Revisiting the Concept of Listening Skills


Muhammad Badamasi Tsaure


This write-up attempts to cast a glance at the meaning of listening on one hand and the skills on the other, thereby, linking the together. The paper also establishes a vivid frame work on the issues related to; categories of listening skills, types of listening, strategies of listening, tips for effective listening skills and more importantly, methods/approach through which listening skills should be taught at secondary school level have also been discussed.


            Researches, very recently have shown that students in secondary schools spend more time listening each day in the class than doing anything. One of these researches give the following figures; 45% of their time is used for listening, 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. This is to show the degree of importance students attached to listening and how significant teaching its effective skills would be to them.

            Listening is such an important language skill that students really need to do well. No meaningful verbal discourse can take place between two persons if one does not listen well to the other. Listening is indeed at the heart of language acquisition and language learning (Asabe, 2013). It also differs from hearing because a listener must be actively engaged in the activity in order for him/her to comprehend what has been said.

What is Listening?

            Listening is the ability to understand the spoken language without difficulty, which satisfies the requirement for national and international intelligibility (oderinde, 1979). It is also defined as “trying to understand the oral messages people are conveying. It involves following attentively the trend of a conversation and requires comprehension. Listening involves critical examination of what is heard. It is also a selective process by which sounds communicated by some source are received, critically interpreted, and acted upon by purposeful listener (Aliu, 2003).

            Skills on the other hand is the talent or ability that comes from training or practice. It is the ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job function involving ideas, things and/or people.

Listening Skills

            Listening skill is a teaching technique used for understanding what is being said by taking into account how something is being said through the use of training or practice that has been given to the listener. Listening skills involves effective training given to the students on how and when to listen.

            According to Banjo (1997), listening skills fall into two broad categories:

I-                   Those concerned with the accurate perception of sound symbols as when discriminating new sounds found in English.

II-                Those concerned with the interpretation of and reaction to what has been heard.

Tips for Effective Listening Skills

1-      Have eye contact with the speaker

2-      Sit straight and adapt a posture to tell the speaker that you are listening.

3-      Show some gestures which represent attentive learning, for example nodding of the head.

4-      Wait for the speaker to complete his speech and then your views; don’t interrupt.

5-      Do not give your views unless you are told to do so.

Strategies for Developing Listening Skills

            Language learning depends on listening, this is because it provides an input which serve as the basis for language acquisition and enable learner to interact in spoken communication. The strategies are as follows:

1-      Listening for main idea

2-      Listening for prediction

3-      Listening for summarizing the main idea

Methods for Teaching Listening Skills

            In teaching listening skills, Audio-lingual method should be used, this is because according to Rivers (1968), and Williams (1990), is an approach in language teaching that aims at developing listening and speaking skills. Students may either be taking to the language laboratory where students learnt the skills or effective listening through audio-segment of radio programs, online podcast, instructional lectures and other audio messages or in the class repeating/practicing oral drills (Yule, 1996).

            In the language laboratory students are asked to listen to the sound being played either through radio or video and then the teacher instruct them (the students) to repeat the exercise on their own. Firstly, instruct the students to prepare for listening by considering anything that they will want to learn from the content of the audio or video segment, allowing the students to take notes. If helpful (Switzer, 2016). Then the teacher repeats the activity but instruct the students not to take note until the completion of the program.

            However, in the class i.e. where language laboratories is unavailable as in the case of so many Nigerian secondary schools. The teacher engages the students in interpersonal activities or group activities. In interpersonal actives, a small group of two or three students would be assigned to listen to a particular activity (such as news in BBC or any recorded programme) and asked the students to imitate or answer some oral questions.

            To sumps it up, teaching listening skills at secondary school involves two major activities. One, in the language laboratory where students listen to some audio-visual progeamme based on the particular lesson intended for them by the teacher. Two engaging in the oral-drill practice in the class room; where teacher sample out some words or passage; read to the students and ask the students to read, pronounce after, until the satisfaction is reached.


Yule, G. (1996) The Study of Language`. Cambridge Press.

Ubahakwe, E. (1979). The Teaching of English Studies. Ibadan. Ibadan University Press.

N.T.A. (2000). NCE/DLS Course Book on English Language Cycle 1. Kaduna Author.

Mike, A. (2013). Nuggets of Linguistics and Literary Studies Vol. II. Kano: Tunlad Prints.

Banjo, A. (1996). Language Studies. Ibadan. Ibadan University Press.


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