Comprehending the spoken form of the target language is one of the most difficult tasks for language learners . Listening Comprehension (LC) is gradually receiving the emphasis it has always deserved . Second language educators now acknowledge it as a crucial skill in second language learning and encourage language teachers to devote more class time to listening activities . The importance of listening can not be overestimated . Listening comprehension enables learners to function successfully in second language community . One of the techniques for improving and testing listening comprehension which is recommended in many books about teaching EFL in general and teaching listening comprehension in particular is dictation .
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Dictation improves listening and comprehension skills . Dictation has been presented in many forms through the years in reading, listening, grammar, and writing classes. It is also used as an assessment procedure. Dictation can be used as both a writing practice when the teacher is willing to employ a procedure for reproduction and as a listening practice when he/she wants to make students listen with attention as much as they can so that , they would write down what they have heard . Chiang (1995) stated that dictation should be substituted for many other languages and listening carefully is one of the important parameters for doing a good dictation . We have four forms of dictation: partial, pair, dictogloss, and prediction.
In this study , the first kind of dictation (partial dictation) is our focus .This study investigate the effects of partial dictation as a listening technique on EFL high school students’ listening comprehension ability .
As above mentioned , conducting such a study seemed necessary because using partial dictation as a listening technique has been recommended in different levels of Iranian high schools , since the efficacy of partial dictation on student’s listening comprehension in Iranian high schools has not been investigated yet , hence the present research will aim at investigating the effectiveness of partial dictation on EFL student’s listening comprehension ability in high school levels so as to fill the gap .
Listening comprehension is at the heart of language learning. Learners want to understand second language (L2) speakers . Listening is an important language skill to develop in terms of second language acquisition (SLA) (Dunkel, 1991;Rost, 2001; Vandergrift, 2007). SLA studies have demonstrated that comprehensible input is critical for language acquisition as well as comprehensible output (Swain, 1995). In spite of its importance, second language (L2) learners often regard listening as the most difficult language skill to learn (Hasan, 2000; Graham, 2003). It is believed that teaching a foreign language is not limited to learning vocabularies and structures.
Morley’s (1977) book Listening Dictation is about using dictation to develop basic skills a in discriminative listening and in extracting meaning from spoken English sentences .Rivers (1981) points out that the lack of attention to listening has no scientific reasons .Chastain (1988) asserts that because listening is an unobservable and abstract process , it is overlooked by teachers . It is believed that listening process is currently gaining attention as a major area of interest in the literature of second foreign language learning (Bacon,1989 ; Johnson,1995).Chastain (1988)asserts , the ability to comprehend the spoken second language plays an essential role in second language learning and use . It is one of only two sources of new linguistic data and general information . It is the more important of the two skills involved in all types of oral exchange . It is a necessary skill for classroom oral communication activities . It is an indispensable skill for oral communication out of class . It is the skill that tends most to impede oral communication between native and non-native speakers and it is the skill most needed out of class by language students attempting to improve their knowledge and use of the second language(p.209). Cele-Murcia (1991) states , ” the importance of listening comprehension in language and language teaching has moved from a status of incidental and peripheral importance to a status of significance and central importance “(p.105) . They believed that the aim of listening comprehension is to make learners understand the language used by native speakers . They said that , the important principles that determine the norms of appropriate language use within the framework of the listening represent comprehension . Today the importance of teaching the spoken language is universally acknowledged . This revolution has ensured that the problems of understanding the spoken form of the foreign language have received increasing attention both in research and in teaching . We now have a much better understanding of the process of comprehension and there are now many courses on offer which claim to teach listening comprehension , and there are many published books and conference papers which claim to support teachers improving their students’ performance in listening comprehension and a lot teaching techniques in this regard have been introduced . One of the techniques for improving and testing listening comprehension which is recommended in many books about teaching EFL in general and teaching listening comprehension in particular is dictation (Cele-Murcia,1996 ; Gillbert,1996 ; Davis,1995 ; Rost,1991 ; Ur,1991 ; Byrne,1978 ; Rivers & Temperley,1978 ; Morley,1977 ; Paulstan,1976 ; Finocchiaro & Bonomo,1973 ) . Rost (2001) mentions that “a key difference between more successful and less successful acquirers relates in large part to their ability to use listening as a means of acquisition” (p. 94).Vandergrift (2007) points out, one of the reasons might be that learners are not taught how to learn listening effectively.
Dictation improves listening and comprehension skills .For a language learner to be a proficient partner in any dictation, need to be skillful at both comprehension and listening, so in order to make the students be more competent in writing skills of language, course designers have devoted most of their time to generating exercises on teaching listening and comprehension in tandem. Oller (1979) considers dictation to be a type of integrative test , a test which requires a learner to use several language skills at the same time . Davis and Rinvolucri (1988) mention that dictation is on effective measure of teaching . Ur (1991) recommends using dictation exercises as an activity for listening both for perception and comprehension . According to the Longman Dictionary of language teaching and Applied linguistic (Richards, Platt, & plat , 1992) , ” Dictation is a technique used in both language teaching and language testing in which a passage is read aloud to students , with pauses during which they must try to write down what they heard as accurately as possible ” (p.108) .Davis (1995) in his book , mentions ten reasons for using dictation in EFL classes including giving a good listening practice to the whole class in a short time and making students listen attentively.Yoshida (1978 , 1981 , 1984) found statistically significant positive correlations between dictation and the result of listening tests , and based on these findings , claims that dictation can be a good teaching device . His findings indicate that dictation is a good predictor of learner’s listening ability .
