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THE ART OF LISTENING

Mrs. G.L Meena * Mrs.S.Saritha **


“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;

courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” -


Churchill
Abstract:
The ability and need to communicate touches every area of our lives. Everything
we do in life requires communication with others. Just try to not communicate at work for
a day or in your business transactions and see what happens?
Much of communication theory focuses on how to speak to others and how to
convey your message. communication is really a two-way process, in which listener's
role is as central to the communication process as the speaker's role. Real communication
and connection occur when the speaker and listener participates in the process. Since our
brains have the capacity to process 275 more words per minute than are actually spoken,
we tend to fill up the void with extraneous thoughts.

Listening is as important as speaking in the communication process.


Listening to others with rapt attention may be the greatest gift we give to each other.
When two people listen deeply to one another, we sense that we are present not only to
each other, but also to something beyond our individual selves, something spiritual, holy,
or sacred. Once we think about listening-as a gift that we may either give or receive,
we find a new light shines on the value of listening, with which we instill the self-
worth and confidence in the speech of the speaker. Hence learning how to listen well is
very much important.
Although failure to listen can be harmful, no one ever listens themselves out of a
job, sale, or friendship. By listening to others we learn what to do and what to avoid. At
the same time we forge relationships that strengthen our position. Listening is also an
opportunity to console, reassure, and comfort others.
The benefit to us is equally important after all, how can we learn unless we listen?
That is why Zeno of Citium said, more than 2000 years ago, the reason why we have two
ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less. The reward for
listening, then, is wisdom.
Listening has been a neglected skill in terms of research and inspite of it being a
most needed ability in everyday life it lefted to a secondary position after speaking and
writing. Skills of listening need to be taught like all other language skills.

This paper describes research into learner’s self-assessment of listening difficulties and
challenges performing listening tests for the budding managers (B-School students). The
findings give insights into the practice of developing listening skills.

Useful tips for good practice of teaching and effective listening skills have been offered
based on the research data and observation of the students performance in listening.
INTRODUCTION:

The ability and need to communicate touches every area of our lives. Everything
we do in life requires communication with others. Just try to not communicate at work for
a day or in your business transactions and see what happens. Even though much of
communication theory focuses on how to speak to others and how to convey the message.
In fact communication is really a two-way process. The listener's role is as central to the
communication process as the speaker's role. Research shows that we speak at a rate of
about 125 words per minute, yet we have the capacity to listen to approximately 400
words per minute. The gentle art of listening is a magnificent gift that we can give to
others and ourselves. When we listen to others, we show that what they are speaking is
worthwhile. Therefore, we instill in them self-worth and confidence.

Try asking more questions. If you need clarification ask the speaker to say more, to
give an example or to explain further. Give feedback or paraphrase what you've heard:
"Are you saying such and such? What I heard you say is this. Is this what you meant?"
Try nodding your head to show interest. Or ask a question of interest to demonstrate that
you are really listening to what is being said. Add the occasional "uh-huh". Try making
eye contact with the speaker. Even though you are sitting and listening quietly, this may
not be enough for the speaker to feel that he is truly being understood. Listen without
formulating a response to the speaker.

As listeners we can receive about 500 words per minute while the normal
speaking rate is about 125 to 150 words per minute. That creates a lot of room for
communication to break down or for your mind to wander! Try to hear everything that is
being said, listen to the entire message and then respond. Listen with empathy. Empathy
is an imaginative process. Empathy is emptying the mind and listening with the whole
being.
A scientific approach is essential in order to help students to improve listening skills.
One aspect of this approach is to convince learners that not understanding is all right.
Another aspect is to satisfy the students wish to listen to class room conversation to the
possible extent. Third is to provide listening practice for short periods of time (5 to10
minutes). According to V. M. Rivers (1992), a rule of thumb in giving listening practice
is not too much but often. The fourth aspect of this approach is to teach students
important listening strategies like, to pay attention, not to stop listening or get distracted
or bored if not understanding, take notes, etc. A list of useful listening sub-skills
incorporates predicting, guessing unknown words or phrases, identifying relevant points,
retaining relevant points, recognizing discourse markers and so on.,
Here are some suggestions for developing the listening skills:

Listening Tips:

