Luận văn Techniques for improving listening skills of gifted students of Foreign Language Specializing School, College of Foreign Languages, Hanoi National University

It can not be denied that English is the international medium in the fields of science, technology, culture ,education , economy and so on . It is also considered a means to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Vietnam and other countries . It is widely seen as the key language toll in the integrating process in the world . With the rapid development and expansion of informational technologies , there needs to be a common language for people of all countries to exchange information with each other and it is English that is used as a means of international communication. Therefore, there has been an explosion in the need of teaching and learning English all over the world.

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PART ONE : INTRODUCTION 1. RATIONALE OF THE STUDY It can not be denied that English is the international medium in the fields of science, technology, culture ,education , economy and so on . It is also considered a means to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Vietnam and other countries . It is widely seen as the key language toll in the integrating process in the world . With the rapid development and expansion of informational technologies , there needs to be a common language for people of all countries to exchange information with each other and it is English that is used as a means of international communication. Therefore, there has been an explosion in the need of teaching and learning English all over the world. In Vietnam in recent years the number of people who wish to know and master English has become more and more increasing, especially since Vietnam adopted an open-door policy , teaching and learning English have been paid much attention to. English has been part of the general education . It becomes a compulsory subject at high schools in most towns and cities through out the country. Moreover , each city or province there is a specializing school for gifted students at several subjects such as maths , literature , physics, chemistry and foreign languages especially English. Among these schools is the Foreign Language Specializing School, College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University. However, the teaching and learning process in FLSS seems to still focus too much on grammar, structures and vocabularies. Our students are very good at doing exercises of written forms, these forms of exercises mostly concern grammar , reading or writing comprehension. The consequence is that students have much difficulty in listening. Listening skill seems to be the most difficult to our students. We all know that in order to learn a foreign language successfully, students should be helped to develop four skills : listening , speaking , reading and writing. These four skills are closely interrelated to one another and they all necessary. Of the four skills, listening is regarded as a prerequisite to understand what is being said and to pick up the general idea of what is being discussed. In our professional and personal life there will be situations where we will hear and have to absorb a lot of details, facts and figures and then extract some points from them. In our private life we may wish to listen to talks in English about subjects we are interested in and wish to consolidate what we have learnt in order to progress to other and more difficult areas. Thus , it is possible to give students the chance to practise what they have learnt in the way listening to spoken English. To listen successfully to spoken English language need be able to work out what speakers mean when they use particular words in particular ways on particular occasion and not to simply understand the words themselves. As I am one of the teachers of English of this school. I would like to do something with the hope of improving listening skill for our students and as a result, the thesis title goes as : “Techniques for improving listening skills of gifted students of Foreign Language Specializing School, College of Foreign Languages, Hanoi National University.” 2. AIMS OF THE STUDY The purpose of this study is to investigate the difficulties in listening which the students at FLSS encounter so that some effective techniques can be given to help them improve this skill. These are the specific aims : - investigating the students’ attitudes at FLSS towards listening - finding out the difficulties encountered by the students - suggesting techniques with the hope of helping the students improve the ability of listening 3. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY This study may provide insights into the process of learning listening comprehension skill for the students. It may play a crucial role in enhancing listening skill to the students at FLSS, CFL, HNU. 4. SCOPE OF THE STUDY Though the study focuses on techniques to improve listening skill for gifted students at FLSS, CFL, HNU, due to the limitation of page numbers of the minor thesis, the researcher can only conduct a survey on the students of 10th and 11th form to identify listening problems experienced by the students, after that suggest some techniques to help them better in learning listening. 5. METHOD OF THE STUDY In order to achieve the aims mentioned above, quantitative method is used and the following tasks have to be done: - doing a survey on the learning listening to English from 200 students of 10th and 11th form at FLSS ( except for students of 12th form as there are no listening lessons for 12th form students ) - collecting data for the analysis - assessing the difficulties - evaluating the best techniques that are most suitable 6. DESIGN OF THE SDTUDY This minor thesis consists of three parts: Part one, “INTRODUCTION”, presents the rationale, the aims , the method, subject and design of the study. It expresses the reason why the author decided to choose this study and the methods for the fulfillment of the study. Part two, “DEVELOPMENT”, is divided into three chapters : - Chapter one presents the concepts relevant to the research topic such as different point of views of listening comprehension skill, the importance, classification of listening, difficulties in learning listening and three stages of listening session . - Chapter two deals with analyses on general learning situation at FLSS, learning requirements, teachers and teaching methods, materials as well as material assessments. Also in this chapter there is a focus on data collection, findings and discussion. - Chapter three emphasizes the implication of the study in which certain techniques for improving listening skills to the students at FLSS are suggested. Part three, “CONCLUSION”, summarizes the key issues in the study, points out the limitations and provides some suggestions for the further study PART TWO : DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER ONE: LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1. INTRODUCTION To provide a theoretical background to the study, this chapter is devoted to the reexamination of concepts most relevant to the thesis’s topic. Firstly come the different points of view about listening comprehension. Secondly the importance and classification of listening comprehension are discussed. Thirdly the potential problems in learning listening are also referred to. Finally there is a discussion of three stages of the listening session. 