Presentation Title

Factors in second language listening comprehension

Project Type

Faculty Scholarship

Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

In studies of second language (L2) listening, researchers have made a variety of claims regarding the nature of successful listening. Both bottom-up (data driven) and top-down (conceptually driven) processing skills play a role in comprehension, but the relative importance of each is debated. Some suggest that accurate decoding of syllables, words, and phrases defines skilled listening, arguing that breakdowns in comprehension are frequently more closely related to errors in bottom-up processing than to errors in top-down processing. This suggests that even though learners’ overall comprehension of messages may be reasonably viewed as more important than their ability to correctly identify each word, decoding cannot be overlooked as a significant component of developing the skill of L2 listening. Others, however, place considerably more emphasis on higher-level strategies, such as using background knowledge and context.

The purpose of the present study is to measure L2 learners’ overall comprehension and word-by-word decoding of the same aural input to examine the relationship between these measures and address the following questions: 1) Is there a minimum level of successful decoding associated with good comprehension? 2) Where decoding errors appear, are they most frequently phonologically similar to the input, semantically appropriate to the context, both, or neither?

Data analysis is ongoing; however, preliminary results suggest that 85% or greater accuracy in decoding is generally associated with good comprehension and that less than 20% of errors are semantically appropriate to the context, which reflects a limited role for context in participants’ decoding of the input.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
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Factors in second language listening comprehension

Fishbowl

In studies of second language (L2) listening, researchers have made a variety of claims regarding the nature of successful listening. Both bottom-up (data driven) and top-down (conceptually driven) processing skills play a role in comprehension, but the relative importance of each is debated. Some suggest that accurate decoding of syllables, words, and phrases defines skilled listening, arguing that breakdowns in comprehension are frequently more closely related to errors in bottom-up processing than to errors in top-down processing. This suggests that even though learners’ overall comprehension of messages may be reasonably viewed as more important than their ability to correctly identify each word, decoding cannot be overlooked as a significant component of developing the skill of L2 listening. Others, however, place considerably more emphasis on higher-level strategies, such as using background knowledge and context.

The purpose of the present study is to measure L2 learners’ overall comprehension and word-by-word decoding of the same aural input to examine the relationship between these measures and address the following questions: 1) Is there a minimum level of successful decoding associated with good comprehension? 2) Where decoding errors appear, are they most frequently phonologically similar to the input, semantically appropriate to the context, both, or neither?

Data analysis is ongoing; however, preliminary results suggest that 85% or greater accuracy in decoding is generally associated with good comprehension and that less than 20% of errors are semantically appropriate to the context, which reflects a limited role for context in participants’ decoding of the input.