A Study of Non-english Majors’ Listening Comprehension Barriers and Listening Strategies

Abstract: To improve the ability of listening comprehension has always been the focus of language teaching in recent years. In the process of non-English majors’listening acquisition, it is vital important to make students aware of their barriers in acquiring listening abilities and develop the students’listening ability and strategy.In the hope of obtaining data support and constructive suggestions for teaching and learning, the author employs the quantitative and qualitative methodology to make an investigation into listening comprehension barriers and listening strategies used by college non-English majors. The purposes of the study are to find out the biggest barriers the students have encountered during the listening process and the general tendency of the listening strategies the students have employed in listening comprehension. In addition, it also attempts to examine the listening strategy use between the clinical and science students.The subjects involved in the investigation were 147 non-English majors from Hebei Normal University and Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang. Three types of instruments were used in the present study to collect the data: 1) a questionnaire for listening comprehension barriers; 2) a questionnaire for listening comprehension strategies and 3) an interview. The questionnaire for listening comprehension barriers listed 12 items that students might encounter during the listening process. The participants were asked to choose six biggest barriers out of the twelve listening comprehension barriers listed. The questionnaire for listening strategies adopted Oxford’s taxonomy of learning strategies. The data has been keyed into computer and analyzed by the SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Science) version 13.0 statistical program. Descriptive analyses, group comparisons (clinical students and science students), and correlational analyses were made and the results were discussed. The results are presented as follows:1) There are five items as the biggest obstacles chosen by all the subjects: neglecting the following part when comprehending the meaning of the current sentence; having a limited vocabulary, particularly terms and idioms; lacking the competence of distinguishing between principal viewpoint and supporting viewpoint in the listening materials; unable to divide streams of speech into identified sentences and phrases; often losing concentration when listening to the materials.2) As for the general tendency of the overall strategy use, it is revealed that students have adopted the medium level on the basis of Oxford’s classification. Of the six categories, affective strategies are used most frequently, but only to a little degree, compared with compensation strategies. Social strategies are often ignored by the students. Of all the 51 listening strategies, high frequency strategies are guessing intelligently, overcoming limitations, inference, note-taking, self-management and encouraging yourself, while the low frequency strategies are creating mental linkages, applying images and sounds, employing action, advance organization, asking questions and cooperating with others.3) Clinical students were reported a little greater use of listening strategies. However, there are no significant differences in the six categories used by clinical and science students. 4) All the subjects are unsatisfied with their current level of L2 listening competence and they regard English listening as the difficult task. In addition, all the subjects report that the difficulty level in English listening varies in accordance with the listening purpose and materials.The present findings have implications for both learning and teaching of listening comprehension. For one thing, from the reported problems and barriers confronting listeners, it is clear that to improve listening comprehension it is necessary to develop two objectives: linguistic competence and listening strategies. For another thing, the findings suggested a teaching procedure for training listening strategy.Besides, the limitations of the investigation and the areas for further research on listening strategies are also proposed. However, it is assumed that the study may provide a truthful description of listening strategies used by college non-English majors and offer some helpful suggestions to the teaching of listening and the improvement of listeners’ability.
Key words: listening comprehension; listening barriers; listening strategies;

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