• Develop the desire to listen: You must accept the fact that listening to others is
your strongest weapon. Given the opportunity, the other person will tell you
everything you need to know.
• Always let the other person do most of the talking: This is a simple matter of
mathematics. I suggest 70/30 rule. You listen 70% of the time and you talk 30%
of the time.
• Don't interrupt: There is always the temptation to interrupt so you can tell the
other person something you think is vitally important. . When you are about to
speak, ask yourself if it is really necessary.
• Learn active listening: It's not enough that you're listening to someone – you
want to be sure that they know you're listening. Active listening is the art of
communicating to the other person that you are hearing their every word.
• Ask for clarification if needed: This will clear up any misunderstanding you
have.
• Get used to 'listening' for nonverbal messages – body language: The other
person may be communicating with you via body language. You need to decode
the message.

Need for the study:

Researchers and teachers often maintained that listening skills could be


picked up by the learners. Now it is generally accepted that listening skills have to be
taught like any other skills. Currently more attention is being paid to develop and
conducting research in the field of Skill of Listening. The present study enlightens
the listening skills of the management students and identifies the bottle necks for
further improvement in their skill of listening.

Objectives of Study:

The objectives of this research are to evaluate students listening skills, while and post
listening activities. Listening tests in order to develop a sound to listening activities of
students in the class room.

Methods and respondents:

The methods of research include the application of student assessment


questionnaires while and post-listening activities and analysis of learner’s performance in
listening comprehension tests.

The respondents were 200 full-time students who are studying post graduation in
Business Administration. The convenience sampling method was adopted for the study.

Review of literature

Although once labeled a passive skill, listening is an active, creative and demanding
process of selecting and interpreting information from auditory and visual clues. What is
known about the listening process basically emerges from research on developments in
listening skills.

In listening activities there are several major steps that may occur sequentially or
simultaneously, in rapid succession, or backward and forward. The major points include
determining a reason for listening, predicting information, attempting to organize
information, assigning a meaning to the message, transferring information from short-
term memory to long-term memory.

The research into listening (Rivers, 1992) suggests: listening involves active cognitive
processing the construction of a message from phonic material. Three stages in the aural
reception of a message are distinguished: 1) listeners must recognize in phonic substance
sound patterns in bounded segments related to phrase structure. At this stage students are
dependent on echoic memory, which is very fleeting; 2) listeners must immediately begin
processing, identifying the groupings detected according to the content of our central
information system; 3) listeners recycle the material they organized through immediate
memory, thus building up an auditory memory which helps to retain the segments
listeners are processing. Another important point is highlighted: much of processing of
incoming information takes place during the pauses in speech (Rivers, 1992). Thus,
speech is still comprehensible if the pauses are slightly lengthened. Pauses in natural
speech allow students to gain processing time. Since listening is a creative activity, much
of comprehension involves drawing inferences, in other words, creating messages is a
characteristic feature of listening, and learners store the message they have created. This
phenomenon is called a false recognition memory (Rivers, 1992).

Learners inability to understand the L2 speech is caused just as much by difficulties of


the language as by memory limits (Cook, 1996:69). All comprehension depends on the
storing and processing of information by the mind. Interestingly, the human mind is less
efficient in L2 whatever it is doing. L2 learners have cognitive deficits with listening that
are not caused by lack of language ability but by difficulties with processing information
in the L2 (Cook, 1996).
The role of vocabulary knowledge and its recognition in listening affects comprehension
of information. John Read (2000) coined the term listen ability as an oral equivalent of
readability. The simple readability idea focuses on two variables: the frequency of the
complex vocabulary and the length of the sentences. The number of long words (three
syllables or longer) and the number of words in a sentence define comprehensibility of a
text. Lexical density is a variable showing the percentage of content words, and it may
provide an indication of how easy it will be for learners to understand a spoken text. In
listening, it is not just the relative frequency of the content words that affects
comprehension but also how concentrated they are in the text. The issue is also not
simply a level of difficulty, but also one of authenticity and content validity. Authenticity
implies real language, which is the hardest to understand, because no concessions are
made to foreign learners - language is unlikely to be simplified or spoken slowly. For
non-native listeners, authenticity often means negative expectations, i.e. listening is
bound to be too difficult (Harmer, 2001).

