Listening Skills

Babies develop their listening skills while they are still in the womb. After their birth, they are bombarded by aural stimuli (conversation, songs, noise, and so on). Most of them gain their experience as listeners through their “participation” in “conversations” with their parents as they are exposed to numerous situations in which their parents play the roles of speaker and listener. Therefore, they absorb several “rules” to develop their listening and speaking skills (e.g. Turn-taking).

As the silent period (when they are exposed to language but are not expected to attempt to produce adult-like language in response to what (the input) was addressed to them) is of paramount importance in language acquisition, teachers ought to provide students with various listening tasks so as to expose them to the target language and its pronunciation, rhythm and stress patterns.

When doing a listening task, teachers should consider three stages:

  1. Pre-listening – It aims at setting the context and activating students’ schemata (previous knowledge about the topic/situation/etc); pre-teaching lexical items (5 at most) which might hinder communication; working on pronunciation of lexical items that might be difficult to understand;
  2. While-listening - Its aim is to give students a purpose to listen to the dialogue/song/etc.
    Remember that in order to accomplish the task students need to know what they are supposed to do. Thus, give them clear instructions, check the instructions and model the first activity, if possible;
  3. Post-listening - It provides students with opportunities to expand the topic and produce language.
    Teachers should bear in mind that as students do not have enough language there might be occasions in which a post-listening activity will not be provided. Nevertheless, the teacher might customize the lesson and ask students to have a similar conversation using their own information.


Lynch, T. & Andersson, A. (2001) Listening. Oxford : OUP.