One of the difficulties that an ESL/EFL student faces in developing their listening skills is the challenge of coping with a steady stream of connected speech. Elements of spoken English, such as hesitations, repetitions, false starts, and reduced forms of words, can be a great source of frustration for students who are accustomed to listening to course book audio tracks, often featuring actors reading from scripts delivered with careful articulation.
This book, Authentic Listening Resource Pack, aims to remedy this problem with 45 listening lessons, each featuring a two-page photocopiable lesson, accompanied by authentic audio and video materials contained on a DVD-ROM. The audio and video material can also be downloaded on the Delta Augmented app.
Variety is a key feature of this book. The audio and video tracks contain a rich mix of international accents, featuring both native and non-native speakers. The lessons cover an impressive range of topics, both conversational (weather, travel, cooking) and more academic topics (gum disease, viruses, failing eyesight). According to the book’s authors, the lessons are intended for learners at B1 – B2 levels. Although it’s not mentioned specifically in the book, the lessons appear to be geared towards adults and young adults.
Each lesson consists of three sections: before listening, while listening, and after listening. The activities in the ‘before listening’ section prepare students to listen to the audio track, by reading a short introduction to the topic recalling what they know about it. The activities in the ‘while listening’ section take the learners through a series of exercises that increase in difficulty, covering common listening skills such as listening for main ideas and listening for specific information. The activities in the ‘after listening’ section ask students to summarize, discuss and express their opinions of the ideas and information contained in the listening track. In some lessons, learners are asked to evaluate how effective the activities were in helping them to understand the listening track.
One special feature of this book is its emphasis on pronunciation. There are 9 lessons titled Pronunciation for listeners, which focus on elements of pronunciation that are often challenging for ESL/EFL learners, such as weak forms of short words (“of” sounds more like “uh”, “and” sounds like “an”) and crowded syllables (how unstressed syllables are spoken weakly and fast compared to stressed syllables). These lessons can help a teacher zero in on the specific areas of English pronunciation that make connected speech almost indecipherable.
I tried out one lesson, titled “Arriving in a capital city” with an afternoon class. The lesson contains short excerpts from interviews with two people recalling their first visit to a new city. My students enjoy travelling, so they were quite interested in this topic. The three stages of the lesson went well, and they encountered a lot of useful phrases, such as ‘conveyor belt’, ‘huge sprawling area’, and ‘no hassle’. I think the lesson gave the students confidence that they could understand authentic speech, delivered at a normal rate.
The two authors of this book, Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald, have several decades of experience in teaching EFL. They have created a resource book that would be a great asset to any teacher who wants to focus on listening in their lessons. The audio and video recordings are clear and engaging. In addition, the accompanying handouts are superbly written and visually appealing, quite often featuring images. My only criticism of the book is that I wished it contained a few lessons geared towards A1 level learners.
I highly recommend this excellent resource pack for teachers who would like help their students develop their listening skills.
National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences