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The teaching of speaking and listening has been neglected in the ESL (English as a
Second Language) classrooms for a period of time. This has led to a void where it has
affected the language teachers and students. It is hard what modal or what criterion to
consider during the teaching of speaking and listening activity. Malaysian teachers are
experiencing a season of drought on what to teach and how to teach these two skills in the
The importance of listening in language learning has changed over the past years.
Listening used to be overlooked and teachers assume that listening abilities would be
acquired during the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation practice. This is quite surprising
as abilities to listen play an equal role as abilities to speak in successful communication.
What is speaking? Speaking is the process of building and sharing meaning
through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts (Chaney, 1998, p.
13). What is teaching speaking? Teaching speaking is to teach our learners to produce the
English speech sounds and sound patterns. Using word and sentence stress, intonation
patterns and the rhythm of the second language. Selecting appropriate words and sentences
according to the proper social setting, audience, situation and subject matter. Organizing their
thoughts in a meaningful and logical sequence. Using language as a means of expressing
values and judgments and using the language quickly and confidently with few unnatural
pauses, which is called as fluency. (Nunan, 2003)
What is listening? Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from,
and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages. (Brownell, 2002, p. 48). What is
teaching listening? Listening is an essential skill for communication. It is necessary to
understand what we hear in order to keep a conversation with someone or about something.
The idea to teach listening is to improve the hearing (Brown, DH, 2007 p. 299).
Listening and speaking requires concentration, which is the focus to any activity. A
person who incorporates listening and speaking with concentration is actively listening and
speaking, they are responding to one another and that encourages communication. Many
teachers tend to talk too much and this defeats the purpose of allowing the students to learn
by listening or speaking. Rather than turning the session into a mini-lecture, teachers must
encourage their students to speak and listen actively.

