HOW TO LISTEN

HEARING VS LISTENING

HEARING IS A SENSE, AN ABILITY

LISTENING IS A SKILL

THEREFORE, IT CAN BE LEARNED WITH DISCIPLINE, AND SHARPENED WITH PRACTICE

LISTENING (SKILL) = HEARING (AUDITORY PERCEPTION) + CONCENTRATION & FOCUS 

WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF LISTENING?

Listening is taking the information you hear and processing it to understand it, make sense of it, and, ultimately, using it towards a purpose such as making decisions, having a conversation, or answersing questions on a test. 

INFORMATION = CONTEXT + DETAILS

CONTEXT = PEOPLE + PLACE + SITUATION

DETAILS = DATA (NAMES, DATES, TIMES, FACTS, STATISTICS, ETC)

HEAR WITH YOUR EARS BUT LISTEN WITH YOUR MIND.

TRAIN TO BE AWARE OF AND LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR EARS ARE HEARING

In order to listen, you must first be prepared to listen. Your should prepare yourself to expect and listen for information within a situational context (such as an informal conversation between friends, an academic lecture in a classroom, a conversation between a student and the university registrar, etc). Be ready to hear, process, analyze, record, and organize the information and data from the conversation.

 

What type of information/data can you expect to listen for?

Information (data, data-types) such as the following may be involved: names of people, places, highways, job titles, definitions, dates, specific times, time periods, addresses, companies/organizations, facts and statistics, and other value-added information such as relationships, sequences of events, and procedures (for example for class registration, checking exam results, applying for a class or scholarship, etc).


SUB-SKILLS REQUIRED: Note-taking

We are trying to answer two key questions:

1. What am I listening to?

  • listen for Who/Where/Why information to build situational context

2. What am I listening for?​

  • determine what you will do with the information

  • listen for information (What? When? How?) as different data-types (names, facts, dates, times, addresses, procedures, etc) to add detail and value-added information

Since we only have audio as our source of information, we must build around this audio to understand what we are dealing with. This is called building situational context and detail.

KEY: THE TYPE OF LISTENING SKILL REQUIRED IS BASED ON

1. THE LISTENING CONTENT, WHAT AM I LISTENING TO? :

What we are listening to sets up the context of how we listen to it. In other words, how we listen to something or someone depends on what we are about to listen to. Knowing what we are about to hear plays a big role in determining how we listen to it.  

Consider the following situations:

 

Listening to

  • a song (attention to lyrics vs no attention to lyrics)

  • a class lecture versus a conversation at the university registrars' office

  • a phone call from your boss versus a call from a friend

  • someone close to you versus someone whose opinion doesn't matter to you very much

Context is built by understanding the circumstances, conditions, surroundings, and other situational factors around a conversation that provide important value-added information.

 

It is important to learn how to differentiate value-added information from irrelevant information. You should not record every single piece of information in the audio sample.

 

If your strategy is simply to try to record all the information from the audio sample, you will most likely end up with accurate information for only a small part of the audio since you will not be able to keep up with the speed and direction of the conversation as it proceeds, and consequently miss out all the other information relevant to the overall context and detail. In addition, conversations are very often designed so that large pieces of information are given using catchy keywords and familiar phrases present in several of the different available answer choices to truly test weaker listeners. 

 

Understanding how to differentiate value-added information from irrelevant information is key to being able to process and organize all your data.

To build situational context around what we are listening to, we must have some key pieces of information.

  • WHAT AM I LISTENING TO? 

    • a conversation

    • a presentation

    • a song or a piece of music

    • a movie

    • a lecture

First, listen and pay attention to the beginning of the audio sample, here. The first sentences provide important information that allows us to understand the situation and what to expect from the audio sample. The narrator sets up our expectations by saying ​"Listen to a part of a lecture in a meteorology class."

