Scholarly article on topic 'On Listening Fluency in Seminars of GermanLanguage'

On Listening Fluency in Seminars of GermanLanguage Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Sarka Hubackova

Abstract The terms listening fluency is thought a student's skill of listening to a coherent discourse and understanding it during its performance. The article concentrates on working with a coherent text as a means to improving mastery of listening skill. After the characteristics of texts the author continues with describing of her teaching proceeding in the situation when not only the text itself but also its recording is at her and studentś disposal and may be used during seminar work. The examples of vocabulary-based exercises are given containing work with derived and compound words. The syntax-based tasks follow up supplemented by examples of some testing the textś comprehension.

Academic research paper on topic "On Listening Fluency in Seminars of GermanLanguage"

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ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 191 (2015) 1671 - 1675

Social and Behavioral Sciences

WCES 2014

On Listening Fluency In Seminars Of German Language

Sarka Hubackova a *

aUniversity of Hradec Kralove, Rokitanskeho 62, 50003 Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic


The terms listening fluency is thought a student's skill of listening to a coherent discourse and understanding it during its performance. The article concentrates on working with a coherent text as a means to improving mastery of listening skill. After the characteristics of texts the author continues with describing of her teaching proceeding in the situation when not only the text itself but also its recording is at her and students' disposal and may be used during seminar work. The examples of vocabular y-based exercises are given containing work with derived and compound words. The syntax-based tasks follow up supplemented by examples of some testing the texts' comprehension.

© 2015TheAuthors. Publishedby ElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of WCES 2014 Keywords: German language, listening, students' skills;

1. On listening fluency in seminars of German language

Before I go into the questions of work on listening texts, I want to indicate briefly my school environment. My responsibility concerns teaching German as a foreign language in higher education. The studies take six terms, German is taught as an optional subject in two-hour seminar lessons every week during every term. A seminar group usually has about twenty students; most of them are women. There is no lecture concerning German language, grammar is tackled irregularly and occasionally in short teacher's presentation. Our seminar groups - about 20 students - are very heterogeneous with very different interests, which make their study motivation very difficult. Their mother tongue is Czech. I sometimes use it when explaining a point of grammar concepts especially if they are difficult to explain in the German language. We of course teach all language skills. For teaching the listening skills we use recordings with cultivated language and good pronunciation. We usually incorporate a recording into every seminar. We take advantage of electronic technic methods, very often of eLearning. So our seminar lessons are regularly taught in blended learning format. Recording authors are native speakers. We win over short abstracts of

* Sarka Hubackova. Tel.:+420 493 332302 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of WCES 2014 doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.04.334

