Monday, 23 July 2012

Article 1: Listening strategies in the L2 classroom

I found this article relevant because I have observed and experienced the tendency to overlook teaching listening. I can't recall any of my high school French or English teachers asking me to consider what strategies I used when listening—if any of them did, it was not done routinely or emphasized enough for me to remember as important. Listening was only overtly valued on tests and quizzes. Although I somehow appropriated the importance of teaching “reading, writing, speaking, and listening”, when teaching transitional English, I often took listening to be a given (it never crossed my mind to teach students how to better understand what I was saying). For French, we did listening activities in class (where students had to check off answers or draw a scene being described) and brainstormed strategies they could use beforehand, but I did not go to the next step of asking them to consider which strategies actually helped them in different contexts.

The fact that strategies learners use in their first language do not always work equally effectively with a second language is interesting. I think that many learners may not even be aware that they use strategies when listening to their first language (because they have become automatic). Hence, an important first step is to make them aware that such strategies exist that are essential to aural comprehension, which starts with me teacher (for whom French is also a second language) taking time to regularly consider what strategies I use to enhance aural comprehension. As the article says, students need to be exposed to many different strategies and given regular opportunities to consciously apply them.

Apponte-de-Hanna mentions paralinguistic signals, such as gestures, body language and rate of speech. I wonder how to equip students to understand these paralinguistic signals in authentic settings when I felt I used them very “artificially” in the classroom, for example, by using exaggerated gestures to aid with comprehension. The listening activities that came with the textbook were pretty cheesy and artificial as well. Some of this artificiality is needed to facilitate comprehension, but how can we gradually teach students to effectively understand authentic speech using the strategies?

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