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Active Listening in the EFL ESL Class

Active Listening in the EFL ESL Class

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Published by Jonathan Acuña

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Published by: Jonathan Acuña on Nov 16, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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  Active Listening in the EFL/ESL Class:
5 tips for better listening in language learning 
I’ve been asked the very same question by different
generations of students at the university:
Teacher, what can I do toimprove my listening skills?
The good thing about the question is that mypupils are aware of the importance of becoming better listeners. Yet theproblem is that learners tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly andare negatively affecting their listening potential.Do we really listen?
Not really.
Based on Seth S. Horowitz (2012), anauditory neuroscientist at Brown University,
the difference between thesense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.
The students
 problem is that they hear a lot, but they can
t focus to listen attentively.Barbara Bray (2012) labels this skill as
active listening.
And this is exactlywhat students need to develop.How can students learn to listen actively and attentively?In languagelearning, a well-developed and robust ear is a must, not only forpronunciation training but also in public speaking and content courses, aswell as in real life. This
ear can be developed by working andimplementing five basic tips, which are the ones I share with my English-learning students.
: Students have the wrongidea that they have to comprehend every single word uttered by a speaker(professors, partners, etc.), and this is not true. Communication is basedon the understanding of a message, not of individual words. Students needto learn to extract
the global meaning
of an explanation in class, or alistening task. Vocabulary can be dealt differently in some other occasion tobenefit listening. Listening for understanding is the first key towardsattentive listening.
Tip 2<
: Whether it
s a cultural condition, or not, manystudents are afraid of asking for clarification. And they forget that a goodlanguage teacher does not complain because students ask, but s/he simplyexplains again. Clarification is necessary since a second explanation orrepetition can be the difference between understanding or remaining witha gap in one
s learning. So, if we are listening for understanding, andsomething is not clear to us, it
s always a good idea to ask the speaker toclarify for us. This behavior also reflects one
s search for attentive listeningand that one is interested in the topic being discussed.
Tip 3<
: At times students tend to forget thatcommunication is not only verbal; they forget that we also communicatenonverbally. Body language is also important in becoming a good listenersince what is being said is usually accompanied with facial gestures andhand movements. Decoding these gestures can definitely enhance people
sunderstanding of the message that is being conveyed. By asking forrepetition when necessary and by reading people
s body movements, we
also develop our attentive listening to turn into a better decoder of messages.
Tip 4<
: To become a good listener, the studentneeds to be curious, and that
s why being open-minded is a must. Whilelistening, we become receptive for new ideas and different points of viewother speakers are willing to share with us. And it
s also necessary not tobe biased, because prejudice will somehow diminish your listeningpotential. As it can be seen, open-mindedness is another key element inbecoming focused and attentive listeners.
Tip 5<
: A crucial element in developing one
slistening skill is your surroundings. In today
s world, there are plenty of distractors that hinder one
s listening potential. For that reason, one has tostop what one is doing. Text-messaging with friends in class, listening toyour music by having your earphones on, or surfing the Web in your phoneor other device affect your listening. Noise is another element to take intoaccount. If practicing your listening, it is always a good idea to look for aquiet place where you can minimize background noise. This will allow youto focus and listen attentively. As it can be seen, good listening skills don
t just depend on
perse. There are external elements that need to be considered and improvedto be a much attentive, active listener. What you have been provided hereis just a collection of tips I give my students at the university. However,there are more extensive lists of recommendations to explore and practice.Please, explore these two collections of tips that can also help yourstudents become better listeners.
Kay Lindahl
Barbara Bray

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