Problems in Teaching Listening
The importance of listening in language learning is worth considering since when you do
not listen you will never learn anything new.
Among the four skills, second language learners often complain that listening is the
most difficult to acquire. Both listening and reading are receptive skills, but listening can be
more difficult than reading. The problems they encounter are:
1. Different speakers produce the same sounds in different ways, e.g. dialects and
accents, stress, rhythms, intonations & mispronunciations.
2. The listener has little/no control over the speed of the input of the spoken material
3. The spoken material is often heard only once (unlike the reading material)
4. The listener cannot pause to work out the meaning
5. Speech is more likely to be distorted by background noise (e.g. round the classroom)
or the media that transmit sounds
6. The listener sometimes has another task while listening, e.g. note-taking
Other problems in listening are;
(a) inadequate attention to the auditory information,
(b) inappropriate listening situations: distractions and noises,
(c) difficulty to distinguish speech sounds, and
(d) incompetence in recalling phonemes and manipulating them explicitly.
A great number of students believe that listening is the most difficult skill and they
start to panic when they hear the word listening or see a CD player. But on the other hand
students, who learn from what they hear, usually achieve better results at listening. According
to Yagang (1994), the problems in teaching listening are according to the four following
factors: the message, the speaker, the listener and the physical setting. Furthermore, a
numbers of research have been carried out to pick out the problems in listening. The
problems were believed to cause by the speech rate, vocabulary and pronunciation
(Higgins, 1995). Apart from the above problems, I believe the following are also some
problems in teaching listening. First of all, the students find it hard to understand proper
names as they have never heard about it before. In other words, they have no background
knowledgeabout what they are listening. The second problem is believed to rise from the
unfamiliar, uninteresting and too long listening which makes the students feel strange,
discouraged and bored of what they are hearing. The last one is assumed to be about the
sound connections and intonation spoken by native speakers with different accents.
Problems in Teaching Speaking
Teaching speaking has a purpose or we can say that we want to teach how to
communicate to achieve a particular end, for example, expressing ideas and opinion,
expressing a wish or desire to do something.
Speaking is a productive skill. Accuracy and fluency are the two important aspects of
speaking. Nunan (1991) wrote, "Success is measured in terms of the ability to carry out a
conversation in the (target) language." Therefore, if students do not learn how to speak or
do not get any opportunity to speak in the language classroom they may soon get de-
motivated and lose interest in learning. Teaching speaking is the main concern of the English
language courses prescribed in schools. For instance, making students able to communicate
orally, and making them able to understand and use the language functions prescribed in the
curriculum are two major general objectives of the English Curriculum.
What makes teaching speaking difficult is it just because the language, English. It is a
foreign language and the use of it is very seldom. We can see easily many things in our life
using English in the written form and it does not need to be read aloud, so we do not need to
be embarrassed. These are the problems found in speaking
a. Students do not want to talk or say anything, they are shy about talking in front of other
students, and they suffer from a fear of making mistakes and therefore losing face in
front of their teachers and their friends.
b. Students keep using their own language. This happens because they want to
communicate something important to their friends.
c. It is difficult to handle students in large classroom. The students hardly get a chance to
practice the language, and difficult for them to ask and receive individual attention they
d. Students are not disciplinein classroom. Some students do not pay attention to the lesson
given, they just talk with each other and make some noises.
e. The materials arenot suitablefor the students.
f. Students have low motivation to learn English. The development of communicative
skills can only take place if learners have motivation.
These are just some of the problems that teachers face when teaching speaking
activities in the classroom. These problems are not new. Teachers all over the world continue
to face the same hurdles, but any teacher who has overcome these difficulties will tell you it
is worth all the trial and error and effort at the offset.
Is the Teaching of Listening and Speaking Neglected
Listening and speaking is much neglected in language teaching and learning.
However, people have come to realize the importance of listening and speaking in language
learning and teaching and have accumulated much expertise and insights on how learners
develop their listening and speaking skills and how listening and speaking should be taught.
The school where I did this survey, is where I have been teaching for 11 years. SK
Taman Sutera is located at the edge of the Danga River. The school has 4 floors and 12
classes. The school has 31 teachers and 364 students. 2TesL graduates and 3 non optionist
teach English in this school.
A questionnaire survey (see Appendices 1 and 2) was done among 2 teachers in the
school. From the findings and interview, I see we have neglected the listening and speaking
in the classrooms. Most teachers find it tiresome doing these activities as it takes time and
English being the second language most teachers translate the activity.
4.1 Teaching Hours
From the findings of the survey, on how many hours a week do they teach Listening
and Speaking, both the teachers, PremaNair and Laura Amos spend one hour to one and half
hours per week on Listening and Speaking skills. This is in accordance to our KSSR syllables
where each skill is given an allocation of 2 to 3 periods per week. The aim of this component
is to develop the pupils ability to listen and respond to different stimuli. It also aims to
develop pupils ability to listen and to speak in various contexts, both in and outside the
When it comes to planning a listening or speaking lesson, Laura Amos integrates both
skills. This is what she says .I ntegrating this both skills together in a lesson is easier
than splitting them. I t is easier to get the pupils to listen to whatever I have got to present to
them and to get them to respond to me in return. I ntegrating this both skills together in a
lesson is easier than splitting them. My lessons are based on the guidelines given in text
books. PremaNair incorporates her both listening and speaking skills as she says, I
teach a weak class, so I incorporate this both skills, my students are mostly Orang Asli and
I need them to respond and hear. I will usually find activities where I can use both skills
together. The internet has many such activities and I usually modify the idea to suit to my
4.2 Method of Teaching Listening
Both teachers have different methods for teaching listening. In listening, Laura Amos
teaches using pictures or charts. She exposes the pupils to the content of the topic. She shares
a little about the pictures and the activities that can be seen in the scene and tries to expand
the pupils minds and ideas to think out of the box by relating to other things which are not in
the pictures but are interconnected to one another. In her during listening lesson, she shares a
lot about the general knowledge which is related to the subject. Other times she does listening
comprehension, where she reads from the text, stories and passages from the text book, and
requests the pupils to listen to her intonation, pronunciation and expression. For level 1,
especially year 1 and year 2 pupils, Laura Amos does a lot of singing. She sings to them and
requests them to listen and capture the rhythm and the lyrics of the song. Apart from the
singing she puts in some actions and induce some simple steps in order to draw their attention
and keep them focused. She emphasizes on the pupils listening to her and watching her
mouth movement when she teaches phonics. I have seen how Laura Amos teaches and I am
sometimes simply amaze what her year 1 pupils, especially the weak pupils, have achieve.
Madam PremaNair on the other hand uses very simple steps in her listening lesson.
She does a lot of singing to her level 1 pupils and also uses videos. Her students are smarter
and they can understand when she plays a video clip. Planning her listening lesson is not a
problem for Prema Nair as her students are very capable and they do understand how to
listen when teacher reads a text, shows a video clip or sing songs from current artist.
4.3 Method of Teaching Speaking
Both the teachers merge their speaking lessons with listening. They indeed both go together
like hand in glove. This is good and will not bore the pupils. Laura Amos says that
speaking skill is always involved after I have shared and exposed the pupils to the
content for the day. I get the pupils involved by constantly asking questions related to what
Ive shared or about the pictures shown.. Sometimes, after reading a text, I question
pupils related to the passage read. I drill out their opinions and ideas about the content of
the text read. For example categorising and sharing what are the advantages and
disadvantages of a certain thing that can be found in the text. Laura Amos makes her
students to speak, if it is in broken or pieces of English mixed with Malay, Chinese or Tamil.
She does not laugh or criticize but encourages and tells them the correct usage, word, phrase
or sentence that need to be corrected. This has motivated many students in her class to speak
English bravely. Prema Nair on the other hand uses a lot of lead-ins, warmers, fillers and
other techniques to develop speaking. She has many great ideas as she has been teaching for
10 years. Most of the KSSR courses she has attended and currently she is the only recipient in
our school to achieve Band 1 in the recent CLP exam. Madam Prema Nair always
experiments new techniques and applications which she catches on the educational webpage
and she practices on the pupils. Apart from that she has been awarded twice for her
innovative presentation at the district level. She says when in teaching speaking, she speaks
less and encourages the pupils to speak more. She rewards them when a pupil has accomplish
speaking fluently, this she says to encourage them to speak more.
4.4 Students Reaction towards Listening/Speaking
When discussing about this question, about the students reaction towards listening
and speaking, both teachers gave a long sigh. Among the four skills these the listening and
speaking skills take up time to prepare and coordinate. This is what Prema Nair has to say,
Usually my pupils would feel excited and be serious in the class when I conduct a
listening lesson. They want to know what teacher is talking about and it also helps them to
answer the questions in the comprehension questions which I always put up in my creative
power point slides. Most of my pupils would feel speaking lesson is an interesting lesson
because they would be happy to share their ideas with teacher and peer friends in the class.
Normally I will ask them to speak and not bother about their grammatical mistakes while
they are talking in class. Prema Nair does a lot of activities, not only base on the text book
but activities which she gleans from the internet too. She has a collection and module on
listening and speaking for years 1, 2 and 3 and currently she is compiling a module for year 4,
as she says KSSR is here to stay so why not make a way, so that others and even I will be
better in teaching listening and speaking to our pupils.
Miss Laura Amos, who has only 3 years of teaching and is a major science has put in
a lot of effort to teach English. Since our school, SK Taman Sutera was lacking English
teachers, she volunteered to be an English teacher. Speaking is a major problem in my school
as we have many pupils from Kampong Bakar Batu, Kampong Sungai Danga and children
from the low cost flats in Jalan Simbang. This may be a hindrance or a setback or even a
depression case for a young graduate like Laura Amos, but she took it all into stride and she
now can look back and sit back at her laurels. Many parents from the village has come up to
her and given her their thanks. Laura Amos has this to say about listeing, I think my pupils
enjoy the lesson when it involves singing and storytelling. Some of the pupils enjoy
listening to stories when it is told with expressions and actions. pupils get bored when
the subject shared is not in depth enough or things that are common to them. I t is
paramount for teachers to be ahead of them and be more knowledgeable than them when it
comes to any topic. I t could be about cartoons, video games, technology, movies or even
football. People say, knowledge is powerful, but I believe applying the knowledge
relevantly is even more powerful and impactful.
On speaking she says, I feel most of the children like to talk, they want to be heard,
they seek teachers attention, and they want to share and desire to talk. What bounds them
is not their lack of ideas or opinions but rather the barrier of language. A lot of pupils shy
away from voicing out their feelings and thoughts, due to their limitations when it comes to
communicating in English. Many of them lack confidence in speaking in English.
Therefore, when it comes to speaking lesson, I welcome ideas though at times it comes in
the forms of other languages. I always restructure their ideas and present them back in

