Listening in EAP: Academic listener as interpreter and recorder

Edward de Chazal explains the challenges that EAP (English for Academic Purposes) learners face, and what teaching staff and lecturers need to do to make the task more manageable for them.

Edward de Chazal

Edward de Chazal explains the challenges that EAP (English for Academic Purposes) learners face, and what teaching staff and lecturers need to do to make the task more manageable for them.

Video 1 - Introduction

Session summary and objectives

In this talk, Edward de Chazal explains very clearly why academic listening skills are so challenging for international students. He explores the nature of academic listening, the roles of the listener, and the purpose of listening. He then outlines the factors that EAP lecturers need to be aware of when planning their talks and provides guidance on formulating classroom approaches to academic listening using a variety of materials.

Who is this session for?

  • EAP teachers
  • Teachers/students who need to cover an EAP module in an ESL (English as a second language) qualification or master’s degree.


Edward de Chazal is an independent author, teacher and trainer specialising in EAP. He has co-authored the Oxford EAP coursebook series (Students' and Teachers' books) and the English for Academic Purposes methodology title, all published by Oxford University Press. He has spent many years teaching EAP at universities in Turkey, England and the Czech Republic, and has taught, examined or given talks in twenty countries.

When following a lecture you are required to be both an interpreter and recorder of information. Consider what a student actually needs to do during the lecturer and after it to fulfil these two roles well and develop into a successful tertiary level student.

Task: Analysing and understanding the challenge of an academic listening task

Select a listening task or lecture from your course materials. Develop your knowledge of what complexity lies within the content. As you read the text and prepare for your lesson or lecture ask yourself these questions:
a) What are the linguistic features of the speaker?
Consider pronunciation, level of formality, false starts, repeated words, pause length, repetition. 
b) What are the linguistic features of the passage?
Consider grammar, vocabulary, long sequences with multiple items, technical terms, words with dependent prepositions, use of numbers.
c) What are the audibility features to consider?
Think about the speed of delivery, room sound effects, background noise. 
d) Are there challenging multimodality features of the text?
Think about any visuals or graphs that need to be interpreted, statistics, abbreviations, symbols, etc.
e) How demanding is the content?
Would the content be challenging even for a layperson? e.g. unknown medical terms. Is the content new? Are students being introduced to this content for the first time or is it an extension of what they already know? What background knowledge do they have already to draw from?
f) Are there culturally-specific references in the text?
e.g. people or places the students will not know. 
Use a checklist like this one to deepen your understanding of the challenges that international students face with the lectures they attend. As a result, you will be able to design lectures that are easier to understand and cope with.
  1. Before every listening task, bear in mind the range of challenges that face an international student coming to the academic lecture forum for the first time.
  2. Think carefully about the staging of your lecture – pay attention to logical sequencing of information, stating the aims of the lecture at the start, using signposting language to indicate transitions in content, and back and forward textual cohesion.
  3. Consider the challenging content within the lecture and explain it to the students. For example, define technical terms and where possible reduce complex terms to simpler language if appropriate.
  4. Link the lecture to other sources of information that can be easily sourced by students, and academic readings.
  5. Add support to the lecture delivery: provide a transcript and record each lecture so the students can listen to them again in their own time.

Join the discussion!

Discuss this question with your colleagues, if you can:
We know the skill of academic listening is really difficult - it is complex, multimodal and integrated with a range of other skills. What advice can you share with other teachers about how you’ve helped your students deal with the challenges involved?
Remember to log in and share your ideas with us by using the comments section below.


Downloadable resources and further reading

  • Download the print version of this training session.
  • BBC Learning English: academic listening web pages.
  • BALEAP Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes
  • Presentation slides: 'Exploring teacher beliefs about teaching English for Academic Purposes at low proficiency levels', Alexander, Olwyn. 
  • de Chazal, E, (2014) English for Academic Purposes, Oxford University Press.
Edward de Chazal also refers to these supplementary resources available to EAP students:
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online courses) e.g. Coursera, edX, Udacity
  • Open access resources at university EAP centres, e.g. lectures at the University of Reading
  • The Open Yale lectures project with accompanying transcripts
  • The University of Oxford Open Spires project
  • The University of Michigan MICASE (Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English) lecture resource
  • The University of Warwick British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus
  • TED (Technology Education, Design)
  • Other resources – YouTube, iTunes, iTunesU

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletters for teachers and teacher educators

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.