……listening then…?

Tara Sapkota

“…… it was in the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) test, I had, for the first time, sat for a listening test.….” I wondered when one of my classmates told this to me. I was doing my intermediates then. I was even more surprised when I heard that all the answers to the questions were written on the board by the invigilator during their test and nothing significant was asked in the speaking test as well! There was nothing more to talk about, we stopped our conversation then.

I discovered that I was the only one, in the group of my colleagues, who had as experience of listening practice in school. I began to see myself as a lucky person among the friends. Not only this, every now and then, then, I realized that I had so many things to share with my friends about my English teacher, “……our English teacher did this in class, our English teacher did that in class, we had learnt to do this and we had learnt to that…..” I wasn’t boasting about my teacher and the school, of course, but unfortunately, they realized the same, however, it made no difference, I was still happy that I had some extra knowledge and skill of the English language which allowed me to speak and write simple texts without much trouble like they used to have.

Of course, the reason behind the so-called ease was the frequent use of language, may that be in spoken or in written form. In addition, I used to feel that we had got good exposure of the language. In the junior grades, the practice remained limited to reading, writing and speaking. As my school was an English medium school, no doubt, ENGLISH was medium of instruction between teachers-students and students-students interaction. Further, we also used to hear the teachers speaking in English whenever they had something to communicate among themselves. Perhaps my listening skill in English was strengthened by the occasional listening practices I did in schools, I thought.

This was the reason I had given some listening classes when I started teaching. I didn’t know how it was being practiced in other schools, but the way I gave the classes were just like the way I had taken them; I used to have a class on listening after a certain period of time. I taught the other sections in the class. I had at least three exercises of listening in one class. In the class I did nothing more than letting them listen to the recordings and do the exercises they had in their textbooks. It was something that we used to do when we were taught. As a teacher, I used to have easier classes on the day. I didn’t have to do anything in the class more than playing the tape, nor I had to prepare a lessson in advance. This way I recounted my stories of listening English while talking with the friends and also while working as an English teacher.

I had to go back to my school in the last evening once again, however, the reason behind the reminiscence was completely different this time. We had a class on designing tasks for listening skill last Wednesday. The teacher wrote a series of steps that a teacher has to follow while teaching listening which showed that a teacher has to do a lot of homework before coming to the class with the recorded listening texts. There I was enlightened that a series of exercises are to be produced for the students so that they develop a better understanding through the text.

The teacher told me that I have to start the class with schema activation by giving a background context of the listening text so that the students make themselves ready for the class. They, at least, have some clues about the following exercises they are going to do. Similarly, the difficult words of the text have to be dealt with before the text is played. They also need to be made curious about the text so that they listen to it actively. In addition to this, the extensive and intensive exercises need to be developed that are followed by the text related activities to keep the students engaged throughout the class.

I had never done these things as a teacher. All I did was I made them listen to the text and do the exercises of their textbooks. Now those students are in college, perhaps, they don’t say to their friends, “…… it was in SLC, I had, for the first time sat for a listening test.….”

4 thoughts on “……listening then…?

  1. For the first time, i got a chance to read an article published in Nelta Choutari written by my classmate, Tara. I read the article and found it as reflecting the then listening activities in schools & obliged to remember my listening classes at my secondary level. I liked the article, hope to read in coming issues.

  2. I support on what Tara has reflected in this article. Listening for us was the act of listening tape and reply the questions given in our school days however, i think it is our task to make aware of listening activities to the new generation.

  3. Tara ji’s narrative on listening is a common story of most of English teachers in Nepal. The first statement of your narrative may belong to the most of the students in Nepal (especially rural areas) who directly face listening test for the first time in school life. I find my colleagues have not given focus on listening activities at school, which I got to know through the interaction with them. They state the lack of cassettes/playing device as the problems/reasons behind not practising it. You may wonder if I share with you about the listening test I was involved in Rautahat during SLC exam last year. I acted as a playing device there and the examinees listened to me and thus, they had their listening test. You might have found it so funny and so did I. I was asked to read the text thrice before the students write the answers. Although listening practice I think is a great way to motivate the students towards English language learning, there is still a challenge at the schools for listening practice.

    Even at higher secondary (10+2) level in Nepal, the course books ‘meaning into words’ have listening exercises but they are hardly practised in the class since there is no listening test at the examination of the level.

    I studied the old course of English during my schooling, which had not encouraged listening and speaking language skills in the classroom rather than reading and writing comprehension activities. But the new course has the provision of listening and speaking test, concerning stakeholders (teachers, students and school management committee) should realise that such tests are obligatory and they should leave no stone unturned from their sides to make it happen effectively.

    Another thing- I would like to point out from the article. We cannot always blame our school teachers for following the old methods of teaching but they also had some effective methods to teach us. While teaching, we can also adopt/replicate the ideas modifying partially if required.

    1. The points and ideas shared here are worth-considering.What Tara-ji has begun the article with is a frequent case in lots of or most of the government schools, though not in all. Just two days back, I heard my Access colleague revealing that the school he is teaching at had no cassettes for listening activities and he was busy getting them dubbed on finding them available at one of his friend’s by chance. That is what the situation is in many more places. Praveen-ji has himself disclosed that once he acted as a living tape recorder. That is just like how we can maintain formality during exams. But, the matter is all about regular classroom activities on listening, moreover with good preparations. Yes, it is a must if teachers feel their real responsibilities and they must be well prepared with good strategies so that the activities carried out in the listening classes will turn into everyday real practice for better listening capacity. If English teachers are really concerned about students’ right to their listening classes, it is not a big deal. I am sure schools have enough budget or can manage around two thousand rupees to buy a cassette player and cassettes, since where there is a will there is a way. Sorrowfully, many more teachers don’t have interest in bearing responsibilities and growing their efficiency. Interestingly, Birgunj Access Center had two-day training for Access teachers and we could also invite some school teachers. One teacher (let’s not disclose his name – he teaches at secondary level and also at higher ones) asks if he was given any allowance, and then he said that he was unable to attend because his house was under construction. i think that was all due to not having to or not having willingness to bear the responsibilities a good teacher is obliged to.

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