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CHAPTER 1   

INTRODUCTION


1.1    Overview


Listening is probably the least explicit of the four language skills, making it the most difficult skill to learn. It is evident that children listen and respond to language before they learn to talk. When it is time for children to learn to read, they still have to listen so that they gain knowledge and information to follow directions. In the classroom, students have to listen carefully and attentively to lectures and class discussions in order to understand and to retain the information for later recall.
The assessment of listening comprehension for academic purposes is an area which has not received much attention from researchers (Read, 2005). Rankin (1926/1952) suggests that adults spend more than 40 percent of their communication time listening, in contrast with 31.9 percent speaking, 15 percent reading, and 11 percent writing. Clearly, much of the educational process is based on skills in listening. Students have to spend most of the time listening to what the teacher says, for instance, giving lectures or asking questions. According to Wolvin and Coakley (1979), the amount of time that students are expected to listen in the classroom ranges from 42 to 57.5 percent of their communication time. Taylor (1964), on the other hand, estimates that nearly 90 percent of the class time in high school and university is spent in listening to discussion and lectures. Since listening occupies such a large percentage of the communication time of most people, it is therefore advantageous to possess effective listening skills in order to meet listening demands that occur daily.
Listening is an important skill for learners of English in an academic study context, since so much of what they need to understand and learn is communicated through the oral medium (Read, 2005). Listening can also help students build vocabulary, develop language proficiency, and improve language usage (Barker, 1971). Cayer, Green, and Baker (1971) found that students’ ability to comprehend written material through reading as well as to express themselves through spoken and written communication are directly related to students’ maturity in the listening phase of language development. Dunkel (1986) also asserts that developing proficiency in listening comprehension is the key to achieving proficiency in speaking. Not only are listening skills the basis for the development of all other skills, they are also the main channel through which students make initial contact with the target language and its culture (Curtain & Pesola,1988).
Investigating the EFL listening needs of college students is ignored in Iran. Probing in to the conversational and academic listening abilities required by EFL college students should be very well considered. Iranian EFL students are studying English in their home country where English is not the dominant native language. Students who are from environments where English is not the language of the country have very few opportunities to hear the real language; these students therefore are not accustomed to hearing the language as it is produced by native speakers for native speakers. Consequently, students from the countries in which English is taught as a foreign language frequently have great difficulty understanding English spoken to them when they come in to contact with native speakers of the language.
Selecting appropriate materials and activities for language classroom requires much attention. Materials include text books, video and audio tapes, computer software, and visual aids. They influence the content and the procedures of learning. The choice of deductive versus inductive learning, the role of memorization, the use of creativity and problem solving, production versus reception, and the order in which materials are presented  are all influenced by the materials (Kitao, 2005). Authentic materials refer to oral and written language materials used in daily situations by native speakers of the language (Rogers& Medley, 1988).Some examples of authentic materials are newspapers, magazines, and television programs. It is necessary for students who are going to study in an English-speaking environment in future to learn how to listen to lectures and take notes, to comprehend native speakers in various kinds of speech situations, as well as to understand radio and television broadcasts. (Paulston & Bruder, 1976).This is also true for students who pass English courses in universities.
Videotapes and audiotapes, television, and interactive computer software are becoming increasingly common methods of delivering academic content in the university classroom. One way to prepare EFL students for encounters with real language is to apply real language or authentic speech in the EFL classroom (Bacon, 1989; Rivers, 1980; Rogers & Medley, 1988; Secules, Herron, &Tomasello, 1992). The breath, the timbre, the speed and the intonation of each authentic voice influence the content and meaning of the spoken word (Selfe, 2005). An advantage of introducing authentic materials at an early stage of language learning is to help students become familiar with the target language (Field, 1998). The use of authentic materials in EFL teaching and learning appears to be worthwhile (Porter & Roberts, 1981; Rings, 1986; Rivers, 1987). Teachers should employ authentic listening materials at all levels in instruction whenever possible (Chung, 2005). Implementing authentic speech in classroom listening allows students to have “immediate and direct contact with input data which reflect genuine communication in the target language” (Breen, 1985, p.63). Conversely, however, the use of teacher talk and/or foreigner talk with EFL students can impede students’ ability in listening comprehension because of the unusual rate of speech (Robinett, 1978; Snow & Perkins, 1979).
This exploratory study sought to examine the influences of the use of aural authentic materials on listening ability in students of English as a foreign language. This descriptive study examined how the use of authentic input in an EFL classroom eased and/or impeded students’ learning in English-language listening. In conjunction with the primary objective, the study also identified the learning strategies EFL students used when they experienced authentic listening materials. Finally, the study determined the influences of using authentic materials on EFL students’ attitudes towards learning English.







1.2 Statement of the Problem and Purpose of the Study:


Listening plays a significant role in the lives of people. Listening refers to a process in which a listener perceives aural stimuli and attempts to interpret the message of a speaker or oral text. Of the four major areas of communication skills and language development- listening, speaking, reading, and writing- the one that is the most basic is listening. It is evident that children listen and respond to language before they learn to talk. When it is time for children to learn to read, they still have to listen so that they gain knowledge and information to follow directions. In the classroom students have to listen carefully and attentively to lectures and class discussions in order to understand and to retain the information for later recall.
As the focus in foreign language instruction moves toward the individual as the central element in the process of foreign language learning, the importance of listening comprehension has come to the forefront of foreign language development as a topic of study in both theory and pedagogy. Though primarily ignored until recently, listening comprehension plays a major role in the paradigm shift in language learning and language teaching towards attention to language function and communication. Listening comprehension is increasingly considered a skill in and of itself as well as the foundation for speaking (Sharpe, 2005).
In language classroom, listening ability plays a significant role in the development of other language art skills. When students first learn a language, they generally have to listen to the words several times before they are able to recognize and pronounce those words. Listening skills are as important as speaking skills, face-to-face communication is not possible unless the two types of skills are developed together (Mitsuhashi, 2005).