We have four forms of dictation: partial, pair, dictogloss, and prediction.
Partial (sometimes known as cloze)
In this kind of dictation , words, phrases, or chunks of language have been deleted, and students are required to listen and write down the missing words. All the dictations should be discussed upon completion. Pair work is encouraged, and spelling can be corrected , in other words , Partial dictation requires the students only to fill in the blank space of the write passage they have before them and therefore need not be as attention as in writing passage dictation . In a partial dictation , the written passage , may contain structures which the students can recognize , but not necessarily produce.
Pair (sometimes known as mutual)
This dictation requires students to work in pairs to combine two partial texts into one continuous piece. One student (Student A) has a gapped copy of the dictation, and the other student (Student B) has a differently gapped copy. Each student has half of the text. They should not look at each other’s sheets. Student A dictates and Student B writes, then B dictates and A writes, back and forth, and so on until the story is complete. The first one the students do should be modeled first.
In this kind of dictation, the focus is on getting the gist or main idea of a sentence or short paragraph. There are many variations of the dictogloss technique. In the directions for the sentence-level dictogloss, students are told that they will hear a sentence only once, after which they are to jot down the words they can recall and try to reconstruct the sentence in writing as accurately as they can. The first time this is done, the teacher will probably have to allow the students a second reading until they discover that they need to pay attention the first time around. This is especially true for high beginner/low intermediate level students. As the students work at rebuilding the sentences, they can work in pairs or groups of three or four. Some teachers like to have students write their sentences on the board for all to see and discuss.
Prediction lessons come in two parts. The first part focuses more on reading skills and grammar. The students can work individually or in pairs, reading the passage and predicting (or guessing) what should be in each blank space. Any logical or grammatically correct word or phrase can be accepted. The second part requires the students to listen to the same passage and see if their guesses were correct, or similar.
The present study was conducted to determine the effect of partial dictation on the listening comprehension ability of EFL high school students .
Probable reasons for the significant effect of partial dictation on the listening comprehension ability, may be as follows :
It improves listening and comprehension skills .
It is an activity that seems to always have a positive effect on classroom management .
It allows teachers to present texts for learners for a later focus on skills or language , either vocabulary or grammar .
It helps learners see the relationships between spelling and pronunciation .
During each dictation participants had to keep one chunk of meaningful speech in their mind until they could write it on paper . This may have helped strengthen their memory .
Dictation with recording of native speakers of English makes learners aware of difficulties of understanding English spoken by native speakers in comparison with the English spoken by Iranian EFL teachers . Native speakers’ English is quite different from Iranian EFL teachers’ English in terms of pronunciation , including pronunciation of some sounds , rhythm , sentence stress , weak forms , intonation , and linkage . This coincides with Kenworthy’s (1990) recommendation to use dictation of native recorded speech to make learners aware of these aspects of pronunciation .
Dictation can be easily used in different kinds of EFL classes : elementary , intermediate , advanced ; adolescent or adult ; male or female ; homogeneous or heterogeneous ; large or small , etc . It is quite practical ; all is needed is getting some suitable native recorded tapes (considering the students level , most of the time just the types accompanied by student textbooks are enough) and a cassette player . It does not take much of the class time and it engages all the students in the class with a challenging listening exercise . Just one point that should be mentioned here is that students should not be given long dictation , because as Rost (1991) insists , dictation is a very useful exercise but if students are forced to write too much it becomes tedious .
When EFL learners are given dictation, they notice their weaknesses in perceiving and understanding English spoken by native speakers and try harder to improve their LC ability.
Because this study found that dictation can have a positive effect on the listening comprehension ability of elementary EFL learners, EFL teachers can use this technique in their classes with more confidence.
In some countries such as Iran where students do not have access to native English speakers, EFL teachers can make use of this technique to familiarize their students with the English spoken by native speakers. If EFL students are exposed only to English spoken by Iranian EFL teachers, even after learning considerable grammar and vocabulary they cannot understand native English speakers easily. Dictation makes EFL learners aware of many aspects of the pronunciation of English spoken by native speakers. It may also affect their listening comprehension ability and their pronunciation. Using dictation to make students aware of different aspects of pronunciation and the sound system of English has been recommended both by Kenworthy (1990) and Celce-Murcia (1996). Dictation can easily be used in various kinds of EFL classes. Dictation can be used not only as a listening exercise, but also as a listening test (Farhady,Jafarpoor, & Birjandy, 1994; Celce-Murcia, 1996). It is recommended as a general English proficiency test (Oller, 1979). It can be used in error analysis studies (Hemmati, 1990). Some ELT experts, such as Bowen, Madson, and Hilferty (1985), have recommended it for teaching writing, and some have recommended it for teaching grammar (Morely, 1977; Kidd, 1992).
This study not only emphasized a useful way of partial dictation on listening comprehension , but also can be used as an effective method to improve the students’ spelling and pronunciation ability.
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