It is generally recognized that listening comprehension, which can be understood as the ability to identify and understand what others say, plays a key role in facilitating language learning. Gary (1975) said that giving pre-eminence to listening comprehension, particularly in the early stage of second language teaching and learning language. Firstly, listening is one of the basic sources of information. It is easy to see that all L2 learners want to understand target language, or they want to be able to access the rich variety of oral and visual L2 texts available today via network-based multimedia, such as on-line audio and video, YouTube, podcasts and blogs. Moreover, as infants, we have the unique ability to listen to sounds and understand them.
The first words that a child learns are by listening to parents, understanding and then reproducing these words. Growing older, a large part of our lives is spent in school or college where we learn primarily by listening to what our teachers say. We complement the listening process by asking questions and increasing our knowledge. Secondly, listening is an important language skill to develop language. For example, when we need to learn a second language, the first thing that we do is to study the grammar and syntax behind the language. However, knowledge of grammar and syntax alone will not improve our command over the language. We need to practice using the language. How do we practice using a second language? We need to read, write and listen to the language.
It is only after practice that we will become fluent in using the language. Learning a non-native or a second language requires listening to that language. A non-native English speaker for example, needs to learn to listen to the language in order to understand its nuances. Learning English listening helps to improve command over the English language. Listening and understanding spoken English helps non-native speakers of the language to gain confidence. Besides, listening remains the primary form of contact with a language. By listening we are able to understand subtleties about the language that are not apparent by reading or by just studying grammar. For learners of English, listening is vital because it is through this sense that they receive information on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, spoken word order, as well as the stress patterns of words, phrases and sentences.
Through listening the learner picks up vital clues, some consciously, others subconsciously, about what constitutes idiomatic spoken English. The learner may also register and retain words and phrases which, having heard them from a native speaker or their teacher, they know to be acceptable for their own use later on. Finally, listening can help develop other skills. Dunkel (1991) and Rost (2002) also emphasized that listening comprehension is lied at the heart of L2 listening; and the development of L2 listening skill has demonstrated as a beneficial impact on the development of other skills.
Listening with care and attention, and moreover, demonstrating that they are listening by eye contact, nodding where appropriate, and asking questions to clarify where necessary, guarantees that the goal of the communication is achieved. In which, whether it’s a simple “Excuse me, could you please tell me the way to the train station?” to a discussion on cultural differences, the goal is the same effective communication. And without both parties being able to listen actively, the chance of real communication is diminished.
Without the skill of listening, there can be no language learning, and hence no communication . Therefore, listening comprehension is a highly integrative skill. It plays an important role in the process of language learning/acquisition, facilitating the emergence of other language skills. For these reasons, learners of foreign language, including students at Tay Bac University, need to have an awareness and a competence in listening comprehension. In order to do so, one of the most important factors is that they need to be well-taught to listen.