1.2. LISTENING COMPREHENSION 1.2.1 Traditional point of view. There are some traditional views that listening is considered a passive language skill along side the reading skill. It means that learners are almost passive in practising listening activities in the classroom. Learners just hear what they are to listen without paying sufficient attention in the discourse such as the background knowledge of the speakers as well as their intentions, attitude , implication and other shades of meaning etc. The learners mainly hear the message, they only try to elicit the meaning from the individual syntactic and semantic components of the utterance and the manner in which it is spoken. This leads to the result that it is hard for the learners to communicate. Having this attitude, the teacher often conducts the lesson as “tested” listening comprehension rather than teaching it. The method of testing the comprehension of the learners is based on the ability to remember the utterance, which they have just heard. Obviously, this method is not effective as the ability to remember the utterance does not mean that the listener can understand the message. Just like a child who is good at remembering songs and poems, but he does not know what they are about. In fact the learners are not provided enough information about what they are going to hear before the tape plays and they cope with a wide range of problems while they are listening and the result is that they can not get any listening experience from the teacher. 1.2.2. Present point of view. For the past few years some present studies on listening comprehension have to come to another view in which the role of the listeners is thought to be active, but not passive any more. Listening is really a receptive skill along side reading skill. According to Littlewood (1981), listening demands active involvement from the hearer. In order to construct the message that the speaker intends , the hearer must actively contribute knowledge from both linguistic and nonlinguistic sources. Only by applying the knowledge of the language , can the hearer divide the continuous stream of sound into meaningful units and only by comparing these units with the shared knowledge between himself and the speaker , can the hearer interpret their meaning. The nature of listening comprehension means that the hearer should be encouraged to engage in an active process of listening for meanings, using not only the linguistic cues but also has nonlinguistic knowledge. From the point of view of Broughton (1978). Listening is divided into intensive and extensive listening. Extensive listening is related to the freer, more general listening to natural English, not necessarily under the direct guidance of the teacher whereas intensive listening is much more concerned with just one or two specific points. Mary Underwood (1989) divides the aural process into 3 stages and Clark (1977) divides it into 4 stages but generally they have the same idea. There are two levels activities of the aural process. The two levels of this activity are recognition and selection. The first level is that the structure and the relationship between syntax and phonology of the language are recognized. At the first stage , the sounds go into a sensory store called the “ echoic memory”. “ Echoic memory” is just the short term memory because there is continuous arrival of new information before the listener has opportunity to deal with it. That is why there is the following stage which is called “selection”. In this stage, the listener selects what he finds most interesting or important or comprehensible in the utterance. At this point, words or groups of words are checked and compared with information already held in the long term memory and the meaning is extracted from them (Mary Underwood, Teaching Listening, p.2). When the meaning is grasped , the actual words of the spoken discourse are generally forgotten and only the meaning is retained. Therefore, the listener usually remember the meaning rather than the exact words spoken when he has to recall what have been heard. The basis of listening comprehension is the ability to recognize and select the specific details in the discourse. It, of course, needs a certain time for the learners to become used to listening and process some familiar utterances more automatically. Aderson and Lynch ( Listening ,1995, Oxford University Press) have another point of view. They consider the listener as active model builder. They say that in order to listen successfully we have to construct our own “coherent interpretation” of any spoken message. Both parts of this term are important. First , it needs to be coherent both with what we believe has just been said and with what we already know about the speaker, the context, and the word in general. Second, it is an interpretation, in the sense that it is our version of what the speaker meant, as far as we are able to assess that meaning. The two authors use the term “ mental modal” to refer to the listener’s “ coherent interpretation” . This emphasizes the active and personal nature of successful listening. The mental model that we build as a representation of a spoken message is the result of our combining the new information in what we just heard with our previous knowledge and experience. In short, in order to be successful in listening, we should remember that : “ Listening comprehension is not a skill which can be mastered once and for all and then ignored while other skills are developed. There must be regular practice with increasingly difficult material."(Rivers Wilga , M.(1986) Teaching Foreign Language Skill., The University of Chicago Press, p. 157). THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING It is now widely accepted that oral communication can not take place without listening and listening plays a central and possibly predominant part in the whole process of language learning. Listening, speaking, reading and writing are the four skills of parts of that “indivisible range called communication”. They are interrelated and interdependent . According to Pearson Ian. (1981), The Functional Notional Approach in Language Teaching, p. 80 , listening is tied to the essential cognitive elements of comprehension and understanding. In order to take part in oral communication, clearly, the first thing anyone must have is the ability to absorb the pieces of information from the speaker by listening. When nobody listens to a speaker or when a listener fails to understand the message, communication is considered unsuccessful. Moreover , listening is an important way of acquiring the language , a good way of picking up vocabulary and structures. Teaching listening to spoken language is ,therefore, of primary importance . “ Teaching the comprehension of spoken language is therefore of primary importance if the communication aim is to be achieved.” ( Wilga.M.Rivers, Teaching Foreign Language Skills, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1968, p. 135.) 