Deutsche Welle broadcast. The texts of the recordings are very different in topics; we try to meet students' interests and not to be boring. The abstracts have been edited in a book version (Hubackova, 2011). Students can utilize it during their home preparation, but not in the seminar lessons. Whenever we work on a listening text, we hand out working sheets with the relevant text. It is printed in the sheet together with several assignments. The texts are approximately of the same length, of about 280 words in average. The texts are coherent abstracts of prose, not real life dialogues. They are perfectly grammatical, primarily perhaps originated as written discourses, without colloquial vocabulary items. They are not academic, are composed in neutral style, their composition is clear. They always only have one topic. Working on the texts we proceed from these principles. We incorporate speaking as well as writing tasks. We never elaborate assignments of the same type in the same lesson. We alternate easy tasks with the difficult ones. We always start with an easy job and we often use volunteer responders at the beginning. The system of tasks described in this paper addresses first of all the listening skill, but we make the most of using the texts for all points of language teaching. Although the tasks used in single separate seminar lesson are very different, every of then is a component of a system, because the assignments may be divided into following types: listening and reading exercises, syntactical tasks, vocabulary job, composition tasks, morphological study. There are three or more different tasks in every type group. The kind of jobs covered in a seminar depends on the sort and characteristics as well as on the topic and content of the recording used in the relevant lesson. But all occasion of recording usage have two things in common: First, less time is spent on explaining grammar. Secondly, we always test how much students understand the contents and the gist of the recording given. If necessary, we play the recording twice, but we never reduce the speed of it. Students should get accustomed to understanding people at the natural speed they speak. I always tell students the topic of the recording and I indicate the first task connected with the listening. By announcing the topic I want to arose their curiosity, expectations and interest and give them some motivation. I cannot rely that students have enough experience with recordings and I indicate the task to prevent their listening of the whole at the same level of attention. I do not want them listening without any concentration on information they will need for their task. I teach them to listen carefully to all the text but at the same time selectively for specific information. They are allowed to put down as many notes as they can manage during the listening either in German or in their mother tongue. I point them out that such notes should be selected in terms of the given task.I may suppose which words, which structures or parts of the relevant text might cause difficulties concerning the understanding of the text. To be sure that I have been right in my estimation I dictate the relevant sentences or parts of the text to students. It is good for them, because they can hear those text parts for the second time. And it is good for me. I know from my experience that during the dictation students make most mistakes in words or structures which they do not understand. That is why I allow them not to write heard words or structures that they do not understand and therefore they fear to make a mistake in their spelling. But it is not the spelling I am interested in. Such student's performance is a very reliable mirror of his vocabulary related to the relevant text. I do not evaluate such dictations but I work with students' papers further on.

My assumption has of course its other side as well. I set the tasks in such a way that students are able to carry them out even if they do not understand all sentences of the recording. I maintain three principles: First, the task must not be based on introductory sentences of the recording. Student has to get used to the voice, speed and volume of the recording. Secondly, the order of the tasks matches up with the text. The information related to the first task goes first. Thirdly, I always give two tasks: one as a closed question or a hint, the other one as an open question. To be concrete: The abstract's title is Die Roboter kommen (Robots are coming) (Hortexte, p. 11). Task 1: Catch the name of the well-known firm producing robots. Task 2: Give two or three thing or actions robots manage to do as babysitters. If you have enough time prepare the second response in writing. It is very important for students to get the conclusive proof that they manage to give a satisfactory response without understanding every word of the text. A successful result changes the student's attitude to listening. If I speak to him I can find out that his attitude so far has been something like this: I have never believed that I would be able to do it. I have always thought that I have to understand every word to be able to carry out such a task. If I have not understand a word here and there, I usually got stressed and I was afraid I would fail. It has an immense motivation force to be successful. And that is why I select relatively simple texts and set easier tasks for the first and the next listening.

The dictation is sometimes devoted more to grammar. If so, I do not allow students to omit the words they do not understand. They have to put down everything they hear. If they think that the unknown word is a noun, they have to write it with a capital letter at its beginning, as it is standard in German. If they mean the new word might be a verb,