1.3 Significance and Justification of the Study


Professionals, teachers, and all those who are concerned about teaching practices and learning in EFL situations have continually attempted to explore new ways in order to make beneficial improvements in the field of teaching and learning.
The significance of this study lies in exploring the ways using strategies and aural authentic materials in EFL classes influence learners’ listening ability, their attitudes and awareness of their own experiences. Thus, a semester long micro ethnography, an intensive study of small groups through the use of observation was conducted in order to generate a description and interpretation of the teaching environment, and the teaching methodology was applied in one EFL class. The actions and views of the participants towards “listening” were also taken in to consideration.
The method of ethnography involved: in-depth observation of classroom practices over time; interviews with students; and updating the research methodology through a study of recent research.
This study underlies the importance of positive attitudes and the use of aural authentic materials for successful listening comprehension. Learning a language is learning how to communicate as a member of a particular cultural group. The students’ attitudes were best developed through listening to aural authentic materials. An examination of this process from the perspective of participants using qualitative and quantitative methods uncovered the elements participants considered essential for successful conversation.


1.4 Research Questions


The primary research question asked in the present study is the following:
           What are the influences of aural authentic materials on
            the listening comprehension in students of English
            as a foreign language?
The secondary research questions addressed in the study are as follows:
1.    What kinds of learning strategies are most frequently used by
EFL students listening to aural authentic materials in the
classroom?
2.    What are the influences of aural authentic materials on EFL
students’ attitudes towards learning English?





1.5 Research Hypotheses


There were two kinds of hypotheses:
Quantitative
1.    The use of authentic materials will have no effect on listening comprehension in the EFL classroom.
Qualitative
2.    Positive attitudes and motivation will emerge.
3.    The students will share their experiences and participate in conversations, emotionally involved.


1.6 What Is Known About Listening


Listening comprehension which is the most but the least paid attention skill has been neglected for years in Iranian Universities. The word “listening” may have different meanings for different people. For the purpose of the current study, however, listening is defined as an active, and interactional, process in which a listener receives speech sounds and tries to attach meaning to the spoken words in an attempt to understand the intended message of a speaker or the oral text so that he/she can respond effectively to oral communication. Active listening intentionally focuses on who the learners are listening to, whether in a group or one-on-one, in order to understand what she or he is saying. As the listener, they should then be able to repeat back in their own words what they have said to their satisfaction. This does not mean they agree with, but rather understand, what they are saying (Landsberger, 2005).
Listening comprehension is one of the most important and fundamental of the four skills in language learning; yet, it is probably the least stressed skill in the language classroom. Reasons for this may lie in the lack of emphasis on teaching listening comprehension in language textbooks in general, as well as in the lack of available material specifically developed for and focused on the teaching of listening strategies. Listening is rarely thought as a valuable social experience (Cage, 2005). According to Cayer, Green, and Baker (1971), it was not until the year 1971 that the first research in listening did appear. One reason for the neglect of listening comprehension as a research area might be the lack of instruments to measure and evaluate listening, causing difficulties in concretely measuring and evaluating the skills in listening (Sharpe, 2005).
The goal of second-language and/or foreign-language instructions, according to comprehension-approach methodologies, is the development of communicative competence and oral fluency (Landsberger, 2005). Dunkel (1986) suggests that this goal can be achieved by “putting the horse (listening comprehension) before the cart (oral production)” (p.100). In other words, proficiency in speaking is related to developing proficiency in listening comprehension. Byrnes (1984) also proposes that listening comprehension precedes production in all cases of language learning. Moreover, Byrnes asserts that there can be no production unless linguistic input is provided and becomes comprehensible intake for the listener. This does not mean that output should be forbidden. Oral output (speaking) invites aural input, via conversation (Krashen, 2004).
We only become aware of what remarkable feats of listening we achieve when we are in an unfamiliar listening environment such as listening to a language in which we have limited proficiency. In addition to the necessity to emphasize listening comprehension in language instruction, research in foreign language learning (Curtain, 1991; Dulay, Burt, & Krashen, 1982) even suggests the need for language experiences that provide many opportunities for listening comprehension particularly at the early stages of language learning. Though primarily ignored until recently, listening comprehension plays a major role in the paradigm shift in language learning and language teaching towards attention to language function and communication (Sharpe, 2005).


