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Of this, research shows that an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001). That is, by any standards, a lot of time listening. It is worthwhile, therefore, taking a bit of extra time to ensure that you listen effectively.


Often our main concern while listening is to formulate ways to respond. This is not a function of listening. We should try to focus fully on what is being said and how it's being said in order to more fully understand the speaker.

This problem is attributed, in part, to the difference between average speech rate and average processing rate. Average speech rates are between 125 and 175 words a minute whereas we can process on average between 400 and 800 words a minute. It is a common habit for the listener to use the spare time while listening to daydream or think about other things, rather than focusing on what the speaker is saying.

Listening is giving attention to a sound or action.[1] When listening, a person hears what others are saying and tries to understand what it means.[2] The act of listening involves complex affective, cognitive and behavioral processes.[3] Affective processes include the motivation to listen to others; cognitive processes include attending to, understanding, receiving and interpreting content and relational messages; and behavioral processes include responding to others with verbal and nonverbal feedback.

Listening is a skill for creating problems. Poor listening can lead to misinterpretations, thus causing conflict or a dispute. Other causes can be excessive interruptions, inattention, hearing what you want to hear, mentally composing a response, and having a closed mind.[4]

Listening is also linked to memory. According to one study, during a speech some background noises heard by listeners helped them recall some of the information by hearing it again. For example, when a person reads or does something else while listening to music, he or she can recall what that was when hearing the music again later.[5]

Listening begins by hearing a speaker producing the sound to be listened to. A semiotician, Roland Barthes, characterized the distinction between listening and hearing. "Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act." [8] People are always hearing, most of the time subconsciously. Listening is done by choice. It is the interpretative action taken by someone in order to understand, and potentially make sense of, something one hears.[9]

Understanding, the third level, means knowing how what one says will affect another. This sort of listening is important in psychoanalysis, the study of the unconscious mind. According to Barthes, the psychoanalyst must suspend judgment while listening to the patient in order to communicate with the latter's unconscious without bias. In the same way, lay listeners must suspend judgment when listening to others.

All three levels of listening function within the same plane, and sometimes all at once. Specifically, the second and third levels, which overlap vastly, can be intertwined in that obtaining, understanding and deriving meaning are part of the same process. In this way anyone, on hearing a doorknob turn (obtaining), can almost automatically assume that someone is at the door (deriving meaning).

Active listening involves listening to whatever is being said, attempting to understand it. It can be described in a lot of ways. Active listening requires good listeners who are attentive, nonjudgmental, non-interrupting. An active listener analyzes what the speaker is saying for hidden messages as well as meanings contained in the verbal communication. An active listener looks for nonverbal messages from the speaker in order to comprehend the full meaning of what is being said.[13] In active listening, one must be willing to hear what is being said and try to understand the meaning of whatever has been said. Multiple benefits can accrue from active listening. Being an active listener enables one to become a more effective listener over time. It also strengthens one's leadership skills in the process.[14]

Active listening is an exchange between two or more individuals. If they are active listeners, the quality of the conversation will be better and clearer. Active listeners connect with each other on a deeper level in their conversations.[15] Active listening can create a deeper, more positive relationship between or among individuals.[16]

Active listening is important in bringing changes in the speaker's perspective. Clinical research and evidence show that active listening is a catalyst in one's personal growth, which enhances personality change and group development. People will more likely listen to themselves if someone else is allowing them to speak and get their message across.[16]

Active listening allows for individuals to be present in a conversation. "Listening is a key factor in cultivating relationships because the more we understand the other person, the more connection we create, as taught in nonviolent-communication Dharma teachings. As someone recently stated, "We should listen harder than we speak.""[17]

Along with speaking, reading and writing, listening is one of the "four skills" of language learning. All language-teaching approaches, except for grammar translation, incorporate a listening component.[18] Some teaching methods, such as total physical response, involve students simply listening and responding.[19]

A distinction is often made between "intensive listening", in which learners attempt to listen with maximum accuracy to a relatively brief sequence of speech; and "extensive listening", in which learners listen to lengthy passages for general comprehension. While intensive listening may be more effective for developing specific aspects of listening ability, extensive listening is more effective in building fluency and maintaining learner motivation.[20]

People are usually not conscious of how they listen in their first, or native, language unless they encounter difficulty. A research project focused on facilitating language learning found that L2 (second language) learners, in the process of listening, make conscious use of whatever strategies they unconsciously use in their first language, such as inferring, selective attention or evaluation.[10]

Several factors are activated in speech perception: phonetic quality, prosodic patterns, pausing and speed of input, all of which influence the comprehensibility of listening input. There is a common store of semantic information (single) in memory that is used in both first- and second-language speech comprehension, but research has found separate stores of phonological information (dual) for speech. Semantic knowledge required for language understanding (scripts and schemata related to real-world people, places and actions) is accessed through phonological tagging of whatever language is heard.[21]

In a study involving 93 participants investigating the relationship between second language listening and a range of tasks, it was discovered that listening anxiety played a major factor as an obstacle against developing speed and explicitness in second language listening tasks. Additional research explored whether listening anxiety and comprehension are related, and as the investigators expected they were negatively correlated.[22]

One of the examples of divided logos was Aristotle's theory. Despite its concern with teaching students the oral discourse that mandates listening to produce and analyze enthymemes, listening was displaced and diminished.[6] The attention given to speaking without listening "perpetuates a homogenized mode of speech based on competition rather than dialogue."[23] Ratcliffe attributed this listening neglect to Western cultural biases that are represented as: 1) speaking is gendered as masculine while listening as feminine; 2) Listening is subjugated to ethnicity: white people speak while people of color listen; in other words, in cross-cultural relationships, there is one superior member in the conversation who does not need to listen as closely;[24] 3) Western culture prefers to depend on sight, not auditory, as their primary interpretative trope.[6]

Steven Pedersen states that communication suffers when interlocutors harbor stereotypes and prejudices, a practice that causes dis-identification. Rhetorical listening, in contrast, promotes cross-cultural understanding and allows students and teachers to disrupt reciprocal resistance.[26]

Rhetorical listening in the classroom can also be used to shed more light onto why students are silent. Janice Cools discusses several reasons for silence in the ESL/ELL composition classroom, such as students holding back their wisdom on purpose to avoid being harassed by peers and instructors for giving a wrong answer. The fear and doubt that can result from this type of response might lead to feelings of incompetence and discomfort in an individual and cause them to continue in silence in the classroom. A further reason why students choose silence is because they were taught to be silent, especially at the secondary school level in some cultures, e.g. Puerto Rico. Cools suggests to ask students in writing why they are (not) silent in their classes, "how [they] interpret other students' silences [...] and what a professor should infer from [students'] silence."[30] Students answered that silence can be beneficial as it shows their focus on the material, gives them an opportunity to get to know a different perspective while listening to their peers, and allows them to reflect and process questions. Moreover, discussions can be perceived as interruption because classmates do not have expert knowledge. Cools concludes that silence in the classroom should be appreciated and respected.[30]

The self-study lessons in this section are written and organised by English level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). There are recordings of different situations and interactive exercises that practise the listening skills you need to do well in your studies, to get ahead at work and to communicate in English in your free time. The speakers you will hear are of different nationalities and the recordings are designed to show how English is being used in the world today. 041b061a72


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