Listening: The Most Difficult Skill to Teach

Categories: Language

Listening comprehension is the most forgotten skill in second language learning because listening was paid the least attention of the four language skills. This neglect gets the fact that the teachers do not spend more time on students’ listening and look for ways of improving students’ listening skills. Unfortunately, it is supposed that listening comprehension is a passive activity, but on the contrary, it is an active process because people cannot develop oral skills if the speaker is not understood by the listener.

listening is a process by which listeners share their mutual beliefs, the listeners must understand vocabularies and grammatical structures to interpret the meaning of language input from the text in their mind in which the communication takes place because communication is not only related to being able to speak but also with understanding by the listener and then be able to produce output according to Mianmahaleh (2015).

Listening comprehension is an important receptive skill and also a useful preparation for listening in real life.

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The importance of listening has changed over the past years. Listening used to be defined as an ignored skill. Listening skills were believed to be learned automatically through the practice of grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. It was very amazing as listening played a very important life (Hedge 2000). Listening is the activity in which students concentrate and trying to obtain meaning from something they can hear. To listen successfully to spoken language, we should understand what speakers mean when they use some words in particular ways on special occasions, and not simply to understand the words themselves.

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The result of language learning depends on the learner's listening skills. As Pokrivčáková (2010, p.61) claims to listen is 'a receptive communicative skill. It provides the aural input as the basis for development for all remaining language skills. By developing their ability to listen well, learners become more independent, as by hearing accurately they are much more likely to be able to interact in a foreign language effectively.'

Kurita (2012) cited, listening comprehension is an important part of language learning. Learners want to understand native speakers and a lot of multimedia like DVDs and the Internet. Listening is a significant skill to develop in second language learning. According to Kurita (2012), a major difference between more successful and less successful learners is related to their ability to use listening as an instrument of learning. Listening skill is very important in foreign language learning because the key to learn a language is to receive language input. According to Krashen, Terrell, Ehrman, and Hamouda (2013) acquisition happen when learners have sufficient comprehensible input. According to Hamouda (2013), listening skill is an important element in obtaining understandable input. Learning will not occur if there isn’t any input. Hasan (2000) and Hamouda (2013) expressed that listening comprehension provides the appropriate situations for the acquisition and expansion of other language skills.

Rost cited (2008) expressed that the development of listening is related to the attainment of proficiency in speaking. He continued that listening is the most important skill in language learning because it is the most widely used language skill in normal daily life. The listening comprehension process provides beneficial intuitions in teaching listening. Learners may find listening comprehension skills difficult to learn and this can also provide teachers with opportunities to change their listening exercises into more effective ones. Developing listening comprehension skills helps learners to succeed in language learning to enhance comprehensible input. Since learners’ self-reliance in listening comprehension will be increased, they will be motivated to have access to spoken English such as conversations with native speakers (Kurita, 2012). According to Pourhosein Gilakjani and Ahmadi (2011), listening plays a significant role in the communication process. Hamouda (2013) expressed that listening is the most frequently used skill in language classrooms.

Vandergrift & Goh (2012), for a long time listening comprehension skills, were presented as a complex set of skills and micro-skills. It is no longer perceived as something that could simply be picked up by language learners, but as a complex communicative skill that had to be learned as one would learn other language skills such as reading and writing. Metacognition, or the act of thinking about thinking, refers to the ability of learners to control their thoughts and to regulate their own learning. It plays an important role in learning to listen. There is a general consensus among researchers in the fields of comprehension and second language (L2) learning that metacognition enhances thinking and comprehension. Although metacognition is a crucial aspect of learning to listen, it does not have a significant and explicit role in many language classrooms. Many researchers have emphasized the importance of awareness and ‘consciousness-raising’ for second language learning (e.g. Schmidt 2010; Yenkimaleki & Van Heuven 2013b, 2016f, 2017c). Mainstream cognitive psychologists consider awareness a fundamental pre-condition to learning and even claim that that learning is impossible without conscious awareness. Khaghaninejad and Maleki (2015) stated that explicit phonetic instruction has a positive effect on students’ listening comprehension skills.

Steinberg (2007) and Azmi Bingol, Celik, Yidliz, and Tugrul Mart (2014) defined listening comprehension as one’s ability to recognize another through sense, aural organs, and allocate meaning to the message to understand it. According to Seyedeh Masoumeh Ahmadi (2011), listening comprehension is the process of understanding speech and it concentrates on the role of linguistic units such as phonemes, words, and grammatical structures and the role of listener’s anticipations, the situation and context, previous knowledge, and the subject

According to Hamouda (2013), EFL learners have crucial problems in listening comprehension because universities pay attention to grammar, reading, and vocabulary. Listening and speaking skills are not significant parts of many books and teachers do not consider these skills in their classes. Hamouda (2013) emphasized that comprehending speech is a very difficult activity for students. Learners face a lot of problems when they listen to a language. If teachers are expected to assist learners to improve their listening comprehension, they should comprehend their listening difficulties in understanding spoken passages and teach them effective listening comprehension strategies to be able to solve their listening comprehension problems.