1.7 What Is Known About Authentic Materials


Many specialists view text authenticity as the most essential component of any English for academic purposes course (Griva, 2005). Results of the study conducted by Herron and Seay (1991) indicated that listening comprehension in language students improves with increased exposure to authentic speech. Ur (1984) proposes that foreign-language students learn best from listening to speech that is planned to take in to account the learners’ level of ability. Ur also suggests that the speech should be an approximation to the real language if it is not entirely authentic.
While tasks such as grammar or pronunciation drills do not provide students with the chance for exchanging authentic messages, the use of video and film, radio broadcasts, and television programs will involve students in activities that present real-life listening contexts (Herron & Seay, 1991). Different aural texts such as songs, news, and weather reports may also be used as authentic listening materials in the EFL classroom. Many language learners watch movies outside of class time, but few of them consider this as an opportunity to develop their listening skills (perhaps because they became used to reading the subtitles of English movies). The learners, however, can be sensitized to how they can make use of movies to develop their listening skills in the language classroom (Miller, 2005).
If students are to use the language to communicate effectively in the real world, Rogers and Medley (1988) proposes that students have to experience the language as it is used for real communication among native speakers. This can be done through the use of aural authentic materials in the language classroom. Furthermore, Gilman and Moody (1984) recommend that the teacher should use authentic materials in implementing listening comprehension training at advanced level and with students at the beginning and intermediate levels. Authentic materials and situations prepare students for the types of listening they will need to do when using the language outside the classroom (Miller, 2005).









1.8 Definition of Important Terms


For this study, the following terms are defined:
Aural language refers to “written or spoken language which is created by and for a native speaker of the language in which it is produced” (Rogers & Medley, 1988).
Authentic materials refers to “materials produced to fulfill some social purpose in the language community” not produced specifically for second language learners. (Little&Singleton, 1989). Some examples are newspapers, poems, advertisements, songs, magazines, and the like.
Non-authentic materials refer to “materials produced specifically for language learner, e.g. exercises found in course books and supplementary materials” (Peacock, 1997).
Authentic speech/Authentic text refers to “a piece of spoken language which is created by a native speaker of the language in which it is produced” (Morton, 1999).
Context refers to “what occurs before and/or after a word, a phrase, or a text. The context often helps in understanding the particular meaning of the word, phrase, and so on” (Morton, 1999).
English as a foreign language (EFL) refers to “the role of English in countries where it is taught as a subject in schools but not used as a medium of instruction in education nor as a language of communication in the country (e.g., in government or business)” (Gass, 1990).
Learning strategy refers to “intentional behavior and thought that learners use during learning in order to help them understand, learn, or remember new information” (Richards & Platt, 1992).
Listening refers to “a process in which a listener perceives aural stimuli and attempts to interpret the message of a speaker or oral text” (Wolvin & Coakley, 1988).
Listening comprehension refers to “the ability to extract information from auditorially presented language material” (Krashen, 1995).
Native language refers to “the language which a learner acquired in early childhood” (Rubin, 1994).
Negotiation of meaning refers to “the attempt made in conversation to clarify a lack of understanding” (Rubin, 1994).
Target language refers to “the language being learned. In this study, the target language is the English language” (Rubin, 1994).


1.9 Delimitations


For the purpose of the present study, the following delimitations were set:
1.    The students being studied were limited to one EFL class.
2.    All the students in the present study were currently enrolled in an intensive English for Specific Purpose program at a university.





1.10 Limitations


There were two limitations considered in the current research study.
1. Due to the limited access to the participants, analysis was based primarily upon the participants’ self-report assessment.
2. Due to the small number of participants in the study and their particular learning situations, generalizability is limited.


1.11 Organization of the Master Thesis


The study consists of five chapters. This Chapter One presents the introduction, research questions, and purpose of the study.
Chapter Two examines research on listening comprehension, listening and EFL learning, and the use of aural authentic materials.
Chapter Three describes the methods and procedures used in conducting the research. A description of the student selection, data collection, and data analysis are included.
Chapter Four reports the findings and results of the data collection. Detailed description of the results obtained from this study is presented.
Chapter Five summarizes the results of the study. Recommendations for future research and implications for teaching are discussed.
A complete list of references and appendices follow Chapter Five.

CHAPTER 2

REVIEW OF LITERATURE


2.1    Introduction


The literature relevant to the present study is presented in this chapter in three major categories: listening comprehension, listening and English as-a-foreign-language learning, and the use of aural authentic materials.


2.2 Listening Comprehension


2.2.1 Definition of Listening


Listening is the first means of language acquisition. In the same way that a child begins acquiring language only by listening to others, an adult learner uses this skill to learn a foreign language. Definitions of listening, ranging from the simple to the expansive, have been proposed by various scholars. Rankin (1926/1952) defined listening as “… the ability to understand spoken language” (p.847). Johnson (1951) expanded the definition to be “… the ability to understand and respond effectively to oral communication” (p.58). Nichols (1974) shortened the definition of listening to “the attachment of meaning to aural symbols” (p.83). Underwood (1989) simplified the definition of listening to “the activity of paying attention to and trying to get meaning from something we hear” (p.1). Purdy (1997) defined listening as “the active and dynamic process of attending, perceiving, interpreting, remembering, and responding to the expressed (verbal and nonverbal), needs, concerns, and information offered by other human beings” (p.8).
Listening comprehension is a process of creative experience in which the listener thinks about the message and relates it to past experiences. It can be concluded, from reviewing a number of proposed definitions, that listening is an active process involving four interrelated activities: receiving aural stimuli (Petrie, 1961/1962; Steil, Barker, & Watson, 1983:Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), attending to the spoken words (Barker, 1971; Petrie, 1961/1962; Underwood, 1989; Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), attaching meaning to the aural symbols (Nichols, 1974; O’malley, Chamot, & Kupper, 1989; Spearritt, 1962; Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), and responding to oral communication(Johnson, 1951; Purdy, 1997; Steil et al., 1983).
This section has presented some proposed definitions of the word “listening”. Listening implies more than just perception of sounds; a listening process also requires an act of attending to the speech sounds and trying to understand the message.