1.3.1. Mother – tongue listening It is assumed that people can listen in their mother-tongue with little or no effort. From very young, we can understand at least the gist of what is heard. This is resulted by a number of factors including our exposure to the large amount of language and to the great number of different speakers over the years and our acquired knowledge of the context, the speakers, the topic and so on. However , there are a lot of problems that sometimes we meet when listening in our mother tongue. Particular accents can cause problems. For instance, in Vietnam the accents of the three zones (the North, the Middle and the South) are quite different. Someone from the North may find it difficult to understand a speaker from the Middle or the North. Further more , sometimes bad conditions created by bad situations also hinder our comprehension. For example, it may be hard for listener to follow and understand what a quiet speaker is conveying when everything around him is noisy. In spite of these minor problems, we can not deny that we generally listen and comprehend the speech in our native language with ease. 1.3.2. Listening as the final goal of learning a language According to Donoghue (1975), listening occupies the basic portion in the context of the language arts and progress in reading, speaking and writing is directly governed by listening ability. It is the most important of the four arts since nearly half of the adult working day and more than half of the child’s classroom activity time is spent in listening. Apart from communication interaction, much of the enjoyment in second or foreign language use comes from listening activities like watching films and plays or watching T.V or listening to the radio, songs or talks by the speakers. In class the students learn a lot from their teacher, to tape or records or to each other. Moreover , the students can gain a lot of experiences of listening to a wide variety of samples of spoken English. It also helps the students know different varieties of language such as standard or regional, formal or informal language, and different text types like conversation, narrative or informative types. The result is that there is an increase in the amount of language contact through communication. Further more , students ,day by day ,can train their listening skill and they can flexibly listen to everything. Students are trained to listen for the main ideas , for specific information or to react to instruction. Therefore , listening is regarded to be among the most important educational goals. It has a great influence on value formation and it increases an individual’s level of vocational skills and it results in great emotional response changes in attitude and it provides students a stimulus for other activities such as discussion, reading and writing, which are the main language skills. 1.3.3. Listening as a means of acquiring a language “ Listening to spoken English is an important way of acquiring the language of “ picking up” structures and vocabularies” (Adrian Doff, 1995. P :199 ). It is obvious that developing the ability to understand the spoken foreign language is a long continuous process and listening is a skill that must be taught and that does not happen automatically. If students learn to listen effectively, they are able to understand, to interpret, to evaluate and to response to what they hear. So it is very important for students to develop the ability to understand spoken English. In daily life they can watch English programs on T.V, listen to the radio or have direct conversations with native speakers. Thus the more frequent we are exposed to the language, the faster and easier we can acquire it. 1.4. CLASSIFICATION OF LISTENING 1.4.1. Real - life listening 1.4.1.1. Kinds of real - life listening Many learners of English will ,sooner or later, find themselves in a variety of situation where they need or want to listen to English being used in real – life for a range of purposes. However, they feel a big gap between listening activities in the classroom and actual situations. This is because in listening materials learners listen to dialogues , conversations which are very grammatical and controlled in many ways. The speakers often speak at perfectly controlled speed, with perfect voice tone , accent and correct grammar. Whereas, in real – life conversations learners encounter various people speaking with different accent, speed and voice tone without paying attention to grammar. According to Adrian (1995), there are two ways which people often listen in real – life. They are “ casual” listening and “ focused” listening - “ Casual” listening : In daily life we sometimes listen with no particular purpose and often without much concentration . This kind of listening is called ‘casual” listening. For example, a lot of students have the habit of listening to the radio while studying or the television set is on while we are doing something else. The typical feature is that we do not listen closely and intentionally, therefore we may not remember much of what we hear or there may be nothing in our mind. - “Focused” listening : When we listen for a particular purpose to get the information we need, it is called “focus” listening. In this case we often listen with much attention, but we do not listen to everything we hear with equal concentration. For instance, we want to know the answer to a question, we will ask and expect to hear a relevant response. This leads to our “listening out” for certain key phrases or words. When we ask a question like: “ Where are you going to be?”, we then listen out for the expectation of the place. If the answer is, for example; “I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet, it depends on what job I get, but I expect I shall end up in Boston.” – then we shall wait for and note the last two words. If, however, the same answer is the response to the question: “Are you definitely going to Boston?” – then the last two words of the answer are virtually redundant, and will pay more attention to the first part. If we listen to the news, it is from a desire to know what is happening in the world, and we shall expect to hear about certain subjects of current interest in a certain kind of language. Even when listening to ente
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