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Listen for the improvement

One of my favourite quotes is from Frank Tyger: "Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble." But in modern languages, listening can do the exact opposite.

I find the key to effective listening lies in building up pupil confidence and ensuring they listen to the foreign language under the best possible conditions.

I try to link listening to reading, by giving pupils the transcript as they listen. The text can then be exploited before the recording is played again, this time without the transcript.

If the item is quite long, playing it to the class in smaller chunks builds up their confidence in tackling extended listening.

If it is too fast, I stop it and read it myself. You can slow down the original - better a deep, understandable voice then a high-pitched, unintelligible stream of words. Experiment with treble and bass controls.

If you have an LCD projector and you are showing video clips, avoid routing the sound through the projector's internal loudspeaker, as the quality will be pretty poor.

With large classrooms, acoustics can be a problem; there may be dead spots where pupils hear less well. Check this by sitting in different positions while an item is being played.

We know pupils find listening easier if they can see what is going on, and VHS video is fine, but DVD gives better sound quality and offers the advantage of flexible subtitling. Video clips can be superb, especially if you have an LCD projector linked to some decent amplification.

I also recommend as much informal listening as possible, such as using the foreign language for classroom administration and arranging "live" listening (such as impromptu conversations or prearranged dialogues) with the assistant or team teacher.

That way, teacher and class can control speed, repetition and rephrasing, and the exercise can be pitched at precisely the right level.

Finally, I tell my students to remember the acronym, "SALT...": Settle yourself; Anticipate what you are about to hear; Listen attentively; Transcribe what you hear; Interpret what you've heard.

Remo L Nannetti

Principal teacher of modern languages at Notre Dame High School, Glasgow, and author of Mind Your Language! A Practical Guide to Learning a Foreign Language (iUniverse pound;9)

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