they have to underline it. To start with exercises, we usually incorporate the task that possibly looks very simple at first sight, but that is not quite plain. We hand out worksheets with reprinted listening text and ask students to read it approximately in the same speed they have just heard and not to make mistakes. We do not develop reading as a special language skill, we only invite students to decode the text accurately. Sometimes we get students to repeat the first reading and to try and imitate the native speaker's pronunciation, his sentence melody, his clause intonatio n, clause stress and his division of the text into suitable parts, into speech stretches. I am speaking from experience if I say that it is a hard task for many students to fulfil all those partial goals when reading an unknown text for the first time. And that is why I get volunteers to read. After the first reading I usually play the recording again and I invite students - this time no volunteers - to read the text out and clear. A serious point of attention is the intonation of questions, if they - by any chance - occur in the relevant text. I play the text again in some cases until even the weaker students achieve the desired level of fluency and accuracy mastery. I sometimes do not replay the whole text but only the contexts representing some difficulties. Even some words are difficult on account of their formal peculiarities. The students have the Hortexte at their disposal and therefore I can give the reading of the relevant text as a home work. Then, at the beginning of the next seminar I sometimes repeat both playing and at least one reading of the text. Here I want to mention that I am quite aware of the fact that mere reading written text aloud does not contribute to students' understanding the natural spoken discourse but I consider this kind of reading without mistakes as a necessary feature of a cultivated and graduated man. I want to deal listening to real-life texts in another contribution of mine. Whenever I want to continue on working with the text I warn students to bring their dictionaries into the lesson. It must be mentioned here that I teach students whose mother tongue is Czech and that their dictionaries are Czech-German, not the monolingual German ones. Every student gets a worksheet of the text reprinted with several gaps in it at the beginning of the seminar lesson. His task is to insert missing words he has heard in the recording. The difficulty of the task is heavily influenced by two factors. Firstly, the possible students' knowledge of the missing word, secondly of the word class of the relevant item. If the missing word is known to the student, the task does not represent any problem, with exception perhaps of its spelling. If the student does not know the word left out of the text or its spelling, he is allowed to insert the synonym of the supposed word. Then, the easiest is the task, if the relevant word is an adverb. Even in this case, however, the solution is a bit complicated, because the student has to:

Understand the context.

Try to work out what the missing word approximately means.

Look up the right word relating to that meaning in the dictionary.

Select the most suitable word, if the dictionary is covered by several lexical units. If he has been proceeding well, he might come to the same item that is in the original recording text. Situations like this hardly ever do without consulting the teacher. On the other hand, they always remain in the field of vocabulary. It makes the job far more difficult if the left word is a noun, an adjective, a verb, or a conjunction. Then the task concerns the German grammar. If it is a noun or an adjective, it is a declination of the difference between singular and plural what is the very core of the problem. The inflections might not be quite clear even in a recording of a very good pronunciation and acoustic quality. If the missing word is a verb, then there is a difference, if it is its simple or compound form. The task concerns German syntax if the left word is a conjunction. That subject matter represents one of the most difficult points of German language and as a such it must be tackled almost always in collaboration with the teacher. It is typical of students' attitude to foreign language teaching that they always do listening and reading exercises with interest. They do not consider practicing pronunciation, sentence stress and especially clause intonation as primitive devices of teaching and a loss of time. They do not get bored with exercises mentioned. They consider good pronunciation, intonation and sentence modulation to be very significant discourse markers helping not only with understanding coherent spoken text but also with common conversation. To change the difficulty of job we incorporate the assignment of learning out the conjunction under the question and to transform the compound sentence into two independent clauses. The only trouble for students may be that the sentence change usually concerns the word order of a clause. Another useful assignment is to invite students to connect two or three independent sentences into one compound sentence. It is a good idea to accompany the solving of the task by some graphic illustration, for instance by a diagrammatic scheme of the sentence structure on the board.

A syntactic and vocabulary task at the same time may concern the replacing of a conjunction by another one. This, for instance, is the case if we invite students to replace a very common and frequent temporal German

conjunction wenn by a more specific conjunction in a context. An analogical task may be the replacement of the conjunction wen by a conditional conjunction in another context.

