Paralinguistic Effects on Developing EFL Students' Listening Comprehension Skills

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study attempts to investigate the effects of the paralinguistic features used by native speakers of English on the EFL students' listening comprehension. The answer to the following question is investigated: To what extent do the paralinguistic features affect the EFL students' comprehension of English spoken by its native speakers at normal speed and in communicative situations? To investigate the problem of this study, two experiments were conducted on 4th year EFL students at Kafr El-Sheikh Faculty of Education, Tanta University. The first experiment was a pilot study spanning two weeks. Accordingly, the main experiment was conducted on two groups: while the first treatment group listened and at the same time watched for the paralinguistic features that accompany spoken discourse, the second control group listened only to the same material. The main experiment lasted four weeks. Then, a Listening Comprehension Proficiency Test (LCPT) was administered to both groups. The scores on the LCPT were analyzed statistically. The results have shown that there are highly significant differences among groups, variables, and their interactions. They also showed that the following paralinguistic features prove to be very effective in understanding and comprehending conversational English according to this order: proximity, posture, lip-setting, looking, facial expression, appearance, gesture, and other miscellaneous paralinguistic features distinguished by hearing. The study concluded that the paralinguistic features are very effective in listening comprehension. Likewise, it points out that within the paralinguistic features themselves, there are some features that are more effective than others. The existence of different paralinguistic features in conversation makes EFL students comprehend rather than memorize English spoken by native speakers. They also proved to be non-destructor elements in conversation.

Introduction

Celce-Murcia (2001, p. 67) points out that "until quite recently, listening comprehension had been neglected with regard to its place in second or foreign language teaching methodology and the development of techniques and materials for use in the classroom". Although the listening comprehension skill is generally considered the basis of the other language skills, i.e. speaking, reading and writing, it is often neglected in EFL instruction. Cronin (1993) supports this viewpoint when he says that: [m]ost people spend more time listening than they spend on speaking, reading and writing combined. Yet, most people know less about listening than they do about the other forms of communication. Further, most people have taken extensive instruction in writing and reading, but have never received any listening instruction. In short, people get the least amount of instruction in the form of communication that they do most. As a result, there are a lot of poor listeners (p. 1).

This negligence may also be ascribed to, as Mahmoud (1982) illustrates, the assumption that the listening skill would develop as a result of transfer of training from the other language skills. Chenfield (1978) also points out that it was believed that listening was an automatic reflex, closely related to intelligence, and could not be taught as a skill in itself. This might also explain why Rivers (1981) has described listening skill as a long neglected area.

From the analysis of the most available EFL and ESL syllabi at schools and universities, one can say that listening is probably the least stressed skill in the language classroom. There are many reasons for this status quo such as the lack of emphasis on teaching listening comprehension in the language textbooks in general and in the lack of available appropriate material specifically developed for and focused on the teaching of listening skills in EFL classrooms. Additionally, even if materials are available for teaching listening, little is offered in terms of methodology or practical application for aiding the EFL students in developing their aural skills. …