When learners listen to unfamiliar speech they hear an almost continuous chain of
sounds. Inexperienced learners do not actually hear the boundaries of words. Experienced
learners are able to break down this chain into separate words in their heads because they
are familiar with the sounds and can create meaningful words with them (Read, 2000).
Errors at this level may impede the listener in the correct understanding of the spoken
utterance.

The role of intonation in listening activities seems underestimated (J. Harrington, online).
Intonation is known as the ability to vary the pitch and tune of speech. Stressing words
and phrases correctly is vital if emphasis is to be given to the important parts of
messages. Some words sound more prominent they stand out to a greater extent than
others. The relative prominence of words depends very much on how the intonation is
associated with the words, or with the text, of the utterance. Above all, the same string of
words can be accented in different ways. Different turns are signaled by the rise and fall
in pitch. People hear certain accented words as prominent because of intonation.
Knowing the language well, there is no need to hear every single sound in every single
word to know what is said, because ones mind is able to fill in the gaps and to determine
where one word ends and the other begins. Intonation is interrelated with pronunciation.
The aspect of pronunciation is crucial to listening. The major problem that occurs in
learning pronunciation is students great difficulty in hearing pronunciation features, in
intonation tunes or identifying the different patterns of rising and falling tones (Harmer,
2001).

There are two basic levels in learning to listen: the level of recognition and the level of
selection (Field, 2003). The level of recognition implies separating elements and patterns
such as phonemes, intonation, words, and phrases. The level of selection means
separation of the message units for retention and comprehension without conscious
attention to individual components. The development of selection level plays an
important role because it is responsible for understanding specific information and gist,
and, therefore, the ability to answer relevant questions.

In the 20th century, testing students understanding L2 messages was traditionally a hard
task. Language teachers relied on tests that employed multiple-choice and True or False
questions. In the last decade, however, the assessment of listening in a second language
has attracted increasing amount of attention. The degree of listenability significantly
affected test scores (Wagner, online): the dialogue text was the easiest, then the lecture
text, and the newscast text was the most difficult. This result is quite understandable,
because spoken language differs from written language it contains many pauses, fillers
and redundancies, which allow more processing time for the listener to interpret the
input. Moreover, word stress is a magic key to understanding spoken English. Native
speakers use word stress naturally, they do not even know they use it. Non-native
speakers of English find it difficult to understand native speakers, while the native
speakers find it difficult to understand non-native speakers.

Teaching listening skills is one of the most difficult tasks for any English language
teacher, because successful listening skills are acquired over time and with lots of
practice (Rivers, 1992). Learning listening skills is frustrating for students because there
are no rules as in grammar teaching. Listening skills are also difficult to quantify. One of
the largest inhibitors for students is often mental block. While listening students suddenly
decide they do not understand. At this point, many students just tune out some students
convince themselves they are not able to understand spoken English well and create
problems for themselves.

Participants and research method:

The participants in this study were 200 fulltime students. There were two streams
of students: 100 1st year students and 100 2nd year students of the same faculty. The
students self-reported data have become an important source of information on listening
capability, needs, wants, likes and dislikes. Such information allows teachers to become
aware of either success or failure in their teaching, make well-informed decisions on class
techniques, create a beneficial environment to learners and employ an individual
approach to improve the skill of listening. The method of gathering data employed a
questionnaire on students self-assessment of listening difficulties and the comparison of
self-assessment data with learners performance in listening tests. The questionnaire is
reproduced in the Appendix and cover questions on listener rate of listening, and
difficulties while listening and in post-listening tasks. Some results of learners
performance in listening tests are compared with the relevant data of self-assessment. The
findings are presented in the results section.
DATA ANALYSIS:

1. When listening to a speaker, do you make eye contact?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 144 72
2 Often 40 20
3 Sometimes 12 6
4 Rarely 4 2
5 Almost never 0 0
Total 200 100
Percentage

80
60
Most of the times
40
Often
20
Sometimes
0
Rarely
Sometimes
the times

Rarely

Almost
Often

never
Most of

Almost never

Interpretation: 72% of the respondents have eye contact with the speaker while
listening. 20% of the respondents often have eye contact with the speaker. 6% of the
respondents some times have the eye contact with speaker and only 2% will rarely have
the eye contact and 0% students will never have the eye contact with the speaker.
2. If a speaker does,nt engage your interest, does your mind wanders?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 32 16
2 Often 44 22
3 Sometimes 52 26
4 Rarely 40 20
5 Almost never 32 16
Total 200 100

