Reception of Language: Significance of Listening Skill in
English Language Teaching
Communication is “the exchange of meanings between individuals through a common system of symbol” (Britannica:17). It is of two categories; verbal and symbolic. Verbal communication occurs through vocal symbols like sounds, words etc. Symbolic communication is the process of meaningful exchange of ideas through symbols and expressions like gestures and body language. There is an absence of verbal language there.
The origin of verbal language dates back to the mythical concept of Babel tower which marked the genesis of several languages. Verbal communication makes use of language which has four basic skills namely listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Of the four, listening as a curricular discipline was developed in the later stages of teaching and innovative practices. The traditional approaches of learning were done through reading and speaking with a focus on vocabulary building. The deductive method of teaching grammar in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) methodology was also significant. The present school curriculum focusses on the four skills of language in a comprehensive way. The reality lies in the fact that listening skill is the least focussed skill among the four skills. The practical teaching of listening does not happen in the language classrooms of India.
Listening is a basic skill among the four skills of language. It could be said that teaching and learning process of listening is a difficult one to acquire. It is connected with the environment of language which is termed as culture. Edward Sapir in his work Language gives a fine discussion of the concepts of culture and language. He defines language as a product of culture and this makes the SLA a complicated process in countries like India, Japan, Korea etc where English is recognised as a second language. In SLA, the cultural root of the language creates a barrier to smooth comprehension of the language. The perceptual nature of language is a threat when there is lack of listening.
There are a lot of questions connected with the teaching-learning process of listening to English as a second language:
• Whether the standard English comes as a criterion for ESL or English as Second Language
• Whether English should be taught taking mother tongue as the base
• Whether the communication and expression of language should be taught with competence
• Whether the levels of LT should be clearly defined and those levels should be included in the curriculum
• Whether there is a necessity of a proper curriculum for SL Learning and Teaching?
Listening as a skill strongly carries the background of verbal communication which is the primary method of communication. Listening has certain difficulties as far as school curriculum is concerned. The larger group of students, exposure to the language, lack of equipment, lack of orientation given to teachers and the efficiency level of the teachers are some of the problems faced in the acquisition of listening skills. The changes made in the curriculum and the lack of communication of it also elevates the problem. The dynamics of listening with regard to Second Language Acquisition is therefore a multifaceted and complex phenomenon that needs concerted efforts on all fronts.
Dr Jyotsna Krishnan,
Assistant Professor of English,
Department of Humanities