Language Skills… Learning a language requires the acquisition of several skills. A skill could be defined as a special ability to do something well, especially as gained by learning and practice (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English). The basic language skills, in their order of complexity are: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Listening and speaking are usually classified as the oracy skills because they enable us to hear and speak a language while reading and writing are classified as the literacy skills because they enable us to read and write the language we speak. Also Read Barriers to Effective Communication
As stated earlier in the previous chapter, language is not inherited but learned. The learner, if his hearing organs are in good condition, hears the sounds of a language repeatedly and then begins to learn how to make those sounds himself.
Listening is the first basic skill that a language learner acquires. The child, for example, is continually bombarded with speech and noises of different types from the moment he is born . Gradually, he learns to attach meaning to the sounds he hears and, with time, he begins to imitate those speaking to him.
Although listening is a receptive skill, in the sense that the listener is at the receiving end, it is not a passive skill Rather, it is an active skill. This is because whenever we listen to a conversation, a talk, a debate, an interview, or an argument, we have to make some effort to understand and interpret what the speaker is saying, and how they are saying it. We can therefore infer that what is involved in listening is the acquisition of skills that will enable the user to hear well the pronunciation of the speaker and to understand and interpret the speaker’s message. In order to do all the above, we have to be active listeners. An active listener does not only try to understand the meanings of the words spoken by a speaker, he also tries to get additional information, such as the mood or attitude of the speaker, his undertones and overtones, stress and intonation. In addition, the active listener strives to discover the purpose of the speaker’s message, whether it is to entertain, to inform, to persuade or dissuade, or to express an opinion. On the part of the listener also, he has to know his own purpose of listening, for this will determine the degree of attention he will give to what he is listening.
Types of Listening
There are broadly four types of listening, namely, attitudinal, informational, appreciative, and analytical.
We can discuss each of these briefly.
The attitude of a listener could affect his listening. If he his blased against the speaker, he is likely not going to pay full attention to him. The listener in such a situation would just hear the words of the speaker without making any effort to understand him. Hearing is passive while listening is Active.
Environmental factors can also affect the attitude of the listener. If the place where the speech is being made is uncomfortable or noisy, the listener is likely to be inattentive. A good listener should keep an open mind while listening to a speaker and should be able to encourage the speaker by means of facial expressions, gestures, nods and smiles. He should realize that he must have a purpose for listening, and listen very carefully in order to fully understand the speaker’s speech.
Listening for information is the most common type of listening that we do. Students listen to lecturers and try to note the key points. We listen to news from the radio or the television, or to conversations. We also listen to instructions on what to do, and how to do it. Good listener try to differentiate main points from minor ones, the relevant points from the irrelevant ones. The degree to which a student learns to do this determines his level of success in his academic work.
This type of listening requires more than just listening to general information. The listener listens for such things as the tone of the speaker, his mood, his diction and his fluency. When we listen to poems or stories we should be able to appreciate such devices as imagery, rhymes, and effectiveness of choice of words. We should be able to appreciate what interesting or discussing. A good listener should be able to determine the bias or interest of the speaker. Take the following statements, for example:
- Amadi killed Agbara.
- Amadi murdered Agbara.
- Amadi butchered Agbara.
In the first statement, the speaker uses the word ‘Killed’ which is emotionally neutral, indicating that the speaker is only interested in stating a fact while in the second and third statements, the speakers use the words ‘murdered’ and butchered respectively to reflect their condemnation of the act.
Analytical listening is also known as critical. listening and is the most advanced type of listening. This type of listening involves using clearly stated information or facts to arrive at other facts that the not clearly stated. The listener should be able to determine when the
facts or his opinion, or id involved in propaganda.
If we listen very carefully to political commentators we would be able to determine their party leanings, or if they are in support of or are against certain political figures. Similarly, if we listen to advertisements, we should be able to discern when the advertiser is exaggerating..
Human beings have the innate capacity to learn speaking a language or languages. We have earlier highlighted the fact that language is a human phenomenon which is not inherited, unlike animals which inherit the sounds they use for communication from their parents. It was also noted that language is primarily spoken and that writing is the arbitrary graphic representation of speech sounds of a language. ‘The basic speaking skills are “acquired early in life, probably during the child’s first four years. As the child grows up, he refines these skills and begins to communicate more clearly and effectively.
Organs used in speech production
Speech is performed through the use of speech organs such as the lips, teeth, tongue, the roof of the mouth (palate) and the vocal cords. Also involved in speaking is the use of bodily actions such as nodding, gestures, frowning, and smiling. In learning a language we need to learn the appropriate use of these bodily actions, as well as the sound of the language.
Human beings use The air from the atmosphere which is inhaled into the lungs, which are the source of the airstream used for the production of the sounds.The process of sound production stat at the lungs from where exhaled airstream passes through the windpipe and is modified by the vibration of the vocal cords which are located at the larynx (voice box). This air undergoes further motification at the mouth or the nose before it is finally released as speech sounds.