[ENGLISH] listening comprehension woes

The compulsory listening comprehension tests we have in our country are a daunting task for many of my students – not least because they are so completely different from real life situations. The tasks are stripped from almost any kind of helpful context, always ask only for specific details (instead of more general information), and require multitasking (writing and listening at the same time) at a frightening pace. Worst of all – the students have to switch constantly between languages as they have to answer in German while listening to an English text.

I have already written about the problems I have with listening comprehension tasks that require a great deal of multitasking in an earlier blog post. However, despite my pedagogical reservations I have to deal with these tests and I have to prepare my students for them the best I can.

For me, the secret weapon in dealing with those tests is the important skill of identifying context and creating the right expectations. This is crucial, so the students’ brains can relate to what they hear.

Therefore, I ask my students to not only read the questions before listening but also actually try to answer them before listening – Will the answer be a name? a number? Can they already answer the question (or part of it) just by applying some common sense? – This way the brain will find it easier to relate to the text instead of just processing indistinct bits of sound.

To demonstrate the magic of context and expectations I show my students this video, in which a couple talks in a sort of indiligible mock English. Despite this they are be able to understand a lot because of context clues and your expectations.

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