This tells me I am going to listen to:

a part of a lecture, in a class, academic context, possibly multi-speaker with emphasis on one main speaker (most likely, the professor), possible questions/answers involved (professor-student interaction), scientific information and data may be involved. Even though this is a classroom lecture, it is important to understand that the subject or topic of the lecture can help build context. For example, a lecture in meteorology will present different information than, for example, a history class.

What type of information/data can you expect to listen for?

First, ask yourself, what type of contextual information/data should i expect and in what data-types?

Situational Context: A lecture in meteorology (where the focus might be on names and definitions of different types of materials and physical processes)

Vocabulary Context: atmosphere, wind, temperature, pressure, earth, environment, global warming, greenhouse effect, climate change, weather conditions) will present different information differently from, for example, a history class (where the lecturer may focus on names of people, places, wars and time periods). 

A weather report will present data such as numbers of highways, names of roads and streets, area names, directions (north, south, east, west), directions in a sequence, weather conditions

Vocabulary Context: (rainy, windy, storm, sunny, hot, snow, etc), while a conversation at the registrars office may present deadlines, dates, times, class names and numbers, grades/scores, etc.

Having the right expectation of data and data-types is key in being prepared to listen. Otherwise you wont know what to do with the information you just heard.

Now, listen to the audio sample and write down what kind of things you expect to hear. 

Who are the participants in the conversation?

  • the identity and roles of the speakers in the conversation (Who?)

By answering this question you are also learning other value-added information such as 

  • how many participants are there?  (How many?)

  • what are the relationships that exist between speakers? (Friends, Colleagues, Parent/Children, Lecturer/Student, etc.)

 

Where is this conversation taking place?

  • the situational data available​ (Where?)

    • Is this conversation taking place in a classroom, an office, a cafeteria, at a meeting, in a dorm room? Is it indoors or outdoors?

 

Why is this conversation happening?

  • the reason/purpose for the speakers to have this conversation (Why?)​

 

Is it:

-an academic lecture to give information about the environment or the economy?

-a discussion between friends to  discuss  the exam and the past semester (to discuss personal views and experiences)?

-a conversation at the registrars office to ask about the procedure of changing classes (to inquire about a procedure, order of information and actions is important)

-a conversation between a parent and his/her son/daughter who is going to university to talk about campus life (parent: to learn about his/her child's campus life experience, child: to inform parent about his/her own campus life experience).

The purpose of the conversation is central to everything since it determines the participants of the conversation, its progression, and possible outcomes.

2. THE LISTENING PURPOSE, WHAT AM I LISTENING FOR?

  • WHAT AM I LISTENING FOR?​

This is different from the speakers purpose discussed above. This is about your, the listeners, purpose. You are listening to the conversation to answer questions based on what you hear and understand from it. Therefore, how you listen depends on what you are listening for.

Because you cannot and should not record every piece of detail from the audio, your listening strategy should in part be determined by what you expect to do with the information that you will hear.

You will use this information to answer questions of different types:

  • traditional multiple choice questions (speaker position questions, inference questions, reference questions, etc)

  • fill in the blanks questions (generally writing one or two key-words, detail questions)

  • true/false questions (generally almost always right/wrong based on binary outcomes opinions of speakers)

  • matching questions (generally for vocabulary/definitions, connecting speaker to audio sample)

  • written short answers (generally based around main ideas, information presented as fact in the audio, speaker positions, inferences about speakers based on information from audio sample)

  • verbal response (Integrated Task)

This is why it is critical to quickly study the questions in the allotted time before the audio sample begins.

Listen for different data (What? When? How?) and for different data-types (facts, events: what happened and what didn't happen, dates, times, addresses, procedures, etc) to add detail and value-added information. 

Information (data, data-types) such as the following may be presented in an audio sample: names of people, places, highways, job titles, definitions, dates, specific times, time periods, addresses, companies/organizations, facts and statistics, and other value-added information such as relationships, sequences of events, and procedures (for example for class registration, checking exam results, applying for a class or scholarship, etc).