Vocabulary study is on the seminar program very often. We start usually with a task connected with students' opportunity of using the Hörtexte during their home preparation. I must mention here that some abstract entries of represented listening texts are accompanied by sets of new words. Students know this way of working with them from secondary schools. I had incorporated words which might supposedly be new to students. I usually start with an assignment that is actually no task in the true sense of the word. It proceeds like this: Students get the worksheets with new words to the relevant text reprinted from my book. I invite students to cross out all the words they already know and therefore the entries were reprinted in necessarily. They always do that "task" with interest. Its results are a very good picture of students' real vocabulary extension and a very useful guideline for my next work in that field.The words mentioned and introduced in my book, however, have no equivalents in students' mother tongue, but their dictionary meaning is briefly explained in German. I give students the task to get familiar with new words meanings and I point out to study the German explanations of new words very carefully. In relating to that assignment in the next seminar they meet task like this (the example is from Hörtexte p.68): Read the sentence Er arbeitet als Gerichtsvollzieher and rewrite it replacing its noun in your own words. The task might be very easy for the student who had prepared carefully at home but the student without a home preparation leaves this task required out. Such results are very useful for my students' evaluation. I sometimes experiment to work with German synonyms. The tasks are short and clear but they seem to be difficult for students. Their vocabulary range is - with some exceptions - usually rather poor. If the original text is an abstract of an academic essay, I do not incorporate a synonym task in my seminar lessons at all. Every original German text contains some lexical units that can be used as starting points for extension students' vocabulary by means of derivation new words. My goal then is a collaborative approach of the whole seminar group to making word nests. To start with, I usually choose a very frequent adjective. I want to mention here that this choise is better a beginning with a noun. The derivation goes usually from the adjective klar the word nest is as follows: adj. unklar, verb erklären, noun Erklärung, Klarheit, Unklarheit. Students are not usud to extend their vocabulary in this way and work with interest. As for verbs, I do not work with nest of this kind. I concentrate students' attention on prefixed items and on differentiation between the separable and reseparable prefixes. I choose a plain verb as a starting point and add the newly formed words: sagen - aussagen, vorsagen, zusagen, vorhersagen. I try to explain the meanings of new verbs. It is easier than to explain the meanings of prefixes. The difference between the both kinds of prefixes is of importance by forming of some verb forms. I incorporate a short exercise to practice it. This makes the proceeding of the issue of verbs more interesting but also more difficult. The occasional analysis of derived nouns is focused on the connection of the most frequent suffixes with the gender characterization of nouns.

A serious point of attention connected with forming new words in German is the issue of compound words. They represent a typical element of vocabulary. My goal in this case is to accustom the students to the types of compounds used in conversational language, to get them familiar with the basic rules of making up the most frequent kinds of compounds. Less time is spent on explaining their spelling focused especially on the interfix -s-. The difficult issue of composition as well as the level of students' language knowledge requires me to limit the learnt material to the compound types which can be covered by the basic rules of composition. That is why we usually analyse the two-element compound (the main types are Trinkwasser, Fremdsprache, Bahnhof, Untergang) the three -element ones (like Hauptbahnhof, Hochschullehrer, Mittelalterdichtung) but not the more complicated items. Vocabulary point of view and dictionary meanings of compounds are always complemented with the grammar characterization of compounds under discussion. It might sound a bit strange, but in my experience the most successful way of teaching usage of compound words may be deduced from the periphrastic explaining of their meanings. The assumption of course is that the students know well the lexical meaning of the root words. We practice the ways of formulating lexical relations of the elements, for instance: Trinkwasser ist das Wasser das wir trinken können. Students will grasp very soon that the compound is a very economical and practical way of language usage. Another useful process may be to contrast a new German compound which students encounter with a relevant structure in their own language but I should prefer the first suggestion mentioned. In no case I require using compound as "compulsory" units and I do not consider as mistakes when students use periphrastic ways of formulation, instead of relevant compounds that would most probably use a native speaker.

The global objective of this article has been to contribute to developing students' listening fluency. I think this term as a students' skill of listening to a coherent discourse and understanding it during its performance at the same time.


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Hoffmann,L. (1987). Kommunikationsmittel Fachsprache : <<eine>> EinfUehrung. 3. Aufl. Berlin : Akademie Verlag, 1987, 307 s. Hubackova, S.; Ruzickova, M. (2011). Experience in foreign language teaching with ICT support. In Procedia Computer Sciences by Elsevier Ltd., Volume 3, 2011, Pages 243-247. C ISSN: 1877-0509. Retrieved Februar 08, 2011 from Hubackova, S. (2011). Hörtexte. Skriptum. 1. vydani. Hradec Kralove: Gaudeamus 2011. 70s. ISBN-978-80-7435-123 -5.