2.2.2 Importance of Listening


Traditionally, among the four skills of language learning(i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing), listening comprehension was not regarded as an essential skill of language instruction in the foreign language teaching theory and pedagogy, but it is undeniably an indispensable language skill for every successful human communication. Rankin (1926/1952) investigated the frequency of use of listening in the ordinary lives of adults and found that adults spent 42.1 percent of their total verbal communication time in listening while they spent 31.9 percent, 15 percent, and 11 percent of their verbal communication time speaking, reading, and writing. According to Devine (1982), listening is the primary means by which incoming ideas and information are taken in. Bird (1953) found that female collage students spent 42 percent of their total verbal communication time in listening while they spent 25 percent in speaking, 15 percent in reading, and 18 percent in writing. A study conducted by Barker, Edwards, Gaines, Gladney, and Holley (1980) confirmed Bird’s view of the primacy of listening and showed that the portion of verbal communication time spent by collage students was 52.5 percent in listening, 17.3 percent in reading, 16.3 percent in speaking, and 13.9 percent in writing. Gilbert (1988), on the other hand, noted that students from kindergarten through high school were expected to listen 65-90 percent of the time. Wolvin and Coakley (1988) concluded that, both in and out of the classroom, listening consumes more of daily communication time than other forms of verbal communication.


2.2.2.1 Listening and Academic Success
 The ways through which listening comprehension is currently taught give clear evidence that it is still treated very trivially and that its importance is completely underrated. Academic listening comprehension skills are important for the increasing number of language learners engaged in academic tasks in English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Jung, 2003). Numerous studies indicated that efficient listening skills were more important than reading skills as a factor contributing to academic success (Brown, 1987; Coakley & Wolvin, 1997, Truesdale, 1990). Carrier (2003) suggested that targeted listening strategy instruction in discrete listening, video listening, and note taking can improve students’ listening comprehension of oral academic content material that they will most likely encounter in their academic content classes.
Nevertheless, it is evident that listening plays a significant role in the lives of people. Listening is even more important for the lives of the students since listening is used as a primary medium of learning at all stages of education.


2.2.2.2 Discovery Listening
 “Discovery listening” tries to achieve a focus on sound and word recognition by adapting the dictogloss approach, making it much more text-focused. The main goal is to guide students towards noticing the differences between their reconstructed text and the original, and then “discover” the reasons for their difficulties (Wilson, 2002).
“ Discovery listening” is a conscious reaction against the dominant approach in recent years in both EFL theory and in practice. Like dictogloss, it requires students to reconstruct the text they hear, but several additional features aim to make students more precisely aware of three key areas:

a.    what their shortcomings are
b.    what the possible causes might be
c.    what their relative importance is.

The task consists of three main phases:

1.    listening- in this phase, students:
a.    listen, without note taking, to a short text spoken at normal speed.
b.    Self-assess their comprehension level.
c.    Listen two more times while taking notes.

2.    Reconstructing- in this phase students:
a.    form small groups and use their notes to attempt to reconstruct the text.

3.    Discovery- in this phase students:
a.    compare their text with the original, and attempt to classify the causes of mistakes.
b.    assess the relative importance of their errors.
c.    listen again without reading the text, and assess their performance (Wilson, 2002).



2.2.3 Listening as an Active Process


In the past, listening comprehension was usually characterized as a passive activity (Bacon, 1989; Joiner, 1991; Morley, 1990; Murphy, 1991). However, many theorists realized that listening is not a passive but an active process of constructing meaning from a stream of sounds (Berne, 1998; Joiner, 1991, Mc Donough, 1999; Murphy, 1991; O’Malley et al., 1989; Purdy, 1997; Rivers & Temperly, 1978; Thompson & Rubin, 1996; Vandergrift, 1998; Weissenvieder, 1987; Wing, 1986). Some scholars further proposed that listening comprehension is a complex, problem-solving skill (Byrnes, 1984; Meyer, 1984; Richards, 1983; Wipf, 1984; Wolvin & Coakley, 1979). According to Purdy (1997), listeners do not passively absorb the words, but actively attempt to grasp the facts and feelings in what they hear by attending to what the speaker says, to how the speaker says it, and to the context in which the message is delivered.


2.2.3.1 Knowledge Required for Listening Process
 Vandergrift (2004) noted that given the critical role of listening in language learning, students need to “learn to listen” so that they can better “listen to learn.” Byrnes (1984) indicated that listening requires “an interplay between all types of knowledge” (p.322). A listener needs to have some command over major components of the language; these components are phonology, lexicon, syntax, semantics, and text structure (Bacon, 1989; Byrnes, 1984; Dunkel, 1986; Lundsteen, 1979; Paulston & Bruder, 1976; Pearson & Fielding, Weissenrieder, 1987).
Teng (2004) reported that the most important listening needs for listening to English lectures are the “ability to follow different modes of lecturing (spoken, audio, audio-visual)” and the “ability to recognize instructional/learner tasks”. Both abilities are related to listeners’ background knowledge. Listeners should increase their world knowledge in order to follow different modes of lecturing.
In summary, listening is an active process of attaching meaning to the speech sounds. As a listener performs a variety of tasks in a comprehension process, he or she has to rely upon various types of knowledge such as grammatical knowledge and sociocultural knowledge.




