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Listening as a skill is essential for the human beings and it has always been a crucial part of interaction. It is different from hearing. Listening is comprehension of the speaker’s speech. A good listener can realize pronunciation, speaker’s grammar, vocabulary, and grasping his meaning. In fact, he can realize these 4 elements simultaneously. This paper aims to highlight the role of using English animation (the animation should be authentic) in teaching listening skills. It discusses different approaches and techniques which can assist Iranian children to improve their listening skills by using English animations.
Films and television programs have been used for language learning and teaching since the 1930s, and in ELT for some twenty years.
Applying the modern technology in language teaching and learning has been the focus of many of recent researches. In this review paper, some of the most important viewpoints will be discussed. The purpose of this study is to review the literature to find out how authentic English animations are used in the teaching of the listening skills and areas.
Finally, this paper concludes with some suggestions to parents and teachers for teaching and improving children’s listening skills.
Keywords: Listening skills, English animation, authentic animation Listening comprehension is an important skill to develop, and it lies at the heart of language learning, but unfortunately, it is the least understood and least researched skill. Most activities involve more than just one language skill, but there are moments in which learners are engaged in a one language skill, such as when they are watching a film or writing a report, for instance.
Recently, technology plays an important role in the human development and it is hard for us to think about a life without any using of it. Based on this fact, it is inevitable to consider advantage of the modern technological facilities in helping the English language education. For teaching English, we need to use various tools which can help learners learn the language easily and effectively. Each technological tool has its specific benefits and application with one of the four skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).
The effect of technology in teaching and learning the language is completely tangible in addition to the teacher’s role. It is clear that early exposure to language and literacy is a key for children’s future successes. There are many ways in which visual and verbal information can be presented, including during person-to-person interactions as well as through electronic media, such as computers, television, tablets, and cell phones, and more. Often, when researchers and educators think about literacy and language development, they consider how children learn through sound and spoken language. Learning and teaching methods and interact with their environment have changed by modern technology.
According to Ramadhika (2017) by watching the video, automatically children or student at school would also pay attention to the audio and they would increase their vocabulary mastery that could be found in the video.
This paper reviews studies have contributed to clarifying how watching English animation can help children acquire listening skills.
Television is an important medium for children, and they use television actively. Children see it as a source of entertainment and it is enjoyable for them. Several studies have shown how young children’s language acquisition can benefit from television. However, this seems to be limited primarily to age and appropriate programs with specific educational purposes for 3-5 year old. One of the studies related this field, was found that babies and toddlers who watched Sesame Street learned words, concepts like shapes, colors body members and could identify letters and numbers, especially if they were aided by parents (Lemish & Rice, 1986).
Another study with exactly same topic by Linebarger and Walker (2005), showed that some pre-school cartoons, but not all, can lead to larger vocabularies and word production among younger children 3 years old. Some cartoons, such as Dora the Explorer, which their characters talking to the child, encourage participation, label objects and invite children to respond, were positively related to expressive language production and vocabulary and by repetition can help their listening skills. Cartoons such as Ben Elf and Max and Rouby, which had a strong narrative, and contained opportunities to hear new words and their definitions, also appeared to support language acquisition. Numerous researches have shown that children can learn more than one language starting from their early years. Knowing second language has proved advantages for children as they grow older. Also, “there are positive outcomes from the application of instructional games, songs, and stories” (Razmjoo, Mehrpur, & Darban, 2012).
There are three main reasons to support the importance of listening skills. The first reason is that listening is a skill developed in the very beginning of a child’s learning of language, so, a new learner should learn listening skills at the initial stage of language learning. It is a natural process in acquiring a new language. The Second one is that listening can enhance speaking skill and the third one is that listening exercises help to draw a learner’s attention to new forms in the language (Woottipong, 2014).
Types of listening. Kline (1996) divided listening into five types: Informative listening: the meaning that the listeners understand from messages is close to which the sender intended. Relationship listening: that helps or improves an individual relationship between people. Appreciative listening: it involves listening to music, television, radio, and film for enjoyment or to speakers because you like their style, it is not the source of the message but it is the response of the listener. Critical listening: it is listening critically. Discriminative listening: that is ability to discriminate among the different sounds. Maybe, It is most important type because it is basic to the other four.
The negative impact of poor listening. Poor listening causes problems to discriminate between various sounds, difficulty with reading and phonological awareness, a negative impact on a child’s play and socializing and a delay in language and communication development (Guntermann, 1992).
Authentic listening. There is a few differences in the definitions of authentic materials among theorists. But, there is a common point in these definitions which is “exposure to real language and its use in its own community” (Kilickaya, 2004). Exposing to Authentic listening materials has positive effects on listening skills of children and would lead to improving their listening comprehension abilities and motivation (Khalili Sabet & Mahsefat, 2012). The English spoken in movies is natural as like as the native speakers and this will help to improve our spoken English.
Animations are the manipulated pictures that appear as moving images. Watching the animation is enjoyable for children so that they like to replay them frequently. The frequency of words usage in the animations, and the frequency of hearing them help children to pick them up and understand those words when they hear them.
Research (Canning-Wilson & Wallace, 2000) has shown that the children like learning language through the use of video. The use of animation videos in English classes has grown quickly as a result of the increasing emphasis on communicative techniques.
In Richards and Gordon’s 2004 study, they maintain that video, as a tool, enables learners to use visual information to enhance comprehension. By watching video learners observe the gestures, facial expressions and body language that accompany speech. It also presents authentic language and cultural information about native speakers of English language.
There are advantages and disadvantages for using the animations that here some of them are addressed: Advantages include providing samples of real life and focusing on information that cannot be or rarely occur in the daily routine (for example focusing on innards).
