important at the time of increasing their vocabulary and structural understanding.
*Need practice in word recognition.
*Can retain longer phrases and sentences
*Can listen to short conversations or narratives of one or two paragraphs
*They are able to find the main idea and some supportive details
*Ready to practice more discourse level skills
Techniques for global listening:

*Students need to hear authentic (Authentic: very good teacher-made or adapted materials) texts with reduced forms, fast speech features, dales starts, hesitations, errors, some nonstandard dialects, and a variety of different voices.

Techniques for selective listening:

*Students need to focus their attention on the systematic features of the language code.
*According to Gilbert, some pronunciation training has an important place in the listening class.
*Students are in time to teach explicitly some strategies of interactive listening (how to use one’s knowledge of formal grammar to check the general meaning of a spearker’s statement and how to use one’s background knowledge to predict and direct the process of comprehension).

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Differentiate between content and function words by stress patterns
*Find the stressed syllable
*Recognize words with reduced vowels or dropped syllables
*Recognize words as they are linked in the speech stream
*Recognize pertinent details in the speech stream

Top-down processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Discriminate between registers of speech and tones of voice
*Identify the speaker or the topic
*Find the main ideas and supporting details
*Make inferences

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use word stress to understand the speaker’s intent
*Recognize missing grammar markers in colloquial speech and reconstruct the messages
*Use context and knowledge of the world to build listening expectations; listen to confirm expectations.

Profile of the advanced learner:
-Students at this level:

*Have cognitive and academic language proficiency
*Listen to the language to learn about the other areas
*Can listen to longer texts such as radio and television programs and academic lectures
*Have an extensive vocabulary which includes topics in current events, history and culture
*Can deal with certain degree of abstraction.

Bottom-up processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use features of sentences stress and intonation to identify important information for note taking
*Recognize contractions, reduced forms, and other characteristics of spoken English that differ from the written form
*Become aware of common performance slips that must be reinterpreted or ignored
*Become aware of organizational cues in the lecture text
*Become aware of lexical and suprasegmental markers for definitions
*Identify specific points of information

Top-down processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use knowledge of the topic to predict the content of the text
*Use the introduction to the lecture to predict its focus and direction
*Use the lecture transcript to predict the content of the next section
*Find the main idea of a lecture segment
*Recognize point of view

Interactive Processing:
-Students at this level should be able to:

*Use knowledge of phrases and discourse markers
*Make inferences about the text.