           
 

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CHAPTER 1                

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

1.1           Overview

 

 

Listening is probably the least explicit of the four language skills, making it the most difficult skill to learn. It is evident that children listen and respond to language before they learn to talk. When it is time for children to learn to read, they still have to listen so that they gain knowledge and information to follow directions. In the classroom, students have to listen carefully and attentively to lectures and class discussions in order to understand and to retain the information for later recall.

The assessment of listening comprehension for academic purposes is an area which has not received much attention from researchers (Read, 2005). Rankin (1926/1952) suggests that adults spend more than 40 percent of their communication time listening, in contrast with 31.9 percent speaking, 15 percent reading, and 11 percent writing. Clearly, much of the educational process is based on skills in listening. Students have to spend most of the time listening to what the teacher says, for instance, giving lectures or asking questions. According to Wolvin and Coakley (1979), the amount of time that students are expected to listen in the classroom ranges from 42 to 57.5 percent of their communication time. Taylor (1964), on the other hand, estimates that nearly 90 percent of the class time in high school and university is spent in listening to discussion and lectures. Since listening occupies such a large percentage of the communication time of most people, it is therefore advantageous to possess effective listening skills in order to meet listening demands that occur daily.

Listening is an important skill for learners of English in an academic study context, since so much of what they need to understand and learn is communicated through the oral medium (Read, 2005). Listening can also help students build vocabulary, develop language proficiency, and improve language usage (Barker, 1971). Cayer, Green, and Baker (1971) found that students’ ability to comprehend written material through reading as well as to express themselves through spoken and written communication are directly related to students’ maturity in the listening phase of language development. Dunkel (1986) also asserts that developing proficiency in listening comprehension is the key to achieving proficiency in speaking. Not only are listening skills the basis for the development of all other skills, they are also the main channel through which students make initial contact with the target language and its culture (Curtain & Pesola,1988).

Investigating the EFL listening needs of college students is ignored in Iran. Probing in to the conversational and academic listening abilities required by EFL college students should be very well considered. Iranian EFL students are studying English in their home country where English is not the dominant native language. Students who are from environments where English is not the language of the country have very few opportunities to hear the real language; these students therefore are not accustomed to hearing the language as it is produced by native speakers for native speakers. Consequently, students from the countries in which English is taught as a foreign language frequently have great difficulty understanding English spoken to them when they come in to contact with native speakers of the language.

Selecting appropriate materials and activities for language classroom requires much attention. Materials include text books, video and audio tapes, computer software, and visual aids. They influence the content and the procedures of learning. The choice of deductive versus inductive learning, the role of memorization, the use of creativity and problem solving, production versus reception, and the order in which materials are presented  are all influenced by the materials (Kitao, 2005). Authentic materials refer to oral and written language materials used in daily situations by native speakers of the language (Rogers& Medley, 1988).Some examples of authentic materials are newspapers, magazines, and television programs. It is necessary for students who are going to study in an English-speaking environment in future to learn how to listen to lectures and take notes, to comprehend native speakers in various kinds of speech situations, as well as to understand radio and television broadcasts. (Paulston & Bruder, 1976).This is also true for students who pass English courses in universities.

Videotapes and audiotapes, television, and interactive computer software are becoming increasingly common methods of delivering academic content in the university classroom. One way to prepare EFL students for encounters with real language is to apply real language or authentic speech in the EFL classroom (Bacon, 1989; Rivers, 1980; Rogers & Medley, 1988; Secules, Herron, &Tomasello, 1992). The breath, the timbre, the speed and the intonation of each authentic voice influence the content and meaning of the spoken word (Selfe, 2005). An advantage of introducing authentic materials at an early stage of language learning is to help students become familiar with the target language (Field, 1998). The use of authentic materials in EFL teaching and learning appears to be worthwhile (Porter & Roberts, 1981; Rings, 1986; Rivers, 1987). Teachers should employ authentic listening materials at all levels in instruction whenever possible (Chung, 2005). Implementing authentic speech in classroom listening allows students to have “immediate and direct contact with input data which reflect genuine communication in the target language” (Breen, 1985, p.63). Conversely, however, the use of teacher talk and/or foreigner talk with EFL students can impede students’ ability in listening comprehension because of the unusual rate of speech (Robinett, 1978; Snow & Perkins, 1979).

This exploratory study sought to examine the influences of the use of aural authentic materials on listening ability in students of English as a foreign language. This descriptive study examined how the use of authentic input in an EFL classroom eased and/or impeded students’ learning in English-language listening. In conjunction with the primary objective, the study also identified the learning strategies EFL students used when they experienced authentic listening materials. Finally, the study determined the influences of using authentic materials on EFL students’ attitudes towards learning English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.2 Statement of the Problem and Purpose of the Study:

 

 

Listening plays a significant role in the lives of people. Listening refers to a process in which a listener perceives aural stimuli and attempts to interpret the message of a speaker or oral text. Of the four major areas of communication skills and language development- listening, speaking, reading, and writing- the one that is the most basic is listening. It is evident that children listen and respond to language before they learn to talk. When it is time for children to learn to read, they still have to listen so that they gain knowledge and information to follow directions. In the classroom students have to listen carefully and attentively to lectures and class discussions in order to understand and to retain the information for later recall.

As the focus in foreign language instruction moves toward the individual as the central element in the process of foreign language learning, the importance of listening comprehension has come to the forefront of foreign language development as a topic of study in both theory and pedagogy. Though primarily ignored until recently, listening comprehension plays a major role in the paradigm shift in language learning and language teaching towards attention to language function and communication. Listening comprehension is increasingly considered a skill in and of itself as well as the foundation for speaking (Sharpe, 2005).

