Whenever a student gets admission to any school in India, he/she is taught English as a second language. Usually, a teacher begins teaching by the writing of alphabets. The next stage is ‘reading’ and the final stage is ‘speaking’. Unfortunately, listening as a skill is not given its due importance in the learning process and is usually ignored. However, this is not a suitable method of teaching language.
The proper sequence of language learning should be listening, speaking, reading and then writing.
The primary functions of a language are given below:
► Expressive function: Language is a means of expression and communication. It helps us to express our feelings, emotions and ideas. It is also used to arouse similar feeling among our readers or audience. Authors, poets and dramatists are very skilful in this aspect of the language. They are able to express their feelings and invoke deep emotions through their skilful use of the language.
► Informative function: Language is a means of providing information to others. For example, when a history teacher describes a battle to his/her class, he/she is making use of this function of the language.
► Directive function: Language is used to perform an activity or direct others. An example of this can be asking a student to write on the blackboard.
► Poetic function: This function combines certain sounds that are phonologically similar, such as rhyming words – drain/brain, tall/wall and cub/pub/tub.
► Metalingual function: When a listener does not understand the words spoken by a speaker, the listener asks the speaker to explain them to him/her. The speaker repeats what he/she had said, but this time, explains the meaning to make sure that the listener is able to understand.
► Social function: According to Ben Johnson, “Speech is the only instrument of society.” So, language is used not only for providing and obtaining information, but also to interact with each other socially in various ways, for example, while greeting each other, enquiring about something and having discussions or debates.
► Referential function: This function of language is also known as the cognitive function. According to this function, the speaker expresses what he/she feels and the meaning is derived on the basis of the context, for example, in a conversation.
► Cultural function: Language is also a part of culture. The content or substance of every culture is expressible in its language. Language helps to express rituals, norms or festivals of a culture or its people.
► Emotive function: Language is used to express one’s emotions, real or imaginary.
► Phatic function: The phatic function is used to prolong or discontinue communication. For example, while giving a lecture, a teacher may ask questions such as “Do you understand?”, “What is this?”,
etc. These questions represent the phatic function of language.
► Conative function: This function of language can be seen in vocative and imperative sentences, such as ‘Stop it’, ‘Read carefully’ and ‘Stand up’.
The skill of listening is a counterpart of the skill of speaking because verbal communication is a two-way process, i.e., without listening, speech has no meaning.
To be an effective listener, one needs to concentrate on what is being said and should know what is important and what is not.
Most importantly, the person should be receptive and attentive, lack of which implies that he/she is just ‘hearing’, not ‘listening’.
Listening skills are required to understand messages, content, concepts, facts and ideas, which the listener receives through his/her auditory organs.
Some important points about listening are given below:
► In a classroom, students mainly learn and understand by listening to their teacher.
► Speech verbally communicates feelings but it should be accompanied with non-verbal actions as they help to understand these feelings. Listening, therefore, also involves observation of non-verbal actions (like facial expressions and gestures) that are used to convey feelings.
► Listening facilitates perception.
Let us now move on to some of the objectives of developing listening skills in students. They are given below:
► Understanding texts being read.
► Understanding the question asked verbally by the teacher and respond accordingly.
► Completing tasks based on oral directions.
► Obey and do as told.
► Communicating and conversing effectively in society.
Listening is a very important tool or skill to understand what people say or mean. In communication, listening is as important, if not more, than speech.
Children use their listening skills to:
► Understand concepts, facts, ideas, feelings, etc.
► Understand the world around them.
► Focus on and comprehend the speaker’s meaning.
► Understand the characteristics of English speech and sounds, including stress and intonation patterns.
► Know the correct pronunciation of words.
Speech is a natural gift that we polish and improve through education. A child speaks words in the same way as he hears them being spoken. In a school, the teacher is a role model for students as far as speech is concerned. Therefore, the teacher should be careful of his/her own pronunciation and sentence construction while speaking.
The primary objectives of teaching speaking skills are:
► Verbally answer the questions asked.