Percentage

30
25
20
15 Percentage
10
5
0
er
es

y
n

es

el
f te

ev
tim

im

ar
O

tn
et

R
he

os
m
ft

So

m
to

Al
os
M

Interpretation: 26% of the respondents some times make their minds wander while
speaker doesn’t engage respondent’s interest.
3. Do you give your full attention if someone is talking to you?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 128 64
2 Often 48 24
3 Sometimes 12 6
4 Rarely 8 4
5 Almost never 4 2
Total 200 100

Percentage

70
60
50
40
Percentage
30
20
10
0
er
es

y
n

es

el
fte

ev
tim

im

ar
O

tn
R
et
he

os
m
ft

So

m
to

Al
os
M
Interpretation: 64% of the respondents, most of the times show full attention if some
one is talking to them. Only 2% of the students never show full attention while the
speaker is speaking.

4. When background noise interferes to your ability to listen, can you block it out?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 80 40
2 Often 40 20
3 Sometimes 40 20
4 Rarely 28 14
5 Almost never 12 6
Total 200 100

Percentage

45
40
35
30
25 Percentage
20
15
10
5
0
er
n

ly
es

es
fte

re

ev
tim

im

Ra
O

tn
et
he

os
m
So
t

m
of

Al
t
os
M
Interpretation: 40% of the respondents block the background noise interferers to their
listening ability. 20% of the respondent are some times or oftenly block the disturbance
interferes in to their listening ability. And 6% of the respondents are never able the block
the background noise interferes to their listening.

5. You make disapproving faces when you don’t approve of what others are
speaking?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 36 18
2 Often 40 20
3 Sometimes 64 32
4 Rarely 40 20
5 Almost never 20 10
Total 200 100
Percentage

35
30
25
20
Percentage
15
10
5
0

er
es

y
n

es

el
f te

ev
tim

im

ar
O

tn
et

R
he

os
m
ft

So

m
to

Al
os
M

Interpretation: 32% of the respondents some times keep their faces disapproving when
they don’t approve what others say. Only 10% of the respondents never make
disapproving faces when they don’t approve what others are saying.

6. While a speaker is mispronounces a word, you immediately correct him/her?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 40 20
2 Often 44 22
3 Sometimes 56 28
4 Rarely 40 20
5 Almost never 20 10
Total 200 100
Percentage

30
25
20
15 Percentage
10
5
0

er
es

y
n

es

el
f te

ev
tim

im

ar
O

tn
et

R
he

os
m
ft

So

m
to

Al
os
M

Interpretation: 20% of the respondents correct the mispronounced word immediately


when speaker commits any mistakes. 10% of the respondent never correct the
mispronounced words by the speaker.

7. Do you ask questions to encourage a speaker to elaborate on his or her point?

S.no Options No of respondents Percentage


1 Most of the times 60 30
2 Often 48 24
3 Sometimes 44 22
4 Rarely 32 16
5 Almost never 16 8
Total 200 100
Percentage

35
30
25
20
Percentage
15
10
5
0

er
es

y
n

es

el
f te

ev
tim

im

ar
O

tn
et

R
he

os
m
ft

So

m
to

Al
os
M

Interpretation: Most of the respondents ask questions to encourage the speaker to


elaborate the topic . and 8% of the respondents never ask question to the speaker.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:

1. 72% of the respondents have eye contact with the speaker while listening. 20% of the
respondents often have eye contact with the speaker. 6% of the respondents some times
have the eye contact with speaker and only 2% will rarely have the eye contact and 0%
students will never have the eye contact with the speaker

2. 26% of the respondents some times make their minds wander while speaker doesn’t
engage respondent’s interest.

3.64% of the respondents, most of the times show full attention if some one is talking to
them. And 2% of the students never show full attention while the speaker is speaking.

4. 40% of the respondents are able to block the background noise interferes to their
listening ability. And 20% of the respondent are some times and often block the
disturbance interferes into their listening ability. And 6% of the respondents are never
able to block the background noise interferes to their listening.

