Listening activities do not only need the learners’ ability in mastering basic language knowledge and knowing various issues, but they also have to prepare listening strategies in order to help them in figuring out some problems that they will face in the process of listening, for example; when the learners get difficulties to complete some listening tasks that relate to the students’ listening comprehension skill, they may apply a strategy that can support them in completing the task. In this case, the students may apply a note-taking strategy to notice important points from the audio.
Then, they can answer all of the questions by using the notes that they had written. The learners may also apply bottom-up or top-down strategies to guide them in the process of comprehension. In the bottom-up strategy, the learners may activate their background knowledge about a topic discussed in the audio before starting the listening activities. In top down strategy, the learners may start the listening activities by listening to the specific information in the audio, and correlate it with their background knowledge.
Hsueh-Jui (2008) states that there is significant relationship among students’ listening strategy, style, and proficiency levels. In short, the students should have the capability to apply listening strategies in listening activities.
Listening is a concept that is both complicated and hard to be analyzed. It means that it is difficult to make a clear and quick definition of listening (Hichem, 2013). However, it can be referred as one of the four key skills through which a language is taught and it is one of the two language skills that is employed when communicating orally, according to what Andrade (2006) puts forward.
Besides, listening as a pedagogical term refers to ‘speech recognition’, ‘speech perception’, ‘speech understanding’, and ‘spoken language understanding’’ (Huei-Chun, 1998). That listening is a very active process means that when we listen not only we deal with what we listen to or hear but also we combine it with other information that are already familiar. As a consequence, by means of this active process, we create meaning by integrating what we hear or experience with the data in our minds (Helgesen, 2003). The listening process takes place in five stages of hearing, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding (Tyagi, 2013).
Tyagi (2013) states that hearing is the perception of sound waves; you must initially hear to listen, but you don’t need to listen in order to hear, understanding means the comprehension of symbols we have seen and heard, we must examine the meaning of the stimuli we have perceived, remembering means that a person has not only received and clarified a message but has also added it to the brain’s stockpile, evaluating necessitates the active listener to weigh the evidence or sort fact from opinion, and specify the presence or absence of bias in a message, responding requires that the receiver completes the process by means of verbal or nonverbal feedback. Having the four essential language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking is highly necessary to be accepted as an efficient language learner (Yıldırım, 2013). EFL listening skill has been ignored for a long time in lieu of the theory that listening is learned automatically and once for all, though (Huei-Chun, 1998). People have named listening skill as the ‘Cinderella Skill’ which is disregarded by its big sister speaking skill in language learning as Solak and Altay (2014) called the term like many other researchers. However, there has been rising prominence on listening comprehension skills in second or foreign language pedagogy, mirrored in various methods such as Total Physical Response, Silent Way, Suggestopedia, etc., and also in many listening course books, video materials, and CDs (Huei-Chun, 1998). Listening is seemingly the slightest accurate of the four language skills, causing it to be the hardest skill to acquire, as Ghaderpanahi (2012) refers. It is one of the most key scopes of communication skills and language progress (Stepanovienė, 2012). Furthermore, it has evolved into a crucial segment for a lot of foreign language programs (Lotfi, 2012). This skill is vital both in language learning and in daily communication (Hamouda, 2013). EFL listening skill is regarded as a problematic language skill especially in a foreign language context where real practice chances are narrow (Nowrouzi, Tam, Zareian and Nimehchisalem, 2015). Teaching students listening skill may be difficult for teachers and namely difficult for students to learn as well. For instance, even the students who are adequate in speaking and reading might confront problems with listening skills when facing a record with a quick conversation (Ghaderpanahi, 2012).
The importance of listening skills in EFL learning is undeniable since the elixir of acquiring a language is to gain language input (Hamouda, 2013). When we process and decode auditory input, it necessitates knowledge of perception. However, when we encode and generate speech output, it necessitates retrieval knowledge (Vandergrift, 1999). Listening comprehension is an immensely integrative skill and it plays a vital role in the process of language learning, promoting the rise of other language skills. As a result, consciousness and the formation of proper listening comprehension strategies can aid learners to benefit from the language input they are receiving, Vandergrift (1999) clearly mentions. It is a fact that listening is highly necessary in language learning in that it supplies the learner with the required input and learners can’t acquire anything without the comprehension of the specific input (Hamouda, 2013). To gain much authentic input of the target language, students can listen to songs, radio channels or watch any video in the target language; however, learning may not be achieved totally as sometimes instructions aren’t presented appropriately by the materials (Dey, 2014). Teachers won’t present brilliant listening classes if there aren’t proper elements such as appropriate apparatus, classroom setting and students’ motivation and interest. However, it must be recalled that even if the gears are sufficient it is necessary to have entry into listening materials opted according to the grades and needs of the students as well (Andrade, 2006).
