Very Narrow Listening – Judith Dubois

All language teachers are confronted with the problem that our students often find it impossible to understand native speakers either face to face or in authentic resources. Listening is a fundamental skill, perhaps the most important of all skills for those who know that Comprehensible Input is the key to Acquisition. How can we help our students? How can we make oral input comprehensible to them?
When we ask students to listen to a scene from a film, typically they blame their difficulties on the actors. “They have an awful accent. They don’t articulate, they swallow half the words!” When they say the actors are speaking too quickly, I reply that they are listening too slowly. This gets a smile, but it actually is the cause of their inability to understand spoken English. They are taking too long to decode what they are hearing. I use Very Narrow Listening to improve my students’ ability to hear English. Once they have done it, they say, “It’s magic.”