Listening skills are vital for any form of communication and ESL is no exception.

A popular saying goes ‘Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk’ In fact, most in the ELT field would agree that listening is one of the most frequently used skills from amongst the four skills ( i.e. Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening).

Listening to English speakers helps ESL students improve their pronunciation, understand the general concept being talked about and the natural flow of words. As language teachers, we need to constantly improvise and incorporate listening into the teaching plan. The aim should be to create ample opportunities for the learners to be exposed to significant listening input in order to make sure that the learners develop a more holistic and balanced understanding of the target language.

The systematic organization of latent, as well as fresh vocabulary or structure, triggers the brain to understand, make sense (partly or wholly), organize and eventually update the memory of the person listening to it. The output is a gist that the listener/ESL learner forms and eventually may respond in many different ways depending on the flow of the lesson.

There is scientific proof that listening is vital in language acquisition and must be approached in a planned manner. Integrating listening into the language curriculum requires a clear understanding of the level being taught. Remember to choose a listening audio which is relevant to the age group, the cultural background and general interests of the ELL.

It must also be segregated into the following three phase :

  1. Pre-listening  : This is almost like the warm up stage to convey the context and expectations from the activity.
  2. Listening :  This is the actual listening stage and may be further divided into uninterrupted listening & segmental listening
  3. Post-listening : THis entails follow-up, recycling and further activation (maybe reflection too) of the new aspects of language

During the Pre-listening stage, the goal is to seamlessly set up the listening task for the learner and prepare them for the activity. Minimal teacher input but maximum elicitation is recommended. This can better clarify the expectations and assumptions of the learners. Avoid sharing the text or the transcript of the passage being listened to because that might deprive the ELL from a chance to make an attempt to understand the general overview of the activity. They might get bogged down by the details and start reading instead of listening. Brainstorming and discussions related to the topic is a great way to set the ensuing listening activity.

This is the stage where I also tell them that the actual listening would happen in stages. We first listen to the complete audio, uninterrupted. This is also known as global listening. What follows is a segmental listening whereby the trainer pauses at appropriate points and discusses the audio. The segmental listening phase is beneficial and lets the learners pick up intricate details. Prior to that during the uninterrupted listening , the ELLs get a fair general idea of the topic or conversation. The number of times the students want to listen to it as a whole or with pauses , is of course optional. It is very essential to bear in mind that students do not need to get everything or all details being discussed in the text. It is also optional to let the learners listen to the uninterrupted text in class and continue segmental listening as homework.

This stage leads to the post listening task which is almost like a follow up and aims to utilize all that the learners might have gained during the previous stages. The culmination may be in the form of a game, a discussion or a re-enactment of a role play/conversation they might have listened to. Higher level learners can discuss the merits and demerits of the views expressed in the audio. Listening and speaking are inherently taught together, but beginners should be given more listening than speaking practice. If the listening activity involves listening to the teacher, ensure that you to speak naturally with an occasional slowdown for beginners some. This undoubtedly helps build the student’s confidence and improves pronunciation. If the listening activity is via an equipment, it is important to check on its sound/voice quality because any hiccups during the session are a sheer waste of precious teaching time.

Learners of all ages and cultural backgrounds appreciate music. Listening to a popular song may be followed up by a knowledge gap activity and a sing-a-long. For me it is high priority to keep the language learning sessions very lively, fun and memorable too. A happy environment is positively conducive to learning. It is during audio /video listening activities that a large variety of language can be dwelled into. For instance, colloquialism, localized slangs, reduced forms and even certain popular idioms are often ignored in written texts. Listening to these and gradually getting a hang of such nuances is essential for the learner to be able to confidently and fluently communicate in the real world. It would also be a great idea to let the learners suggest what they’d like to listen to as long as it pertains to the structure being focused on. GO On ! Dwell deeper into the world of podcasts, news pieces, ted talks, movie clips, TV shows. Imbibe a variety of listening activities in the lesson plan and keep the ELLs highly engaged.


PEGGY SHARMA ESL Trainer         --Cross Cultural Communication Facilitator--
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