Listening comprehension

The other day a staff member at work came to me to mention that they were unsure what level to place a new student in. I would be having that student for a class later that evening and could I please give them my .02c. Sure.

So I got to the class and I find that the student has been placed a few levels too low, and that the class is far too easy for her. So as the class is going by and I notice that it is far too easy for her I raise the level of what I am doing to see if she can keep up. And at first she seems to do a tremendous job, and so I up my game more and more. At which point, after making an offhanded reference to the resurrection of Jesus and saying more than a few unflattering things about Mao, I realize that no, this person cannot understand what I am saying, but is mostly just really fucking good at faking it.  She sort of just pretends to understand.

This is actually an extremely common problem. The student’s listening skills are awful. I have noticed that the students are actually very rarely listening to us, mostly because they find listening too difficult. As most of our lessons are based either on HTML or powerpoint presentations, the students can follow that and make it look like they are listening. That, or they use whatever contextual clues they can scrape together to follow along. But it seems to me that they simply have no skills for listening.

I have a plethora of evidence of this. I had a student for class who, unlike many others, actually came to class prepared for the lessons by having reviewed the material online before hand. I pull up the power point, show him a picture of two rooms and say “which room do you like better?”

“Sofa!” he replies. “Lamp!” he adds. He had no idea, and no desire to know, what it was that I just said. He just wanted to speak English.

This is such a daily occurrence that where I can I stop using the materials the school provides. Otherwise what will happen is that students will read what it says on the board and go no further than that.

One would think that this phenomenon tapers off at the high levels, but actually it just changes form. Those few higher level students that I have take their sub-par listening skills with them as they go along with them and continue to hear whatever it is that they would like to hear. This is why in advanced classes  there is no hopes that the students ever hear new words in an audio, as many exercises attempts for them to do.  They merely hear what they think should have been said. The results of this are at the time comical, and shortly thereafter cripplingly depressing. Makes one not really want to do his job.

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