In language classroom, listening ability plays a significant role in the development of other language art skills. When students first learn a language, they generally have to listen to the words several times before they are able to recognize and pronounce those words. Listening skills are as important as speaking skills, face-to-face communication is not possible unless the two types of skills are developed together (Mitsuhashi, 2005).

 

 

1.3 Significance and Justification of the Study

 

 

Professionals, teachers, and all those who are concerned about teaching practices and learning in EFL situations have continually attempted to explore new ways in order to make beneficial improvements in the field of teaching and learning.

The significance of this study lies in exploring the ways using strategies and aural authentic materials in EFL classes influence learners’ listening ability, their attitudes and awareness of their own experiences. Thus, a semester long micro ethnography, an intensive study of small groups through the use of observation was conducted in order to generate a description and interpretation of the teaching environment, and the teaching methodology was applied in one EFL class. The actions and views of the participants towards “listening” were also taken in to consideration.

The method of ethnography involved: in-depth observation of classroom practices over time; interviews with students; and updating the research methodology through a study of recent research.

This study underlies the importance of positive attitudes and the use of aural authentic materials for successful listening comprehension. Learning a language is learning how to communicate as a member of a particular cultural group. The students’ attitudes were best developed through listening to aural authentic materials. An examination of this process from the perspective of participants using qualitative and quantitative methods uncovered the elements participants considered essential for successful conversation.

 

 

1.4 Research Questions

 

 

The primary research question asked in the present study is the following:

           What are the influences of aural authentic materials on

            the listening comprehension in students of English

            as a foreign language?

The secondary research questions addressed in the study are as follows:

1.                   What kinds of learning strategies are most frequently used by

EFL students listening to aural authentic materials in the

classroom?

2.                   What are the influences of aural authentic materials on EFL

students’ attitudes towards learning English?

 

 

 

 

 

1.5 Research Hypotheses

 

 

There were two kinds of hypotheses:

Quantitative

1.                   The use of authentic materials will have no effect on listening comprehension in the EFL classroom.

Qualitative

2.                   Positive attitudes and motivation will emerge.

3.                   The students will share their experiences and participate in conversations, emotionally involved.

 

 

1.6 What Is Known About Listening

 

 

Listening comprehension which is the most but the least paid attention skill has been neglected for years in Iranian Universities. The word “listening” may have different meanings for different people. For the purpose of the current study, however, listening is defined as an active, and interactional, process in which a listener receives speech sounds and tries to attach meaning to the spoken words in an attempt to understand the intended message of a speaker or the oral text so that he/she can respond effectively to oral communication. Active listening intentionally focuses on who the learners are listening to, whether in a group or one-on-one, in order to understand what she or he is saying. As the listener, they should then be able to repeat back in their own words what they have said to their satisfaction. This does not mean they agree with, but rather understand, what they are saying (Landsberger, 2005).

Listening comprehension is one of the most important and fundamental of the four skills in language learning; yet, it is probably the least stressed skill in the language classroom. Reasons for this may lie in the lack of emphasis on teaching listening comprehension in language textbooks in general, as well as in the lack of available material specifically developed for and focused on the teaching of listening strategies. Listening is rarely thought as a valuable social experience (Cage, 2005). According to Cayer, Green, and Baker (1971), it was not until the year 1971 that the first research in listening did appear. One reason for the neglect of listening comprehension as a research area might be the lack of instruments to measure and evaluate listening, causing difficulties in concretely measuring and evaluating the skills in listening (Sharpe, 2005).

The goal of second-language and/or foreign-language instructions, according to comprehension-approach methodologies, is the development of communicative competence and oral fluency (Landsberger, 2005). Dunkel (1986) suggests that this goal can be achieved by “putting the horse (listening comprehension) before the cart (oral production)” (p.100). In other words, proficiency in speaking is related to developing proficiency in listening comprehension. Byrnes (1984) also proposes that listening comprehension precedes production in all cases of language learning. Moreover, Byrnes asserts that there can be no production unless linguistic input is provided and becomes comprehensible intake for the listener. This does not mean that output should be forbidden. Oral output (speaking) invites aural input, via conversation (Krashen, 2004).

We only become aware of what remarkable feats of listening we achieve when we are in an unfamiliar listening environment such as listening to a language in which we have limited proficiency. In addition to the necessity to emphasize listening comprehension in language instruction, research in foreign language learning (Curtain, 1991; Dulay, Burt, & Krashen, 1982) even suggests the need for language experiences that provide many opportunities for listening comprehension particularly at the early stages of language learning. Though primarily ignored until recently, listening comprehension plays a major role in the paradigm shift in language learning and language teaching towards attention to language function and communication (Sharpe, 2005).

 

 

1.7 What Is Known About Authentic Materials

 

 

Many specialists view text authenticity as the most essential component of any English for academic purposes course (Griva, 2005). Results of the study conducted by Herron and Seay (1991) indicated that listening comprehension in language students improves with increased exposure to authentic speech. Ur (1984) proposes that foreign-language students learn best from listening to speech that is planned to take in to account the learners’ level of ability. Ur also suggests that the speech should be an approximation to the real language if it is not entirely authentic.

