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  • 1.Teaching Listeningand SpeakingFrom Theory to PracticeJack C. Richards

2. cambridge university pressCambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, So PauloCambridge University Press32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, ny 10013-2473, USAwww.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 2008This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exceptionand to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,no reproduction of any part may take place withoutthe written permission of Cambridge University Press.First published 2008Printed in the United States of Americaisbn-13 978-0-521-95776-2 paperbackBook layout services: Page Designs International 3. Table of Contents Introduction 1 1 The Teaching of Listening 3 2 The Teaching of Speaking 19 Conclusion 40 References and Further Reading 41 4. Introduction 1IntroductionCourses in listening and speaking skills have a prominent place in languageprograms around the world today. Ever-growing needs for fluency in Englisharound the world because of the role of English as the worlds internationallanguage have given priority to finding more effective ways to teach English.It is therefore timely to review what our current assumptions and practices areconcerning the teaching of these crucial language skills. Our understanding ofthe nature of listening and speaking has undergone considerable changes inrecent years, and in this booklet I want to explore some of those changes andtheir implications for classroom teaching and materials design.The teaching of listening has attracted a greater level of interest in recentyears than it did in the past. Now, university entrance exams, exit exams, and otherexaminations often include a listening component, acknowledging that listeningskills are a core component of second-language proficiency, and also reflecting theassumption that if listening isnt tested, teachers wont teach it.Earlier views of listening showed it as the mastery of discrete skills ormicroskills, such as recognizing reduced forms of words, recognizing cohesivedevices in texts, and identifying key words in a text, and that these skills shouldform the focus of teaching. Later views of listening drew on the field of cogni-tive psychology, which introduced the notions of bottom-up and top-downprocessing and brought attention to the role of prior knowledge and schemain comprehension. Listening came to be seen as an interpretive process. At thesame time, the fields of discourse analysis and conversational analysis revealed agreat deal about the nature and organization of spoken discourse and led to arealization that reading written texts aloud could not provide a suitable basis fordeveloping the abilities needed to process real-time authentic discourse. Hence,current views of listening emphasize the role of the listener, who is seen as anactive participant in listening, employing strategies to facilitate, monitor, andevaluate his or her listening.In recent years, listening has also been examined in relation not onlyto comprehension but also to language learning. Since listening can providemuch of the input and data that learners receive in language learning, an impor-tant question is: How can attention to the language the listener hears facilitatesecond language learning? This raises the issue of the role noticing and con-scious awareness of language form play, and how noticing can be part of theprocess by which learners can incorporate new word forms and structures intotheir developing communicative competence. 5. 2 Teaching Listening and SpeakingApproaches to the teaching of speaking in ELT have been more stronglyinfluenced by fads and fashions than the teaching of listening. Speaking intraditional methodologies usually meant repeating after the teacher, memorizinga dialog, or responding to drills, all of which reflect the sentence-based view ofproficiency prevailing in the audiolingual and other drill-based or repetition-based methodologies of the 1970s. The emergence of communicative languageteaching in the 1980s led to changed views of syllabuses and methodology, whichare continuing to shape approaches to teaching speaking skills today. Grammar-based syllabuses were replaced by communicative ones built around notions,functions, skills, tasks, and other non-grammatical units of organization. Fluencybecame a goal for speaking courses and this could be developed through the useof information-gap and other tasks that required learners to attempt real com-munication, despite limited proficiency in English. In so doing, learners woulddevelop communication strategies and engage in negotiation of meaning, bothof which were considered essential to the development of oral skills.The notion of English as an international language has also prompteda revision of the notion of communicative competence to include the notion ofintercultural competence. This shifts the focus toward learning how to commu-nicate in cross-cultural settings, where native-speaker norms of communicationmay not be a priority. At the same time, it is now accepted that models for oralinteraction in classroom materials cannot be simply based on the intuitions oftextbook writers, but should be informed by the findings of conversationalanalysis and the analysis of real speech.This booklet explores approaches to the teaching of listening andspeaking in light of the kinds of issues discussed in the preceding paragraphs.My goal is to examine what applied linguistics research and theory says aboutthe nature of listening and speaking skills, and then to explore what the impli-cations are for classroom teaching. We will begin with examining the teachingof listening. 6. The Teaching of Listening 31The Teaching of ListeningIn this booklet, we will consider listening from two different perspectives: (1)listening as comprehension (2)listening as acquisitionListening as ComprehensionListening as comprehension is the traditional way of thinking about the natureof listening. Indeed, in most methodology manuals listening and listening com-prehension are synonymous. This view of listening is based on the assumptionthat the main function of listening in second language learning is to facilitateunderstanding of spoken discourse. We will examine this view of listening insome detail before considering a complementary view of listening listeningas acquisition. This latter view of listening considers how listening can provideinput that triggers the further development of second-language proficiency.Characteristics of spoken discourseTo understand the nature of listening processes, we need to consider someof the characteristics of spoken discourse and the special problems they posefor listeners. Spoken discourse has very different characteristics from writ-ten discourse, and these differences can add a number of dimensions to ourunderstanding of how we process speech. For example, spoken discourse isusually instantaneous. The listener must process it online and there is oftenno chance to listen to it again.Often, spoken discourse strikes the second-language listener as beingvery fast, although speech rates vary considerably. Radio monologs may contain160 words per minute, while conversation can consist of up to 220 words perminute. The impression of faster or slower speech generally results from theamount of intraclausal pausing that speakers make use of. Unlike written dis-course, spoken discourse is usually unplanned and often reflects the processes ofconstruction such as hesitations, reduced forms, fillers, and repeats.Spoken discourse has also been described as having a linear structure,compared to a hierarchical structure for written discourse. Whereas the unit oforganization of written discourse is the sentence, spoken language is usuallydelivered one clause at a time, and longer utterances in conversation gener-ally consist of several coordinated clauses. Most of the clauses used are simpleconjuncts or adjuncts. Also, spoken texts are often context-dependent and per- 7. 4 Teaching Listening and Speakingsonal, assuming shared background knowledge. Lastly, spoken texts may bespoken with many different accents, from standard or non-standard, regional,non-native, and so on.Understanding spoken discourse: bottom-up and top-down processingTwo different kinds of processes are involved in understanding spoken dis-course. These are often referred to as bottom-up and top-down processing.Bottom-up processingBottom-up processing refers to using the incoming input as the basis forunderstanding the message. Comprehension begins with the received data thatis analyzed as successive levels of organization sounds, words, clauses, sen-tences, texts until meaning is derived. Comprehension is viewed as a processof decoding.The listeners lexical and grammatical competence in a languageprovides the basis for bottom-up processing. The input is scanned for famil-iar words, and grammatical knowledge is used to work out the relationshipbetween elements of sentences. Clark and Clark (1977:49) summarize this viewof listening in the following way: 1.[Listeners] take in raw speech and hold a phonologicalrepresentation of it in working memory. 2.They immediately attempt to organize the phonologicalrepresentation into constituents, identifying their content andfunction. 3.They identify each constituent and then construct underlyingpropositions, building continually onto a hierarchicalrepresentation of propositions. 4.Once they have identified the propositions for a constituent, theyretain them in working memory and at some point purge memoryof the phonological representation. In doing this, they forget theexact wording and retain the meaning.We can illustrate this with an example. Imagine I said the following to you:The guy I sat next to on the bus this morning on theway to work was telling me he runs a Thai restaurant inChinatown. Apparently, its very popular at the moment.To understand this utterance using bottom-up