Listening is the act of hearing attentively. However, Listening is not simply hearing, it is the absorption of the meanings of words and sentences by the brain. Listening enables the understanding of facts and ideas. Listening is the 1stof the 4 language skills. There is a difference between Simply Listening and Listening with focussed attention irrespective of distractions. English Listening Skills require concentration, which is the focusing of your thoughts upon one particular area, which in this case would be English. Good listening skills also include using body language which empowers the speaker. Making an eye contact with the speaker is important when in a large auditorium or in a classroom. It shows that you are responding to what the speaker is saying and not down or gazing at some daydream. A person who incorporates listening with concentration is actively listening to details at anytime.
Why Listening is important can be gauged form the below given Quotations.
When one has the feeling of dislike for evil, when one feels tranquil, one finds pleasure in listening to good teachings; when one has these feelings and appreciates them, one is free of fear - Buddha
Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.- Rabindranath Tagore.
Types of Listening
In our daily lives we are faced with different situations which require different types of listening. We listen in different way in order to obtain information, improve a relationship, gain appreciation for something, make discriminations, or engage in a critical evaluation. Though we indulge in these different types of listening all the time but we do not categorise it. It is important to know about these types of listening to hone one’s skill in communication and behaviour.
There are various types of Listening:
Active listening – It is a type of Listening wherein the listener is attentive towards what the speaker is saying. It helps in understanding the emotions, which the words are expressing. This helps in commuting your thoughts towards that person in a better way. Active listening is more than just listening to what is being said, it is also listening to what is unspoken. Sometimes a speaker may convey his/her thoughts in an indirect manner as he/she may not be comfortable in taking a direct approach. It is here that Active Listening provides us the cues to ‘read between the lines’.
Appreciative Listening – It is a type of Listening where one accepts and appreciates the other person through what they say. It seeks to praise. Alternatively, listening to something for pleasure, such as to music is also a type of Appreciative Listening. Response of the listener defines appreciative listening, not the message. Appreciative Listening also affects one’s ability to appreciate something valuable in an apt manner, especially at times where we might fall short of words whilst appreciating.
Casual listening – The term says it all, Listening without showing much attention. However actual attention may vary a lot from person to person. Its importance lies in the fact that even though we are not listening carefully, our sub-conscious is alert to it. Everything that we hear is being observed by the brain and indirectly it enhances our memory to the point that we can recall certain types of accent which were being spoken and even more.
Comprehension Listening –In this type of listening the listener’s primary concern is to understand the message which is being conveyed by the speaker. Listeners assign a meaning to that message, which is as close as possible to that, which the sender intended. It enables to sort out important words from less important words from a long speech.Comprehension listening is also known as Content Listening, Informative Listening and Full Listening.
Critical Listening – Critical listening is listening performed to evaluate, judge, form opinion about what is being said. Judgment includes assessing strengths and weaknesses, agreement and approval. Critical listening requires critical thinking skills as well. A detailed logical analysis goes with critical listening. The key is to try to understand the person before evaluating. It is used to distinguish between real compliments and flattery. A friend shopping with you might force you to buy a pair of shoe which suit you. But we evaluate his statement, whether we really like it or not before making a decision. It is also known as Evaluative Listening.
Dialogic Listening – It is a type of listening wherein a listener hears a conversation and engages in interchange of ideas and information in order to learn more about the person and how they think. Dialogic listening is sometimes known as Relational Listening. It can be a shared activity where people regard each other’s point of view without interrupting or engaing in an argument.
Discriminative Listening – It is a type of listening where the listener discriminates between different sound and sights. Here the listener is trying to hear something specific. From an early age we learn to discriminate between sounds within our own language and later are unable to discriminate between the sounds of other languages. This is one reason why a person from one country finds it difficult to speak another language perfectly, as they are unable distinguish the subtle sounds that are required in that language. By being sensitive to changes in the speaker’s rate, volume, force, pitch, and emphasis, the listener can detect even nuances of difference in meaning. Sensitivity to pauses, and other vocal and nonverbal cues, allows critical listeners to more accurately judge not only the speaker’s message, but his intentions as well.
Empathetic Listening –It is a type of listening where the listener understands the speaker’s concern or loss with a rational approach. This rational approach is about being empathetic towards the listener without being carried away with his concerns or loss. It is about paying close attention to the nuances of emotional signals and be rational. This kind of listening is often used by those involved in customer service where the objective is to earn profits for the organization and acknowledge the customer’s emotions as well.