While tasks such as grammar or pronunciation drills do not provide students with the chance for exchanging authentic messages, the use of video and film, radio broadcasts, and television programs will involve students in activities that present real-life listening contexts (Herron & Seay, 1991). Different aural texts such as songs, news, and weather reports may also be used as authentic listening materials in the EFL classroom. Many language learners watch movies outside of class time, but few of them consider this as an opportunity to develop their listening skills (perhaps because they became used to reading the subtitles of English movies). The learners, however, can be sensitized to how they can make use of movies to develop their listening skills in the language classroom (Miller, 2005).

If students are to use the language to communicate effectively in the real world, Rogers and Medley (1988) proposes that students have to experience the language as it is used for real communication among native speakers. This can be done through the use of aural authentic materials in the language classroom. Furthermore, Gilman and Moody (1984) recommend that the teacher should use authentic materials in implementing listening comprehension training at advanced level and with students at the beginning and intermediate levels. Authentic materials and situations prepare students for the types of listening they will need to do when using the language outside the classroom (Miller, 2005).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.8 Definition of Important Terms

 

 

For this study, the following terms are defined:

Aural language refers to “written or spoken language which is created by and for a native speaker of the language in which it is produced” (Rogers & Medley, 1988).

Authentic materials refers to “materials produced to fulfill some social purpose in the language community” not produced specifically for second language learners. (Little&Singleton, 1989). Some examples are newspapers, poems, advertisements, songs, magazines, and the like.

Non-authentic materials refer to “materials produced specifically for language learner, e.g. exercises found in course books and supplementary materials” (Peacock, 1997).

Authentic speech/Authentic text refers to “a piece of spoken language which is created by a native speaker of the language in which it is produced” (Morton, 1999).

Context refers to “what occurs before and/or after a word, a phrase, or a text. The context often helps in understanding the particular meaning of the word, phrase, and so on” (Morton, 1999).

English as a foreign language (EFL) refers to “the role of English in countries where it is taught as a subject in schools but not used as a medium of instruction in education nor as a language of communication in the country (e.g., in government or business)” (Gass, 1990).

Learning strategy refers to “intentional behavior and thought that learners use during learning in order to help them understand, learn, or remember new information” (Richards & Platt, 1992).

Listening refers to “a process in which a listener perceives aural stimuli and attempts to interpret the message of a speaker or oral text” (Wolvin & Coakley, 1988).

Listening comprehension refers to “the ability to extract information from auditorially presented language material” (Krashen, 1995).

Native language refers to “the language which a learner acquired in early childhood” (Rubin, 1994).

Negotiation of meaning refers to “the attempt made in conversation to clarify a lack of understanding” (Rubin, 1994).

Target language refers to “the language being learned. In this study, the target language is the English language” (Rubin, 1994).

 

 

1.9 Delimitations

 

 

For the purpose of the present study, the following delimitations were set:

1.     The students being studied were limited to one EFL class.

2.     All the students in the present study were currently enrolled in an intensive English for Specific Purpose program at a university.

 

 

 

 

 

1.10 Limitations

 

 

There were two limitations considered in the current research study.

1. Due to the limited access to the participants, analysis was based primarily upon the participants’ self-report assessment.

2. Due to the small number of participants in the study and their particular learning situations, generalizability is limited.

 

 

1.11 Organization of the Master Thesis

 

 

The study consists of five chapters. This Chapter One presents the introduction, research questions, and purpose of the study.

Chapter Two examines research on listening comprehension, listening and EFL learning, and the use of aural authentic materials.

Chapter Three describes the methods and procedures used in conducting the research. A description of the student selection, data collection, and data analysis are included.

Chapter Four reports the findings and results of the data collection. Detailed description of the results obtained from this study is presented.

Chapter Five summarizes the results of the study. Recommendations for future research and implications for teaching are discussed.

A complete list of references and appendices follow Chapter Five.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

 

 

2.1           Introduction

 

 

The literature relevant to the present study is presented in this chapter in three major categories: listening comprehension, listening and English as-a-foreign-language learning, and the use of aural authentic materials.

 

 

2.2 Listening Comprehension

 

 

2.2.1 Definition of Listening

 

 

Listening is the first means of language acquisition. In the same way that a child begins acquiring language only by listening to others, an adult learner uses this skill to learn a foreign language. Definitions of listening, ranging from the simple to the expansive, have been proposed by various scholars. Rankin (1926/1952) defined listening as “… the ability to understand spoken language” (p.847). Johnson (1951) expanded the definition to be “… the ability to understand and respond effectively to oral communication” (p.58). Nichols (1974) shortened the definition of listening to “the attachment of meaning to aural symbols” (p.83). Underwood (1989) simplified the definition of listening to “the activity of paying attention to and trying to get meaning from something we hear” (p.1). Purdy (1997) defined listening as “the active and dynamic process of attending, perceiving, interpreting, remembering, and responding to the expressed (verbal and nonverbal), needs, concerns, and information offered by other human beings” (p.8).

Listening comprehension is a process of creative experience in which the listener thinks about the message and relates it to past experiences. It can be concluded, from reviewing a number of proposed definitions, that listening is an active process involving four interrelated activities: receiving aural stimuli (Petrie, 1961/1962; Steil, Barker, & Watson, 1983:Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), attending to the spoken words (Barker, 1971; Petrie, 1961/1962; Underwood, 1989; Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), attaching meaning to the aural symbols (Nichols, 1974; O’malley, Chamot, & Kupper, 1989; Spearritt, 1962; Wolvin & Coakley, 1988), and responding to oral communication(Johnson, 1951; Purdy, 1997; Steil et al., 1983).

This section has presented some proposed definitions of the word “listening”. Listening implies more than just perception of sounds; a listening process also requires an act of attending to the speech sounds and trying to understand the message.

