Teach English in Xinji Zhen - Lianyungang Shi

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The 2 receptive skills, listening and reading for speakers of another Foreign Language, need to be taught to acquire a language. They are referred to as passive skills as they do not require the production of the L2 by the learner. Brian Holmes in his blog on the 4ht of June 2019 states: “When learning a new language learners tend to develop their receptive skills first and then acquire productive capability. It’s a complex relationship between the two as they all play a supporting role with developing other skills.”1 Whilst I agree with this statement, I would like to argue that L2 teachers are still underestimating the importance of listening. The key objective of the teaching of passive skills is to gain insight into the levels of comprehension of the learner’s language. Reading is a safe activity for the student in- or outside the classroom. There are very often no immediate consequences and with the support of technology and artificial intelligence databases, you would be able to get the gist of a written piece or acquire deeper insight if needed. Inference and reading between the lines are skills that will be achieved with advanced learning. In general, the recognition of the use of vocabulary and grammar in a text will promote written skills. Listening, however, has a more profound role in encouraging speech and contribution to fluency. Even if L2 is English and you are permanently living in a native English-speaking country your mind can zoom out of ongoing conversations as it is demotivational not being able to understand. Most beginners have scripted what they like to say, but it acquires a great deal of patience from the L1 speaker to keep a discourse going. The learner will be confronted by a lot of information that does not translate to a comprehensive message. Even, if rationally, the learner knows what most likely is being said, he or she is not equipped to formulate an answer. This highlights a crucial link between comprehension and speech that should be addressed. Lowering the threshold from understanding to speech is part of a teacher’s job and therefore needs constant attention. All adults do lose the ability to acquire a language as described in Chomsky’s innatist theory.2 Already as a teenager, we cannot rely on the ability to absorb universal grammar as we did as an infant. Acknowledging this is the first step and therefore we need to adapt our approach to achieving fluency by emphasizing comprehension through verbal comprehension more than even writing. Krashen in his ‘Natural order theory’ and ‘Monitoring theory’ states that learning a language is acquired through contextualization followed by constant monitoring and repetition. Selinker and Corder, through their respective researches, establish that learners base their L2 acquisition initially on their L1 language until they start recognizes certain patterns and ways of expression in the target language. In the ‘Interlanguage theory’ (Selinker) and ‘the Reduced L1 model’ (Corder) it can be concluded that the L1 diminishes or the functional use of L1 does not form the basis of the target language anymore.3 Rod Ellis’s 'Instructed language learning’ highlights that pragmatism, form, meaning and use are more important for the learner than accuracy. Even in mother tongue language speech skills are taught first by adapting techniques for active listening4, more reason why we should apply active listening and comprehension to L2 language learning. My conclusion is that teachers in their lesson plans always need to make space for at least 1- or 2-minute listening exercises every time, alternated every 3 weeks with a more in-depth listening skill lesson. In Italy, my current base, listening is a dreaded activity by most students and as teachers, we should make it more accessible and part of the routine. We should praise pragmatism, focus on fluency rather than accuracy. We need to find ways to overcome the inhibitions that learners develop overtime. My motto would be “regular listening in a safe environment leads to fluency”. 1. Holmes, B, 4th June 2019, English for Asia, TESOL blog. 2. Lemetyinen, H. (2012). Language acquisition. https://www.simplypsychology.org/language.html 3. Huet, U, Lecture 6 Psychological aspects of second language acquisition. https://slideplayer.com/slide/3345095/#.XkQOmVh6iZw.gmail 4. Ward, S: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/speak-for-success-problem-of-listening-2948548