Relationship Listening – When listening is performed to develop, support or sustain a relationship, it is called Relationship Listening. A glaring example is that of lovers who talk for hours and attend closely to what each other has to say. But when the same words come from someone else, they would seem to be rather boring. Relationship listening is also important in areas such as negotiation and sales, where it is helpful if the other person likes you and trusts you.
Sympathetic Listening - Sympathetic listening is a listening used to show care for the speaker and acknowledging his sorrows in a sympathetic way. Sympathetic listening invariably encourages sympathetic conversations, which are social skills in themselves apart from being noble skills.
Therapeutic Listening – In this type of listening the listener has a purpose of not only empathizing with the speaker but also to use this deep connection in order to help the speaker understand, change or develop in some way. This type of listening is utilized by counsellors, medical personnel, coaches, or other professionals, who allow a troubled person to talk through a problem. However it is also used by us, when we listen to our friends or acquaintances and allow them to get things off their chests.
Importance of Listening
Listening is one of the four skills which enable complete communication. In fact it is the 1st essential language skill because learning a language usually begins when we learn to listen first, then to speak, then to read, and finally to write.
As it is the 1st language skill, it is perhaps the most important skill of all as it is the basis for the other three skills i.e. Speaking, Reading and Writing.
It is also important as all the language skills are interdependent on each other. This can be seen from the below:
The direction of communication (in or out).
The method of communication (spoken or written).
Listening skills are of great importance in the workplace, the family and in the society at large. Careers in communications, management, planning, sales, and fund raising etc. rely on good listening skills.
Listening shows one’s level of manners or etiquettes. When one is listening to someone he is being responsive and if required advising as per the conversations’ requirements. Good listeners show respect to the speaker by not interrupting him while he is talking.
When we hear a good song or conversation we try to imitate it and try to apply it with great confidence as and when required.
All in all, Listening skills are necessary to improve communication, interpersonal relations, emotional intelligence and self analysis.
Effective Listening Skills can be acquired through:
Dictation Audio – Dictation Audio is dictation of words in an audio format. These also help one to learn new vocabulary. One can listen to Dictation Audio through: Online Dictation, Digital Dictation Software and Audio / Video Tapes.
Listening to Radio – Listening to English language Radio stations enhances one’s listening capacity & understanding of the language. One can hear any programme be it a news, cultural or even advertisements to one’s benefit.
Music / Songs – English Language Songs are the most popular world over. One can listen these anytime or anywhere, even on foreign-language radio and TV stations. One should listen to them often. Aspirants can buy cassettes, CDs, download, borrow these from various sources. One can also record these from various audio video sources. Initially one should choose songs which are slow and the words sung are clear. One can try to write the words for an entire song in order to understand the song.
Listening to webcasts - A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous locations locally or internationally. These can be in the format of stations like the BBC or Voice of America. Most sites work with two players - the RealPlayer and the Windows Media Player.
English as a Second Language website - ESL (English as a second language), ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), and EFL (English as a foreign language) all refer to the use or study of English by speakers with a different native language. ESL is a top free online English-learning resource especially for all teachers and students in the world.
English as a Second Language Podcast – Podcast is a multimedia files which is distributed over the internet for playback on a mobile device or a personal computer. It is one of the new ways of learning to speak English especially for those who are tech-savvy. The website mentioned provides http://www.eslpod.com/website/index_new.html
Watching Television - TV is the most common resource for hearing and listening to English. The pictures help you understand what is being said. One can watch TV on Internet if they don't have access to English-language TV.
Cinema – Cinema is another common medium to better one’s listening skills. Non-english speaking Countries have cinemas that show films in English, usually with sub-titles. Make it a habit to go to these films. Even if one may not know how to read English, they’ll be still hearing English. One can also attend English Film festivals whenever they are held in their country or region.
Making English speaking friends – This is anothereasywayfor those who wish to understand English. One can practice his/her English through conversation. One can make friends online as well if one is not social. Your friends by correcting you become your teachers as well.
Reading – Those who are beginners can start with reading children's storybooks. And when their vocabulary has become rich, they can move on to novels etc. Reading itself is listening as when we read aloud or in our minds we are actually hearing ourselves read the words.
Visiting an English Speaking Country – Those who can afford it, touring an English speaking country can be a fun filled experience. Hearing the natives talk is the easiest way of understanding English. One can stay with an English family as well.