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Teaching Listening to Advanced Learners: Problems and Solutions
by Scott Shelton
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Appendix & Bibliography

Appendix: Potential problem areas and examples

• Hearing the sounds: not catching the phoneme at the end of a word when this sound is important for understanding meaning as in "She's read a lot" and "She read a lot". Another example would be hearing the wrong word for phonetic transfer reasons such as hearing "keys" for "kiss" or "being" for "been".

• Understanding intonation and stress: being aware of how pitch can convey meaning and emotion and how tone groups can convey different meanings regardless of syntax. A typical example is: "Alfred, said the boss, is stupid." This is contrasted with, "Alfred said the boss is stupid."

• Coping with redundancy and 'noise' : noise may be outside interference or inner-interference, meaning the unfamiliarity of works or sounds rattling the perceived need to understand everything. This may cause a psychological problem, as the learner is thrown off balance and either 'shuts off' or panics and loses the thread of the conversation.

• Predicting: lack of knowledge and unfamiliarity of collocations, intonation and stress patterns, which play a part in forming expectations, as well as general lack of cultural knowledge, can impede comprehension.

• Understanding (colloquial) vocabulary: knowing but not recognizing expressions and words because of modifications undergone in the stream of speech such as assimilation, elision and weak vowel sounds. Excessive use of slang, colloquialisms and phrasal verbs can also make comprehension difficult to achieve.

• Understanding different accents: inability to understand different pronunciation such as so call 'standard' accents like North American, British, Australian as well as so called 'non-standard' versions like Jamaican, Trinidad, or the English spoken by German, Italian or other non-native speakers is an often cited problem.

• (Not) using visual or environmental clues: problems perceiving and interpreting paralinguistic clues because of decoding and processing overload create a disadvantage for the listeners, who would normally use these aids for comprehension in their own language.

• Fatigue: due to the demanding processes of listening, fatigue can affect the ability to concentrate and encode long or continued extracts of speech.



Ur, P. (1984) Teaching Listening Comprehension. Cambridge University Press

McCarthy, M. (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press

Richards, J.C. (1990) The Language Teaching Matrix. Cambridge University Press

Anderson, A. & Lynch, T. (1988) Listening. Oxford University Press

Cook, G. (1989) Discourse. Oxford University Press

Cambridge CAE Handbook (2000) Cambridge University Press

Brown, G., & G. Yule, (1983) Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge University Press. In Richards, J.C., (1990) The language Teaching Matrix. Cambridge University Press.

Paran, A. (1997) Bottom-up and Top-down processing. English Teaching Professional No. 3 April, 1997

Wajnryp, R. (1990) Grammar Dictation. Oxford University Press

Wood, A. (2002) Listening. International House Madrid seminar handout. Unpublished.

Bowen, T., & J., Marks (1994) Inside Teaching. Macmillan Heinemann


1. Inside Teaching, pp.71


Scott Shelton has been involved in EFL teaching since 1991 and has taught adults from all over the world. Scott has taught multilingual groups at St. Giles College in San Francisco, California and monolingual groups at International house in Madrid, Spain. He was awarded his CELTA teaching certificate from St. Giles College and also holds the Cambridge Diploma (DELTA) having followed the course at the British Language Centre in Madrid. Scott currently teaches in New Zealand.

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