REQUIREMENTS FOR LISTENING AND THEIR REALIZATION IN INSIDE OUT ADVANCED
Communication is an integral part of tasks where participants engage in interaction, production, reception or mediation, or a combination of two or more of these. These tasks are a central unit in many syllabuses, textbooks, classroom learning experiences and tests, they are chosen on the basis of learners’ needs outside the classroom. According to CEFcommunicative pedagogic tasks aim to actively involve learners in meaningful communication; they are relevant, challenging but feasible and have identifiable outcomes. Classroom tasks are communicative to the extent that they require learners to comprehend, negotiate and express meaning in order to achieve a communicative goal. The emphasis in a communicative task is on successful task completion and consequently the primary focus is on meaning as learners realize their communicative intentions.
To carry out communicative tasks users have to engage in communicative language activities and operate communicative strategies. Many communicative activities are interactive, i.e. the participants alternate as producers and receivers, often with several terns. In other cases, as when speech is recorded or broadcast or written texts are sent out or published, producers are separated from receivers. In these cases communicative event can be regarded as the speaking, writing listening to or reading of a text.
In aural reception (listening) activities the language user as listener receives and process a spoken input proceeded by one or more speakers. Listening is a language skill that can be acquired with the help of training as well as any other skill. There is no doubt that students get better at listening the more they do it. Jeremy Harmer remarked that “exposure to language is a fundamental requirement for anyone wanting to learn it” (1; 98). Listening to tapes provides such exposure and students get vital information not only about grammar and vocabulary but also about pronunciation, rhythm, intonation, pitch and stress. Moreover, listening to spoken language lets students hear different varieties and accents of it giving them a better idea of the world language which English has become.
There appear to be certain requirements for listening material to correspond: it should be authentic or at least realistic for beginners; depending on the level of learners the length of the text and the topic of it should be well-selected, as long tapes on subjects which students are not interested in will be demotivating and will result in lost comprehension making listening valueless.
Advanced students are supposed to have reached a point where they are competent communicators. They seem to be able to follow the gist and understand specific information, whereas they may not always be able to pick up on register or style, which may lead to confusion or misunderstandings. Thus teaching should be aimed at eliminating gaps in students’ knowledge providing them with nuances and subtleties of the language. This can be done through a concentration not so much on grammatical accuracy, but on style and perceptions of appropriacy, connotation and inference.
Inside Out provides varied work for students to acquire skills in listening comprehension, which is represented both in the Student’s Book intended at class work and the Workbook meant mainly for work at home. The listening material in Inside Out Advanced includes texts specially written for language learners, improvisations in the studio and authentic recordings; the range of it is extremely wide, comprising dialogues, interviews, telephone conversations, monologues, poetry reading and real pop songs by the original artists with lyrics. The topics of Inside Out Advanced seem to embrace a wide range not only satisfying anyone’s taste but also getting students ready for almost any topic they are expected to listen to and comprehend.Moreover, there is a variety of English accents including British, American, Irish and Australian, and some examples of non-native speakers. The length of the texts for listening represented in the coursebook varies from 30 seconds to approximately 3 minutes, corresponding to the level of listeners.
J. Harmer remarks that for listening to be effective the organization of it should follow a number of principles: usage of pre-listening tasks; listening to every text two times; making students be encouraged to respond to the content of a listening, not just to the language; applying different listening tasks for different listening stages; exploiting listening texts to the full.
Successful task accomplishment may be facilitated by the prior activation of the learner’s competences, for example, in the initial problem posing or goal-setting phase of a task by providing or raising awareness of necessary linguistic elements, by drawing on prior knowledge and experience to activate appropriate schemata , and by encouraging task planning and rehearsal. In this way the learner’s attention is freer to deal with any unexpected content, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful task completion. All listening assignments from Inside Out Advanced analyzed contain pre-listening tasks which get students engaged with the topic so that they really want to listen to the texts. The first listening is always aimed at comprehension of the general gist, the tasks on this listening stage are fairly straightforward and general so students’ responses are likely to be successful that usually results in the stress associated with listening being neutralized. The second listening is focused in on more detailed or specific information. Besides, listening texts are also used as illustrative material for language development exploiting the texts to the full. This seems to be extremely effective as it shows realization of grammar rules in real speech. Inside Out listening material also demonstrates the intonation of both directly expressed and implicit attitudes and relationships between speakers that lets students avoid confusion and misunderstanding and be able to respond appropriately.
All considered the effective use of classroom learning experiences requires a principled and coherent approach to task selection and sequencing. This means taking into account the specific competences of the learner and factors that affect task difficulty, and manipulating task parameters in order to modify the task according to the needs and capabilities of the learner. This approach can be easily traced in Inside Out Advanced which provides listening pieces intended at developing skills of listening comprehension of the general gist, detailed understanding, specific information or inclination; pronunciation and intonation skills, demonstrating grammar and lexis in real speech, with both listening material and the organization of listening corresponding to the requirements.
1. Council of Europe. Common European Framework of reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
2. Harmer J. How to teach English. London: Longman, 1998, P. 7-14, 97-110.
3. Jones C., Bastow T. Inside Out Advanced. London: Macmillan, 2006.