5. 32% of the respondents some times keep their faces disapproving when they don’t
approve what others are saying. Only 10% of the respondents never make disapproving
faces when they don’t approve what others are saying.

6. 20% of the respondents correct the mispronounced word immediately when speaker
commits any mistakes. 10% of the respondent never correct the mispronounced words by
the speaker.

7. Most of the respondents ask questions to encourage the speaker to elaborate the
topic . where as only 8% of the respondents never ask question to the speaker.

8. 60% of the respondents pay close attention to the speakers body language while
listening.

9. 14% of the respondents watch others while someone is teaching in the class room.

10. 60% of the respondents never interrupt others while someone is teaching in the class.

11. 8% of the respondents most of the times write their assignment while someone is
teaching the class.

12. 36% of the respondents almost never think about something unrelated to the
conversation made by the speaker . 6% of the respondent mostly and often think about
other irrelevant things while speaker is speaking.

CONCLUSION:
Learners difficulties in while- and post-listening activities were researched by employing
learners self-assessment questionnaire. Several facts have emerged. The implications of
creative approach to developing listening skills are to diversify listening practice make it
individual, which is possible by employing online listening facilities. Application of
creative approach to learn the skill of listening might be helpful. Some of the listening
tips are suggested.

REFERENCES:
TEACHING LISTENING SKILLS AT TERTIARY LEVEL,

Galina Kavaliauskienė, Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius, Lithuania

Dornyei, Z. (2003). Questionnaires in Second Language Research. Lawrence Erlbaum


Associates, Inc., Publishers. New Jersey. USA.

Lingzhu T. (2003). Listening Activities for Effective Top-Down Processing. The Internet
TESL

Miller L. (2003). Developing Listening Skills with Authentic Materials. ESL Magazine
Appendix. Questionnaire on Listening Skills:

Questionnaire on listening

S.No Questions options


1. When listening to a speaker, do you make eye contact? 1 2 3 4 5
2. Do you nod your head when in agreement with what a speaker is saying? 1 2 3 4 5
3. If you are not sure whether you've grasped a speaker's point correctly, Do you 1 2 3 4 5
summarize your understanding of what he/she has said, to confirm that you've
got it right?
4. Do you fidget (play with hair, watch, pen, etc.) while listening to someone 1 2 3 4 5
else express his/her thoughts or ideas?

5. If a speaker doesn’t engage your interest, does your mind wander? 1 2 3 4 5


6. Do you give your full attention if someone is talking to you? 1 2 3 4 5
7 When background noise interferes to your ability to listen, can you block it 1 2 3 4 5
out?
8 You drum your fingers on a surface when you listen to others speech? 1 2 3 4 5
9. If you felt bored or uninterested in what a speaker has to say, you look to the 1 2 3 4 5
ground or at your feet?
10. You make disapproving faces when you don't approve of what others are 1 2 3 4 5
telling you?
11. You bite your nails or pen while you listen to someone speaking to you? 1 2 3 4 5
12. While a speaker is talking, you find yourself thinking about what you are 1 2 3 4 5
going to say next?
13. If a speaker mispronounces a word, you immediately correct him/her 1 2 3 4 5
14. Do you ask questions to encourage a speaker to elaborate on his or her point? 1 2 3 4 5
15. Whether you act impatient when someone "beats around the bush" rather 1 2 3 4 5
than getting straight to the point (you tap your feet, look around, or check my
watch, etc.).
16. Do you wait for a speaker to finish his or her point before you make a mental 1 2 3 4 5
judgment call on what was said?
17. Do you have trouble focusing on the message when a speaker has poor 1 2 3 4 5
grammar.
18. Do you audibly groan or make another kind of disapproving sound when 1 2 3 4 5
someone states something .
19. When listening to a speaker do you pay close attention to his/her body 1 2 3 4 5
language
20. How often do you engage in the following while someone is teaching to you in the
class room?

a Watching others 1 2 3 4 5
b Interrupting others 1 2 3 4 5
c Playing with cell 1 2 3 4 5
d Writing assignments 1 2 3 4 5
e Think about something unrelated to the conversation 1 2 3 4 5

1.Most of the times 2.Often 3.Some times 4.Rarely 5.Almost never