4.5 Improvement to the Teaching of Listening and Speaking
Both the teachers agree there is room for improvement in teaching listening and
speaking. It takes great effort, time and sacrifice for improvement. Prema Nair says that
using technology in the classroom would help the teacher perform better, make the class
come alive thats what our KSSR syllables is all about fun learning. In speaking, she
recommends teachers to use their smart phones and iPads and all their gadgets to record
phonic sounds which will help pupils to pronounce the words more clearly and correctly.
This is better than downloading from the internet as the voices are foreign and pupils tend to
get confuse and using the microphone is always a hit with children when coming to speak.
Laura Amos also agrees with Prema Nair on the use of technology in class for listening and
speaking skills. Laura Amos says that technology and new interesting methods will draw
pupils attention. On speaking, Laura Amos, uses role-plays as this encourages the pupils to
speak. They get excited and are thrilled when they come to the front as a group to act out.

Jack C. Richards in his book Teaching Listening and Speaking from Theory to
Practicesays that, the most important question in teaching of speaking and listening skills is
how we can help learners to move beyond the level of neglect to attention. Teaching of
listening and speaking have changed considerably over the years. It is the two skills which
have been badly neglected and never cultivated properly. Listening and speaking skills were
never given any importance compared to reading or writing. Most teachers feel as long as the
pupil can read and write and score the A, the teacher has achieve its award, but many do not
know that the basic of reading and writing comes from listening and speaking. If a pupil
cannot hear and talk, how can he or she read or write. It will the case of many vernacular
schools when they drill the pupils to memorize for their exams. I am glad with this new
KSSR syllabus that listening and speaking skills are stressed out. They have allocated time
for each skill and teachers find it easier to teach. Teachers need to come to a point and stress
out the importance of teaching listening and speaking in order it would not be neglected. "I f
speaking is silver, then listening is gold." -- Turkish saying

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Popieszynska, M. (2000). Listening in FL Classrooms: A few recipes. International
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Saricoban, A. (1999). The teaching of listening. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V,
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Vandergrift, L. (2006). Second language listening: Listening ability or language
proficiency? The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1
Anderson, Ann, Lynch. Listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.


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