Listening is a difficult skill in second language learning. The difficulty is caused by many factors varying from the difference of sound between the second language learners’ first language and the second language he or she is learning, his or her lack of vocabulary, his or her grammatical unawareness, to pragmatic differences between two languages. Accordingly, learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) need to be prepared to handle tests in listening comprehension (Nasrudin, 2013: 3). Listening comprehension refers to the understanding of the implications and explicit meanings of words and sentences of spoken language. Listening comprehension is more than just hearing what is said, it is a child’s ability to understand the meaning of the words they hear and to relate to them in some way. When children hear a story, for instance, good listening comprehension enables them to understand it, remember it, discuss it, and even retell it in their own words. This is an important skill to learn even at an early age because good listeners grow up to become good communicators.

In another recent study Yıldırım (2013) explored teachers’ perceptions of university-level students’ listening comprehension problems in order to compare them with the students’ perceptions, as well as to probe into teachers’ reported classroom practices to deal with with with these listening comprehension problems. With this aim, the study was carried out with 423 B1.2 level EFL learners and 49 teachers in Turkey. The results of the quantitative data analysis revealed that, except for one item, teachers’ mean scores were always higher than students’ mean scores, which indicates that students do not experience listening comprehension problems as frequently as their teachers think, and teachers may be more aware of listening comprehension problems than their students. The analysis of the interviews revealed that all of the participating teachers considered listening as a very important skill for their students. In addition, it is found that although teachers have different perceptions among themselves and have different years of experiences when their reported classroom practices are considered, they perform similarly in the classroom in order to help their students to overcome their listening comprehension problems.

Listen and draw is a favorite type of listening activity in almost all classes, but remember that drawing takes time, so keep the pictures simple. In “listen and draw” activities the teacher or one of the students, tells the other students what to draw. You can make up a picture or describe a picture you have in front of you. The activity is particularly useful for checking object vocabulary, prepositions, colors, and numbers. It is not useful for actions, since drawing people doing things is quite difficult for most of us (Scoot and Ytreberg, 2010: 24).

Listening is the primary source of language acquisition, the window through which the brain receives oral messages, and the basis for developing all other language skills. Therefore, it occupies the first rank in the natural order of any language learning that is listening, speaking, reading and writing. In spite of its importance, listening skills development has received only slight care in language teaching. EFL learners have very few opportunities to hear the real language as it is produced by native speakers. Therefore, they have many understanding difficulties when they come into contact with native speakers of the language in which speech is fast and nothing is repeated (Abu Hatab, 2010).

Conceptual Framework

Pupils become easily frustrated when they do not understand what teachers taught especially when they are listening to some stories, they become unmotivated and not interested. When listening skills break down English teachers, parents and pupils need to find ways to repair their understanding. The importance of knowing how to teach listening skills comes in, so as to facilitate the listening process and give students a clear sense of what they are listening to. A teacher needs to design and teach different strategies in order to help students close to the gaps of understanding. The ultimate challenge for teachers is to know exactly which strategy is useful and most beneficial to teach since each pupil varies from the other. As Tyagi cited (2013) listening is the language modality that is used most frequently. It has been estimated that adults spend almost half their communication time listening, and students may receive as much as 90% of their in-school information through listening to teachers and one another.

According to Lui (2016), listening is a basic skill and knowledge to support student’s subject material of English teaching-learning. They are required to study listening material and references and practice listening assignments in English. However, there are many problems in teaching listening skills. There were some factors influencing students’ listening comprehension, first students faced many difficulties in mastering vocabulary. Secondly, they got limited time in English teaching-learning. Listening was taught by a teacher just once a month. Thirdly, students were bored and unmotivated to learn. They tended not to pay attention when the teacher explained the material. Fourthly, from the interview with the teacher, the listening scores of students were unsatisfactory. They just got a score of 6.5. Based on these problems, efforts need to be done to help the students find enjoyment and more successful in developing listening skills and comprehension. For this purpose, the teacher needs an appropriate technique to improve students’ listening skills.

Localized listening materials such as audio is one of the suitable media that can be used by the teacher in English teaching and learning. This technique can improve the English knowledge of pupils, especially in listening performance. The technique is also used to stimulate their motivation and interest in the lesson. Thus, localized listening materials are a suitable method that can be used in teaching grade four pupils to improve listening skills. If the students are interested in the method, they are motivated to learning listening skills. A high motivation to practice listening improves their listening ability. Furthermore, learning listening using localized stories will improve students’ motivation in learning English, especially in listening based on the result of the posttest.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Listening: The Most Difficult Skill to Teach. (2020, Nov 20). Retrieved from

Listening: The Most Difficult Skill to Teach essay
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