Listening Using Authentic Video for Overseas
Learners of English
By James Frith
Class Profile: The classconsists of 7 female and 3 male Spaniards, who are all in their twenties and thirties. The students have been coming to class for one and a half hours twice a week in the evenings since October and often arrive tired after having been at work all day. They are, however, a lively group who work well together. Alicia, Ramón and Toni were in the same class together last year and are strong, communicative, highly motivated students. Maria also seems to fit in well with this group. Several others have studied at the school before.
The students have a variety of learning styles, although most agree that a variety of learning 'step by step' and learning through exposure is a good mixture. Manuel is probably the weakest student in the class and interestingly he had particularly requested sessions dealing with fast speech and pronunciation. Marina is also relatively weak in a strong class. She tends to work quietly and methodically with Silvia (a strong student on cognitive tasks) although she is not afraid to ask questions. Beatriz is slowly coming out of her shell and is a strong student all round. Monica and Elisa work hard and Elisa can also be quite demanding.
Timetable Fit: In previousclasses we have worked on discriminating among the distinctive sounds of English and the students are familiar with phonemic script.
In a recent lesson one particular extract from a graded listening text proved particularly difficult for the students to understand and in the following lesson we analysed some ‘chunks’ of connected speech taken from it. The ‘chunks’ were transcribed using the IPA and the students were invited to match these to the corresponding phrases, practise saying them and recognise them in spoken text before reading the text along with the audio tape. Work was also done on recognising the reduced forms of words.
In the first ten minutes of this class the students will be prepared to anticipate the content of the text through activation of schemata. They will take part in a role play in which A has hidden something from B, B has found it and A is inventing stories to explain themselves. I will also explain the aims and stages of the lesson to the class.
The students will have the opportunity to provide written feedback in their learner diaries at the end of the class.
Their homework will involve finding an extract from a song or film which contains a chunk of connected speech and presenting it to the class in the next lesson. This will also increase exposure to the target language.
In the future I plan to further heighten the students’ awareness of aspects of fast connected speech in post-listening sessions throughout the year. I also aim to continue to introduce and encourage students to use other compensatory strategies as appropriate to the individual’s learning style. For example, I plan to do some work on sentence prominence and extracting meaning from key words. I also plan to use dictagloss as a vehicle to raise awareness of how syntactical knowledge can be used to help with listening.
i) To develop students’ ability to use real-world knowledge and experience to work out goals and procedures in a listening text (stage 1)
ii) To raise students’ awareness of some aspects of fast connected speech as an aid to listening (stage 3)
i) To encourage students to guess the meanings of words from the contexts in which they hear them (stage 2)
ii) To highlight some features of natural spoken English, such as ungrammatical forms and the discourse marker, “What happened there was..”. (stage 3)
iii) To encourage students to predict outcomes from a listening text (stage 4)
Lesson Rationale: Why Listening?
From the initial needs analysis sessions it became apparent that many of the students use English in their daily working lives and, apart from report writing, the most common uses are in meetings and in dealing with customers. Many also expressed a desire to focus particularly on the skill of listening this year, either because they find it ‘difficult’ or because they use it for personal reasons such as listening to songs, watching films or travel. It also became apparent in the early weeks of the course that listening is a skill in which a large number of the students have weaknesses. This is not surprising considering the lack of exposure they have to English, living in Spain.
Why focus on fast connected speech?
When further informal research was carried out in the classroom as to what they had found particularly difficult about one particular listening, the unanimous answer was that the speaker had talked very quickly. They went on to say that this led to words blending into one another. Cauldwell (2000) suggests an extensive post-listening session to familiarise students with some of the features of fast spoken English which make listening tasks difficult. This is obviously not an overnight solution to the problem, but rather a process of gradually raising awareness in different areas over a long series of listening exercises of which this lesson is just one. Cauldwell suggests that students should be allowed to bridge the gap between what they hear and a written transcript and finally to include the opportunity to practise imitating the speaker at the same time and at the same speed.
Why activate ‘real- world’ knowledge?
Among many others, Richards (1985) suggests that students find listening tasks more difficult if they enter them ‘cold’. For this reason I have decided to familiarise the students with the co-text through some information about the characters involved and what has happened prior to the sequence we will be watching and to ask them to predict the goals of each speaker. We will then watch the clip without sound to give the students the opportunity to identify the discourse type and recall scripts before watching to compare. At this stage I will also encourage the students to guess the meanings of some particular words from the context in which they are provided. This is another aspect of listening which the students have said they would like more practice in. After the shadow reading activity the students will, time permitting, have the chance to watch the clip again with the focus this time on the authentic task of enjoying it before predicting what they think will happen next in order to facilitate understanding of a second clip. I hope this variety of task types will provide something for everyone, regardless of individual learning styles.
I have chosen to use video so that the students are provided with the visual clues we use in real life. I have chosen an extract from the soap opera ‘Eastenders’ because it is an authentic and challenging text including ungrammatical language and colloquialisms.
Assumed Knowledge: The students are already familiar with phonemic script and have used it to analyse chunks of connected speech before. Generally, the students are an imaginative lot, but it is probably worthwhile making sure that Manuel and Marina are not working together when it comes to recreating the dialogue after watching the silent clip.
Anticipated Problems and Solutions: The students may find it difficult to come up with ideas for the dialogue they will be asked to produce after the silent watching. For this reason I have included a similar role-play at the beginning of the class and will make sure that the students all know the goals of the two characters through eliciting or providing the information myself.
The students may find it difficult to guess the meaning of their word from context and so I will offer to repeat the clip and have them discuss their ideas in pairs.
The students may have trouble ordering the chunks of connected speech, especially those in the middle of the dialogue. I have therefore chosen the section in the middle of the dialogue to use for shadow reading.
Videoexcerpt from ‘Eastenders’
Background information sheet including the first and last lines of the discourse
Vocabulary check sheet
Connected speech matching sheet including transcript of shadow reading excerpt and language awareness questions
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