Diary submitted by Amy H
In this diary, I will address the fact that many students find listening to English very difficult, and often freeze up when a native English speaker begins to talk with them, as well as the ways in which we can prevent this from happening. Listening can be one of the hardest skills to become comfortable with, and therefore it is crucial that as TEFL teachers, we can find ways to ease our students into listening practice and improvement. I will also discuss the different techniques that in my experience have helped students hone their listening skills- be it inside or outside the classroom.
During class time, it important that we put a significant focus onto listening skills. At the beginning of each class, I like to spend 5 minutes or so having a conversation about the student, as a warm up exercise. I found that by repeating the same warm up questions at the start of each class, the student was able to develop their responses more and more each week, because they became more accustomed to what I was asking them. However, I didn’t want them to get too used to my questions that they were simply reciting their responses, so I would rephrase the question. For example, “how are you” became “how are you feeling today”, which then developed into “how has your week been” and so on. This way, students learn how to listen for key information, being asked in different ways, thus improving their general listening ability and not feeling like they simply freeze up when they hear something new.
In the language school that I work at, there are English teachers with different accents, and the students change teachers regularly, so adjusting to your teacher’s accent is an immediate challenge. I had one student that had spent a lot of time learning English in the United States, so found it difficult to adjust to my southern British accent. Once I spoke a bit slower they found it easier to listen to me. It also helped if I pronounced certain words in an American accent as well, to help them grasp certain phrases and concepts. This is also something that the student can work on outside of their class time. Furthermore, I suggest to most of my students that it is extremely beneficial to watch English films and TV series, with either Spanish or English subtitles, depending on their level. Listening to English music is also something that I highly recommend to students, as even listening to words you don’t understand, improves listening skills, maybe without even realising it.
In conclusion, it is crucial that as TEFL teachers, we make every effort to ensure that students feel increasingly confident listening to English, and that they do not fear conversation or freeze up when English is spoken to them. In my experience, the best way to do this is to enhance listening classes with activities outside the classroom, as well as adapting accents and questions in the classroom.
Source- “Five essential listening skills for English learners”- Rapael Ahmed, British Council. (Accessed 12/09/17: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/five-essential-listening-skills-english-learners)