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Developing Good English Listening Skills Including Reductions

written by: Khaye Mydette Sy Cardenas Macalinao • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 12/30/2013

It's no secret that listening is one of the most challenging aspects of language teaching. Read on and develop your students' listening skills through the TPR activity included here and address your students' difficulty with reductions.

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    Comprehension-Based Strategies

    Teaching a second language learner to develop his or her listening skill in comprehending the targeted language is a challenge. It is a ESL Class Listening challenge that requires both the teacher's and the students' efforts because listening plays such an important role in the acquisition of any new language.

    Nowadays, language teaching has moved toward comprehension-based approaches, making listening to learn an important element in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom (Lund, 1990). When an ESL student has developed his listening skills, the battle in language learning is half won. With a student's good listening skills, the teacher is able to create listening texts and other activities that will hasten the language-learning process.

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    The Total Physical Response (TPR) Method

    The (TPR) Method is the process of learning without speaking. This technique allows the students to physically respond to the teacher's instructions. Good focus on understanding the spoken words is the key point of this activity. Try this in your class!

    Language Skill: Listening

    Duration: 20 minutes

    Group Size: Entire class


    1. Cut out different pictures, each showing a different physical activity such as washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning the yard, painting, etc. Make sure that all the activities you choose are easy to describe and act out.
    2. Mount these pictures on different walls in your classroom.
    3. Verbally describe each one and ask your students to run to the picture. Check if the students respond accordingly then ask them to act it out.
    4. Once the students master this exercise, you may incorporate your lessons in adverbs as you ask them to act out the picture quickly, slowly, carefully, naughtily etc. This extra exercise is guaranteed to add some great fun to the lesson!

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    Addressing Students' Difficulty With Reductions

    Teaching listening comprehension is a demanding process due to several factors. The biggest complaint that teachers get from ESL students when asked to converse with native English speakers is that they couldn't understand what the speakers say because they speak too fast with so many reductions.

    Reductions contribute to the burden of comprehension. In this light, students must be given enough exposure to reductions. Knowing and learning reductions is a great factor that will assist a non-native English speaker to communicate with a native-English speaker.

    These are some common reductions you can introduce in your class:

    SAMPLE ********** REDUCTION********** EXAMPLE

    are you**************ya***********************Where ya going?

    does she************dushi*********************Dushi speak French?

    give me************* gimme*******************Gimme that bag!

    have***************** to hafta****************** I havta go to the mall.

    how did you********how'dya*****************How'dya do that?

    When introducing reductions, it is important to stress to the ESL learners that the use of reductions when conversing is not formal but they just need to know and learn them to be able to understand a native English speaker.

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    Quick Teaching Listening Tips

    • Give a variety of listening tasks.
    • Have students follow directions for activities, games, etc.
    • Remind students that they don't have to understand the meaning of every word. They should be happy getting the overall meaning of what is being said.


    Lund, R.J. (1990). A taxonomy for teaching second language listening. Foreign Language Annals, 23, 105-115.

    Foundation TESOL Course Manual