► Express ideas and thoughts in debates, speeches, etc.
► Be able to communicate and converse with others in the society.
► Diagnose the speaking-related problem of the learner.
► Provide remedial teaching on the problem diagnosed.
Speech helps to communicate feelings. Non-verbal actions, such as facial expressions and gestures that accompany speech help to make our feelings easier to understand.
Children begin learning a language through speech. They use it as a means of communicating their thoughts and feelings.
Children use speaking as a tool to:
► Know and learn correct pronunciation of different words.
► Develop and enhance their vocabulary.
► Express their feelings and emotions to others.
► Gain fluency and proficiency in the language.
► Improve their diction and learn from mistakes made while communicating with others.
Answer the following questions by selecting the most appropriate option.
15. Who said, “Writing is a tool which enables us to express what is in our mind and for some people, it is almost as important as speech.”?
(2) B.S. Bloom
1. Which of the following is the proper order of learning a language?
2. The teacher and students discuss a topic and the former starts the conversation by asking a question.
Then the student/s respond/s by giving examples and explanations. The speaking assessment here is to grade how well students
(1) speak fluently and creatively
(2) process information and respond appropriately
(3) express themselves
(4) respond in an appropriate tone and express themselves fluently and creatively
3. The primary objective of using role-play is
(1) to promote the reading habit
(2) to improve the communicative competence
(3) to develop acting talent
(4) to evaluate dialogue writing-skills
4. Correct speech habits can be developed most effectively through
(1) vocabulary practice
(4) pronunciation practice
5. When young learners are asked to read a text silently, they should be instructed
(1) to infer the meaning of new words from the context and read with comprehension.
(2) to pay special attention to grafe-eh-ar items used in the passage.
(3) to read fast even if they don’t comprehend the meaning.
(4) to stop reading whenever they encounter a difficult word or phrase.
6. During the process of language learning, students lack confidence in their pronunciation. How can one overcome this?
(1) Correcting mistakes immediately.
(2) Reading aloud in the classroom.
(3) Organising play-like tasks in which children can talk to one another.
(4) Providing scope for special activities with the help of language experts for removing speaking defects.
7. In order to drive home the point that listening skills matter, students should be
(1) exposed to popular English films and reviewing them.
(2) taken to the language lab once a week for practice and feedback.
(3) allowed to listen to CDs of poetry read aloud by wellknown voices-artists.
(4) reminded that listening skill practices relate to real life.
8. Challenges like homophones, phrasal verbs, etc. faced by English learners are categorised as
(1) spelling-related challenges
(2) vocabulary-related challenges
(3) pronunciation-related challenges
(4) reading challenges
9. One of the sub-skills that is assessed for speaking would be
(1) understanding, and responding in a paragraph, to literary works
(2) using appropriate volume, clarity and gestures in individual or group situations
(3) spelling common, frequently used words correctly
(4) listening actively and responding to others in small and large group situations
10. Find out the odd one with respect to reading importance.
(1) It helps during the process of speaking.
(2) It makes a person knowledgeable.
(3) It enhances one’s vocabulary.
(4) Lack of freedom in proper hand movement.
11. To enable students to distinguish between academic and spoken forms of a target language in a bilingual class, they should be encouraged to
(1) speak in the target language.
(2) read more books written in the target language.
(3) write more in the target language.
(4) watch more related bilingual films.
12. One way of helping students improve their spelling is through the ____________ reading method.
13. The basic components of speech are
(1) stress, rhythm, intonation, fluency and vocal cord.
(2) tongue, lips, intonation, fluency, juncture and pause.
(3) stress, rhythm, intonation, fluency, juncture and pause.
(4) stress, rhythm, tongue, lips and vocal cord.
14. If a student is making pronunciation errors, the best way to help him/her is to
(1) call his/her parents and complain
(2) scold him/her in the class for incorrect pronunciation
(3) mock at him/her in the class for incorrect pronunciation
(4) provide him/her with correct pronunciation without any humiliation