Let’s look at the listening skills, which play among other requirements an important role in language acquisition. They make up one of the oral skills (among the oral expression and the interaction in a conversation). In brief, the term refers to the interpretation of the contents which a person has understood of which another person has said. In addition to that, there is also a part of the listening skills in an interaction because this can be seen as a combination of listening skills and expression.
The development of the listening skills is essential for the acquisition or the learning of foreign languages; not only to master a language course. The principal objective is rather the ability to make oneself understood in the foreign language and then to be able to live in it. This is the reason, why the majority of the language schools focuses on communication. In general, a pupil wants to speak the foreign language in order to be able to talk to native speakers or to orientate himself in the country during a journey. I say “in general” because we teach also pupils who want to learn a language either in order to be able to read original literature, in this case Spanish literature, or to be able to make themselves understood in Spanish in the field of business or medicine. For the type of pupil that I have described at first, the most important thing is, for example, to be able to inform himself in a train station or an airport about the travelling or flight times, delays as well as cancellations. It is also important for him to be able to listen to the radio, to watch TV or to go to the cinema. . As far as the level of interaction is concerned, he wants to give and to ask for information in order to be able to orientate himself in the streets, in a restaurant or in a shop. The objective is here a practical one.
In the training of these skills, it is, contrary to what many people think, not important to be able to understand all the words of a conversation, but rather to recognize the key words. Like that, it becomes possible to understand. Not even a native speaker always succeeds in doing the former.
In Spanish and also in other languages, the intonation in speaking is very important. Even if a sentence means the same on the semantic level, it can mean something else with another intonation, even something completely different. It is not the same, if you say “I like that it’s raining.” (and the person really likes that it’s raining) as if you say “I like that it’s raining…” (and it is a day, when everyone is annoyed about the rain). But how do we realize this shift of meaning? – By paying attention to the intonation, which is, as mentioned above, essential.
Just like the intonation, gestures also play a fundamental role in a face-to-face conversation. We do not only have to concentrate on the verbal language, but also on the gestural or rather nonverbal language. Because it is the latter which gives us much additional information about what has been said explicitly during a conversation. That is the reason, why it is important to know the nonverbal signals of the native speakers in learning a foreign language. Take for example the typical Spaniard who moves his arms strongly, when he is speaking, in order to accompany and to emphasize his monolog. Besides, the Spaniard usually nodes his head, when he is listening to somebody, in order to show his attention. If somebody does not do these movements in a conversation, it is possible that the Spaniard feels neglected because he has the feeling that it is not interesting, what he is saying.
I want to ask the reader to not be discouraged by all these aspects which he has to observe. Whereas the listening skills seem to be the skills, in which making progress is most difficult, they are exactly these competences which profit the most from the immersion. If one is surrounded by the foreign language, the listening skills will develop inter alia most rapidly. Beyond, the success on this subject, if it will be achieved, is much more satisfying for the pupil than on the subject of other linguistic skills.
So what do we do to support the listening skills? What can you do to improve them? How can we, concerning this matter, fall back upon the Internet as well as upon other media? These and many other questions will be answered and commented in the form of internet entries in this blog. We do this so that you also in Spanish always have the feeling to “do have heard it”!