Learners’ listening practice is also one of the influential factors in improving their listening comprehension skills. They have to practice a lot to improve their skill, especially in comprehending monologs or dialogues uttered by speakers. Commonly, students get difficulties when they are in that situation. They claim that the speaker’s style in communication guides them into a billion of confusion even the teacher has played the audio for two or three times. It is one of the students’ reasons when they get difficulties in listening. In fact, it is not a big problem, they are only not familiar with the native speakers’ styles in communication. In short, the students need to practice their listening activities because the learners have to face language learning experiences to enhance their listening skills. Then, the learners and teachers should work collaboratively in this step.
Teachers’ roles in teaching and learning activities in the class will also lead the students’ success in completing listening activities. There are some efforts that teachers can do such as running and presenting listening activities in the class interestingly. English language teachers have to be able to provide the learners with intensive listening classes that guide them to beat all challenges in listening activities. On the ground observation in some schools, commonly English students’ listening strategies, style, and proficiency levels. In short, the students should have the capability to apply teachers do not often involve the students in listening practice. Many teachers try to skip listening activities in the class because of various reasons, such as lack of sources, tools, electricity, and others. The students get familiar with how to develop their reading, writing, speaking skills, but they get harder problems in listening due to lack of exposure of the skill.
Listening habits determine the academic accomplishments of students to a great extent. Both listening and academic accomplishments are interrelated and interdependent on each other. Students often come from varied backgrounds and places with different levels of academic accomplishments. Therefore, they might be at variance when it comes to listening practice. While some students have good listening habits, others tend to exhibit poor listening habits. Academic accomplishment means how much knowledge the individual has acquired from the institution. (Bashir & Mattoo, 2012).
Listening is the absorption of the meanings of words and sentences by the brain that leads to the understanding of facts and ideas. But listening takes attention or sticking to the task at hand in spite of distractions. It requires concentration, focus of your thoughts upon one particular problem. Active listening is a method of responding to another that encourages communication paying and attention to the person who is speaking. Paying attention to the listener’s words not just by moving your body but if truly interested (which is often just a matter of attitude) then the body will happily follow the mind. (JStor.org) The fundamental attitude to support this is to value and accept all people, even if you do not agree with what they have to say or how they say it. Thus, if you disagree, disagree with the argument and not with the person. Show your acceptance of their right to differ with you, whilst stating your opposition to what they say. Listening is the ability to understand words contained in dialogue and make use of the knowledge for personal growth and development (Dadzie, 2008). This implies making meaning out of recorded information either printed or non-printed in the life of an individual. People listen for different reasons and purposes, some of which include pleasure, leisure, relaxation, information, and knowledge. Listening is the identification of the words and the association of suitable meaning attached to them. Comprehension skills help the learner to understand the meaning of words in isolation and in context (Palani, 2012). Hence, listening is a process of thinking, evaluating, judging, imagining, reasoning, and problem-solving.
According to (Cheatham 2000), listenership is an intellectual activity that is possible only if a person forms a habit of listening and practices from the age of early childhood. Listening habits, therefore, play a very crucial role in enabling a person to achieve practical efficiency. It further, follows that if we are in the practice of listening regularly without thinking about it because of the permanence of its continuity then, one can conclude that good listening habits have been formed. This is because a habit is formed instinctively when an individual does something many times lately becomes an essential part of a person’s life. Incidentally, many students do not belong in the category of those with good reading habits. Their poor or bad reading habits could partly be held responsible for a wide-ranging poor performance that the institutional systems usually record in both internal and external examinations (Issa et al, 2012).
Perhaps, due to lack of good listening habits among students, academic performance with respect to their examination result has been dismal nowadays creating a great source of worry and concern for all public policymakers in the educational sector (Issa et al, 2012). The setting of “crashed programs such as certificate courses, workshops and seminars” rather prevalent in the educational systems today has not been supportive in the development of the good practices of listening as most of the participants are not keen on listening throughout the entire planned sessions. It was also noticed as those who are not keen on listening could be the disruptive or upsetting factors mess up the entire session. Thus, the enthusiasm associated with the urge to engage in listening practices voluntarily, pleasurably and extensively is almost nearly absent among the greater number of students in the educational system today (Issa et al, 2012).
Communication takes place along four modalities: speaking, writing, listening and reading. It is common for instructors to teach speaking, writing, and reading skills, and yet, listening is at once the least understood and most important of these competencies. Listening is an important communication competence that includes complex cognitive processes like understanding and interpreting messages, affective processes like being motivated to pay attention, and behavioral processes like responding with both verbal and nonverbal feedback. In other words, to be an effective listener, the listener has to take into consideration what he or she is thinking about the communication being received, what he or she is feeling about the communication and also the context of the conversation, and what he or she will do in the process and as a result of the communication.
In a dynamic classroom, both the instructor and the students need to be effective listeners. Perfecting listening skills will foster learning in the classroom by helping students master the content of the course, ask incisive questions, and learn to think critically about the content of the course. Listening skills also play a crucial role in personal and professional success and are especially important to master for students for whom the language of instruction is not their first language. Because listening is such a complex activity, or a broad field of activities, inculcating good listening habits in students requires the instructor to address each of these types of listening processes.