Monday, August 06, 2007

How to Improve English Language Listening Skills in EFL Learners

There are four principal venues that are frequently used in order to develop listening comprehension skills in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners. By integrating these resources, the EFL teaching professional can effectively aid learners not only in listening comprehension skills development but also in multiple aspects of connected speech production. Understanding a listening passage can be made all the more difficult by four key influence factors including: the number of speakers in the passage, the technical difficulty and level of the spoken material in the passage, the speed of the speech and the accent(s) of the speakers in the passage and whether or not there is any external support provided for the listening passage. (i.e., photos, illustrations, graphics, vocabulary review or pre-listening activities, etc.) ref. Brown and Yule, 1983

Speech and Language Modeling by the Teacher

If the EFL teacher is a native or near native English speaker, then the dialogues can be modeled in addition to modeling pronunciation and connected speech examples. If the EFL or ESL teacher is not a native (or near native) English speaker, and this teacher does not have sufficient speech and pronunciation in English to model these aspects for the learners, then other English speech modeling and input sources can be used. Besides, we must not limit learners by thinking they can only learn and improve in a particular way. (M. Spratt, 2005)

Audio-Visual Resources

A valuable audio-visual aspect is provided to English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners by native-speaker-produced CDs and DVDs. Speech and cultural elements can be illustrated or demonstrated using authentic audio-visual materials such as movie clips and documentaries, student-produced recordings and TV programs or commercials, among many others.

Audio cassettes or CD – ROMs

A wide range of CDs and DVDs exist to provide native speech modeling of different speaking, pronunciation, national and regional English accents. Multiple varieties of English are commonly used throughout the world and having examples of these by which learners can be exposed to the differences in spoken English will be helpful in demonstrating pronunciation variables. Online, over-the-air and cable radio broadcasts can be especially effective and are readily available in much of the world.

Three examples of excellent online radio broadcast sites are:

Online Audio and Video

Increasingly, institutes of higher learning are making integrated online materials available to learners. These may consist of spoken dialogues, video dialogues, short stories, interactive games, poems, rhymes and riddles, spoken grammar, connected speech examples, movie clips, interviews, documentaries and even pronunciation lists. Learners can log into the website at their institution to receive extended practice materials to complement in-class learning. Many large, well-established universities, institutes and ELT materials publishers are making such materials available online to both clients and the general public. In addition, specialized websites for English language teaching have cropped up in abundance and offer a plethora of materials and didactic assistance for the ELT professional.

Some examples of available materials online include:

Pearson – Longman
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Heinle and Heinle
McGraw – Hill educational resources
Harvard University – Open Courseware

A web search using “online English language teaching materials” will yield a virtual bonanza of materials, planning and resources for the time-strapped English teacher.

Although listening comprehension skills of themselves cannot be “taught”, the English (EFL) teacher can guide the learner’s practice in listening and increment their intensity of study and practice to aid in the development of listening comprehension skills in EFL learners. This can be especially effective when the learners live in one Braj Kashru’s “outer circle” countries (B. Kashru, 1980) where there may well be a quite limited exposure to spoken English available for the English language learners. English teachers should be resourceful in identifying and acquiring materials to augment their classes in proving as broad a variety of listening comprehension materials as possible for their classes. Thus, by integrating any and all available resources, any English language teaching professional can effectively aid learners not only in developing their listening comprehension skills but also in the demonstration of multiple aspects of connected speech in worldwide Englishes.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. For more information on entering into or advancing in the fascinating field of ELT send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, send an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post. Many people have master degree in English Literature but they don't have English Language skills for jobs .