 

 

 

 

2.2.2 Importance of Listening

 

 

Traditionally, among the four skills of language learning(i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing), listening comprehension was not regarded as an essential skill of language instruction in the foreign language teaching theory and pedagogy, but it is undeniably an indispensable language skill for every successful human communication. Rankin (1926/1952) investigated the frequency of use of listening in the ordinary lives of adults and found that adults spent 42.1 percent of their total verbal communication time in listening while they spent 31.9 percent, 15 percent, and 11 percent of their verbal communication time speaking, reading, and writing. According to Devine (1982), listening is the primary means by which incoming ideas and information are taken in. Bird (1953) found that female collage students spent 42 percent of their total verbal communication time in listening while they spent 25 percent in speaking, 15 percent in reading, and 18 percent in writing. A study conducted by Barker, Edwards, Gaines, Gladney, and Holley (1980) confirmed Bird’s view of the primacy of listening and showed that the portion of verbal communication time spent by collage students was 52.5 percent in listening, 17.3 percent in reading, 16.3 percent in speaking, and 13.9 percent in writing. Gilbert (1988), on the other hand, noted that students from kindergarten through high school were expected to listen 65-90 percent of the time. Wolvin and Coakley (1988) concluded that, both in and out of the classroom, listening consumes more of daily communication time than other forms of verbal communication.

 

 

2.2.2.1 Listening and Academic Success

 The ways through which listening comprehension is currently taught give clear evidence that it is still treated very trivially and that its importance is completely underrated. Academic listening comprehension skills are important for the increasing number of language learners engaged in academic tasks in English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Jung, 2003). Numerous studies indicated that efficient listening skills were more important than reading skills as a factor contributing to academic success (Brown, 1987; Coakley & Wolvin, 1997, Truesdale, 1990). Carrier (2003) suggested that targeted listening strategy instruction in discrete listening, video listening, and note taking can improve students’ listening comprehension of oral academic content material that they will most likely encounter in their academic content classes.

Nevertheless, it is evident that listening plays a significant role in the lives of people. Listening is even more important for the lives of the students since listening is used as a primary medium of learning at all stages of education.

 

 

2.2.2.2 Discovery Listening

 “Discovery listening” tries to achieve a focus on sound and word recognition by adapting the dictogloss approach, making it much more text-focused. The main goal is to guide students towards noticing the differences between their reconstructed text and the original, and then “discover” the reasons for their difficulties (Wilson, 2002).

“ Discovery listening” is a conscious reaction against the dominant approach in recent years in both EFL theory and in practice. Like dictogloss, it requires students to reconstruct the text they hear, but several additional features aim to make students more precisely aware of three key areas:

 

a.     what their shortcomings are

b.     what the possible causes might be

c.      what their relative importance is.

 

The task consists of three main phases:

 

1.     listening- in this phase, students:

a.     listen, without note taking, to a short text spoken at normal speed.

b.     Self-assess their comprehension level.

c.      Listen two more times while taking notes.

 

2.     Reconstructing- in this phase students:

a.     form small groups and use their notes to attempt to reconstruct the text.

 

3.     Discovery- in this phase students:

a.     compare their text with the original, and attempt to classify the causes of mistakes.

b.     assess the relative importance of their errors.

c.      listen again without reading the text, and assess their performance (Wilson, 2002).

 

 

 

2.2.3 Listening as an Active Process

 

 

In the past, listening comprehension was usually characterized as a passive activity (Bacon, 1989; Joiner, 1991; Morley, 1990; Murphy, 1991). However, many theorists realized that listening is not a passive but an active process of constructing meaning from a stream of sounds (Berne, 1998; Joiner, 1991, Mc Donough, 1999; Murphy, 1991; O’Malley et al., 1989; Purdy, 1997; Rivers & Temperly, 1978; Thompson & Rubin, 1996; Vandergrift, 1998; Weissenvieder, 1987; Wing, 1986). Some scholars further proposed that listening comprehension is a complex, problem-solving skill (Byrnes, 1984; Meyer, 1984; Richards, 1983; Wipf, 1984; Wolvin & Coakley, 1979). According to Purdy (1997), listeners do not passively absorb the words, but actively attempt to grasp the facts and feelings in what they hear by attending to what the speaker says, to how the speaker says it, and to the context in which the message is delivered.

 

 

2.2.3.1 Knowledge Required for Listening Process

 Vandergrift (2004) noted that given the critical role of listening in language learning, students need to “learn to listen” so that they can better “listen to learn.” Byrnes (1984) indicated that listening requires “an interplay between all types of knowledge” (p.322). A listener needs to have some command over major components of the language; these components are phonology, lexicon, syntax, semantics, and text structure (Bacon, 1989; Byrnes, 1984; Dunkel, 1986; Lundsteen, 1979; Paulston & Bruder, 1976; Pearson & Fielding, Weissenrieder, 1987).

Teng (2004) reported that the most important listening needs for listening to English lectures are the “ability to follow different modes of lecturing (spoken, audio, audio-visual)” and the “ability to recognize instructional/learner tasks”. Both abilities are related to listeners’ background knowledge. Listeners should increase their world knowledge in order to follow different modes of lecturing.

In summary, listening is an active process of attaching meaning to the speech sounds. As a listener performs a variety of tasks in a comprehension process, he or she has to rely upon various types of knowledge such as grammatical knowledge and sociocultural knowledge.

 

 

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