Teaching hints: Listening and speaking
Monday, April 20, 2020
Listening and speaking go together as parts of overall proficiency. Students need constant practice in both before they can succeed in a classroom with native speakers. Students need to begin work with authentic materials as soon as possible.
Students need to bridge the gap between short ESL exercises and real lectures. The trend is now toward authentic texts, radio broadcasts and real lectures for college ESL to promote student learning and interest by stressing communication skills and presenting culture in a natural way. Listening is considered an active skill and is emphasized in today's proficiency-oriented classrooms (Magrath, D., July 16, 2014).
Components of listening are recognition, selection, anticipation and memory. The levels of listening include sound discrimination, auditory memory and comprehension level. Participation must be cognitive, not merely vocal, and there is a need for challenge and problem solving. (Herron & Seay, 1991).
Listening also draws on background knowledge and experience about the topic, familiarity with the sound of the terms and merely the written forms and ability to follow common rhetorical formats.(393)Teachers should be alert to problems that face learners such as cross-association of similar items (is and has, for example; in some languages, the idiom is “I have hunger" rather than “I am hungry." Or "it has a book on the table" rather than "there is a book on the table.")
Advanced students also need practice in listening and speaking even though their main concern at this stage is writing essays and research papers in preparation for academic courses. They will be called on to make oral presentations in their regular classes and they will need to learn to take good notes as well. In the workplace, they may be asked to make a presentation about a new product or process or to train new workers.
Advanced students may need listening and speaking practice in areas such as these:
Expressing abstract ideas, following social language conventions, using formal verses informal language, participating in academic or work discussions, making academic or work presentations, recognizing implied meanings, understanding broadcast/news speech, and using technical language (ProLiteracy, 2013).
Oral presentations open the door to communication. Students will need to follow the accepted cultural rules while presenting. According to the ACTFL standards for foreign language learning in the 21st century:
Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions. This standard focuses on interpersonal communication, that is, direct oral or written communication between individuals who are in personal contact. In most modern languages, students can quite quickly learn a number of phrases that will permit them to interact with each other. In the course of their study, they will grow in their ability to converse in a culturally appropriate manner (National Standards, 1996).
Students may be fluent in English, but they may still have difficulty speaking to others especially if it is a formal presentation. The vocabulary is different in a formal presentation and the audience is different. Presenters will be judged more harshly than they would normally be in a classroom situation.
Having the confidence to speak in front of others is challenging for most people. For English Language Learners, this anxiety can be heightened because they are also speaking in a new language (Ferlazzo, L. & Sypnieski, K.H., April 17, 2018).
Teaching hint: Recasting
A good strategy for ESL instructors is recasting. The instructor repeats what students say without the errors.
However, in general, recasts can be defined as a more target like reformulation of the learner’s erroneous utterance in the course of interaction (Nassaji, H., Summer 2017).
Recasts improve the learners’ accuracy, according to a recent study.The findings confirmed that recasts had a facilitative effect (364).
The study showed that recasts were effective on both oral and written language. Recasts are an easy way to model correct language without appearing overly critical.
Sample oral presentation: A virtual trip
Depending on the nature of the trip, and the resources used to prepare students for the trip, ESL and FL instructors can write questions for students to research their destination. For example, students can work on a visit to New York. In class, have students log onto websites for visitors to New York, and have them look at a map of the city.
Ask students to share what they already know about that city. Write key words, including popular attractions, on the board. Students look at the suggested online source and decide whether to use it or look for a better site. They can work in small groups to come up places to visit and things to do.
Students look for illustrations, subject headings, highlighted passages, quotations, topic sentences and captions. Sample questions serve as a guide for students as they read through the material.Next, students will make oral presentations individually or in groups.
Sample oral presentation: Personal experience
In this individual activity, students report on something they did or experienced. They can talk about a trip, a movie they have seen, how to perform a task, or they can describe something they have seen. Students can demonstrate a craft from their home country, origami for example; they can go through the spoken explanation while making the figures in front of the class.
Speaking activities that are realist and task-based have advantages over those that follow something in a book or are dictated by the instructor.
Many EFL/ESL textbooks and teachers generally follow the PPP model (presentation, practice, produce). However, task-based learning had a number of advantages over this traditional model (Bolen, J., 2020, ESL Speaking).
The author tells us that it is easy to incorporate hands on learning into most lessons.
As you can see, it’s easy to incorporate task-based learning into any lesson and it’s a misconception that it needs to be a long-drawn-out project of some kind over multiple classes. Of course, it can also be this, but it doesn’t have to be (Task-based language learning).
Some more ideas
If you need some more ideas for how to do TBL with your students, here are just a few ideas that the author presents:
- Making a phone call to make a reservation, or complain about something
- Write an email in English for work
- Visiting the doctor
- Conduct an interview to find specific information
- Gathering information to make a poster or advertisement
- Make a short movie
- Information gap activities where each student has only half the information…
- Plan a road trip
- Finding something in common icebreaker activity. It’s a nice activity for the first day ofclass
- Plan a class party
Business and industry have become global, andas a result rapid, clear communication is essential. There is no place for language difficulties, and like it or not, English has become the lingua franca of the business world.
Good communication is essential for learners whether they are preparing for college or business and industry. Be sure to allow the students time to process the input, whether it be written or oral.
Teaching hint: Pronunciation
One thing that makes it more difficult for ESL learners to fit in with their peers is pronunciation. An accent or wrong pattern of stress and intonation can lead to misconceptions and communication breakdowns.
A speaker may appear rude, for example just from the tone of voice and speech patterns. Different L1 speakers will have problems with sounds that do not exist in their home language. From a cultural standpoint, these differences may make the speakers seem outsiders and impede their assimilation into the host country.
Studies also demonstrate that understanding the reasons for the behavior of L2 speakers enables learners to accept cultural differences more easily and thus creates a more positive attitude toward the target language (Akhbar, I., October 4, 2017).
Authentic speaking activities involving interaction are part of the language acquisition process. Students interact with each other and the teacher in a socialization process that is meaningful and relevant as noted in acquisition research:
Therefore, from a sociocultural perspective, acquisition is inextricably tied to the social and linguistic opportunities that are present in the FL classroom context, in so much as these opportunities are perceived by learning as meaningful, valuable, and relevant. As such, teachers play an important role in shaping classroom discourse and affording students with opportunities for meaningful interaction (Thoms, 2012).
These activities lead to a more natural approach than just working through repetitions.Eventually the linguistic means for accomplishing these social practices are appropriated by the learners and become part of their cognitive resources (S10).
Pronunciation errors may continue for L2 learners even after they have mastered the grammar and syntax. Interference from L1 occurs when the L2 has different sounds even for cognate words.
One of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language has to do with pronunciation. Learners are typically prone to specific sets of errors, which differ depending on the learners first language (Ludwig-Maximilians, February 7, 2020).
Learners tend to feel they have mastered the sounds of the language when they have a way to go.This exaggerated assessment of one's own ability is an important factor that helps explaining why it is so difficult to learn the sounds of a foreign language.
Learners are familiar with their own voices and accents and tend to feel that they have mastered the sounds of L2.
There are several possible explanations for these findings. Previous research has shown that familiar accents are easier to understand than accents that are less familiar.Learners rate the familiar sound of their own voice as “more congenial.”
Feedback is essential. New programs are available online or for download that go beyond the traditional language lab. The authors of the study are looking into apps.In addition, more and more ESL and L2 material is available on YouTube.
They are already considering ways to improve the situation with the aid of apps that generate the necessary external feedback — irrespective of how users rate their own performance.
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