Language Development

Effective Listening

Unless one is born dumb or deaf, listening is a skill that comes naturally and is meant to facilitate and make the learning process more natural. Unfortunately, although every human being has the potential to listen, good listening is not the same as paying attention. In fact, like Mai, Ngoc, and Thao (2014) note, effective listening is far more complicated and involving. Importantly noted, within the learning settings, a typical sequence in a listening lesson takes place in three parts, the pre-listening, while-listening, and post-listening activities. According to Richards (2015), the pre-listening activities involves preparing the learners for a listening activity. The instructor provides students with essential background information by presenting unknown vocabularies that cannot be guessed, but are central to the listening task. The purpose of pre-listening activities is to generate interest and check for understanding of the task. On the other hand, the purpose of the post-listening activities is to extend the listening outcomes (Hamada, 2018). In particular, the part has three functions, which include expanding what the students are learning, studying the language specifics, and enhancing the understanding of the listening process.

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It is easy for instructors and learners to ignore the magnitude of listening comprehension because their attention is likely to be fixed on the ultimate goal, which is speaking. Consequently, listening has often been regarded as the least explicit of the language development skills, making it difficult and boring to learn. Nonetheless, as Mai et al., (2014) highlight a potential remedy to make listening classes enjoyable and is the activation of schema construction activities. Ideally, a schema in listening classes involves activating existing knowledge to link it with what the learners understand and use it as the basis for their prediction. The activation of a schema can be accomplished by including visuals, asking general questions, read a background text to stimulate discussion or personalization.

Pragmatic Competence

In earlier years, acquiring a second or foreign language was equated to linguistic or grammatical accuracy. However, with the adoption of a communicative approach, the focus shifted to giving importance to the achievement of functional abilities of the language with the purpose of understanding and producing language that is appropriate to communicate (Rueda, 2011). As a way of eliminating the imbalance between native speakers and foreign language learners, recommendations were made including the inclusion of pragmatics as part of second language learning. Ideally, pragmatic competence involves the ability to use language appropriately within a social context. According to Barron (2002),pragmatic competence is critically significant to effective communication in second language development. Unfortunately, although communicative and grammatical competence is taught and developed during EFL learning sessions, pragmatic competence is difficult and often overlooked by instructors.

Teaching Pragmatics for Effective Communication

Pragmatic competence in various contexts is critical for effective communication in second languages. Teaching activities that focus on developing the student abilities must focus on developing student pragmatic competence. According to Ishihara and Cohen (2015), teachers can use a variety of ways to teach pragmatics. For example, the teacher could start by observing how others teach pragmatics to give them ideas on ways to do it. The practice will help the teacher narrow down the focus of observation and direct attention to the pragmatic aspects that should be taught. Another way is adapting textbooks that offer material on pragmatics and use it to teach pragmatics. Depending on the available materials, the teacher should consider adapting to the materials available or supplement with others to address pragmatics effectively. During the learning process, the teacher should encourage self-revising, engage students in role-playing to refine their pragmatics. The students can then practice written dialogues in pairs and asked to record their best responses to prompts given, as the teacher evaluates the written dialogues through a set of assessment criteria.

References

Barron, A. (2002). Acquisition in interlanguage pragmatics: Learning how to do things with words in a study abroad context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Hamada, Y. O. (2018). Teaching EFL learners shadowing for listening: developing learners’ bottom-up skills. New York: Routledge.

Ishihara, N., & Cohen, A.D.  (2015). Teaching and learning pragmatics: where language and culture meet. New York: Routledge.

Mai, L. H., Ngoc, L. T. B., & Thao, V. T. (2014). Enhancing Listening Performance through Schema Construction Activities. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 5(5), 1042 – 1051.

Richards, J. C. (2015). Key issues in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rueda, Y. T. (2011). Developing Pragmatic Competence in a Foreign Language. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 8, 169-182.

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