Harmer (2001) states that the most important advantage of watching animation videos is that learners not only can listen the language but also they can see it, therefore, it can support comprehension, videos contain visual clues such as gestures and expressions which allow children to go beyond of what they listen, and interpret the video in a deeper way. So, children can see the language in use from natural contexts and this can help them to make connections between words and images which help them to analyze their own use of the language. Also, there are some disadvantages such as their cost, inconvenience, maintenance. Another important issue is that the teacher should be well trained on using and exploiting the video. As well as, watching the TV can be harmful for their health (for eyes and for their body, because by watching TV they couldn’t have enough movements. “Instructional animations foster motor skills and they can be superior to the equivalent static graphics” (Wong et al., 2009, p.345).
Sadeghi & Richards, (2015) in their study found that there are many reasons why Iranians have great enthusiasm and motivation for learning English. Some of them are intending to continue their education abroad, to travel all around the world, to speak with native speakers of English, to watch English films, to live out of Iran, to find an appropriate job, as well as speaking English language in Iran is regarded as prestigious by many Iranians, also some others like to learn English because they enjoy listening to English songs, reading English books and so on.
Unfortunately, Iran has a fairly traditional, form-focused L2 education with little opportunity to use English for communicative purposes. In appropriate textbook materials together with a translation and grammar-based approach to ELT which is the norm in schools in Iran, has resulted in the poor English language proficiency of Iranian students (Zarrabi & Brown, 2017, Conclusion, para. 1).
So, in Iran families have to send their children to private institutions to learn English perfectly, but institutions because of their limitations cannot teach all the skills ideally. Therefore, families themselves should provide situations that children could pick them up unconsciously by using English animations or movies.
Also, digital games can motivate children to learn English more and more (Aghlara & Hadidi Tamjid, 2011).
Teaching listening skill is the most difficult for teachers to teach. Successful listening skill is acquired over time, and it needs lots of practicing. At first, it will be frustrating for students because there are no rules for teaching listening like grammar teaching. It does not mean that there are not ways to learn listening skills but it means that it is more difficult for the teachers to teach that versus other skills.
As you know, first a child learns his/her first language by listening to the adult around him/her and then he/she follows imitating or speaking like them.
Animations can be used to improve the students’ listening skills by doing the following steps. First of all the teacher selects the authentic animations that they are suitable for students’ level and interest, and the syllabus content. Also they should have clear pronunciation. Second is the teacher had to pay attention to the teaching and learning technique such as: pre-listening phase prepares students through activities involving activating prior knowledge, making predictions, and reviewing key vocabulary. The whilst-listening phase focuses on understanding through tasks that require selective listening. The post-listening phase involves feedback to comprehension (Stiviani & Hayati, 2012).
For teaching listening skill to children between 2-6, “we do not focus on the structure or grammar of the language formally, if we teach them that now, they will be confused. At this age, we speak to them directly every day in simple sentences and simple words. They will listen, do, repeat, understand and remember. As the proverb says, practice makes perfect” (Q. Yusuf, A. Asyik, Y. Yusuf & L. Rusdi, 2017, p. 122).
In Vandergrift’s 1999 study has been explained that understanding a listening task or animation requires children or learners to discriminate between sounds, understand the vocabulary and grammatical structure, gain familiarity with the intonation and stress, and contextualize the speech in terms of sociocultural utterances.
Aldera and Mohsen (2013) in their study explored the efficacy of learning with animation to enhance vocabulary development and listening comprehension, so that animation with annotations or captions was found to help vocabulary acquisition over time and pure animation was found to facilitate listening comprehension and recall. The annotations plus captions can help the students learn vocabulary than when they just accessed captions without annotations. Pure animation revealed to facilitate listening skills over time, whereas annotations and captions did not significantly reinforce listening skills over time.
The results of another study claimed the advantages of subtitles as a type of modified input. Subtitles function as a kind of scaffold to help the young learner. It appears that the input modes as text and sound reinforces each other (Ghorbani, 2011).
In one study analysis of the students’ responses revealed that they were more interested in learning English by English videos as teaching materials. Additionally, the keyword preview before watching videos motivated them more and more to watch and learn English, as they said that it was easier for them to remember and realized new words in the animation which they had already taught by the researcher during the pre-listening stage. Students agreed that videos were beneficial in learning English with or without English subtitles (Woottipong, 2014).
Jaenab and Athar (2013) stated that watching animation movie was effective for improving students listening skills and there are some reasons such as: They could learn English naturally through heard the English conversations by a native speaker that it can motivate them to study more. Animations can make them excited in learning listening skills. Animations could improve the students listening comprehension, because they do understand about the movie, and also they hear many new words, stressing of the words and they get the new idioms.
The findings of numerous studies in this field reveals that the use of animation to develop listening comprehension of children seems to be so effective. Therefore, using the authentic animation for teaching listening skills to Iranian children can be significantly beneficial and this can be the best way to expose the children to English language. Unfortunately, in our country, people don’t speak English in public even if they have a good command of English. It may be because of cultural and social perspectives. The authentic animations also can be used in teaching other skills such as writing and speaking and they are recommended to be studied in future researches.
Based on the different studies, some suggestions are given to parents, English teachers and further researchers. Since the animations can help children’s listening ability and increase their interest in doing listening activities, it is recommended that parents by providing English cartoons or animations at home and English teachers by providing them at school, help children to be exposed to English language, because in our country, children don’t have opportunity to learn it from the environment and there are not situations in which use and hear words frequently. So, the role of watching animation is very significant for language learning and children see it as an entertainment, so Parents and the teachers have to select the appropriate animation clips based on the criteria that I have already mentioned.
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