Importance of Listening

Listening is part of communication and language arts. There are fights and miscommunications because nobody has the time to listen. This is a very important tool to avoid misconceptions and misunderstanding. Careful listening gives individual good and accurate information. Every individual should develop their listening skills. Until the 1940’s, no one seems to have thought that skillful listening required any particular training. Two causes have produced a changed attitude toward listening.

First, there has been enormous expansion in the means of transmitting the spoken voice: by disc record, tape recording, radio, television, sound motion pictures, and videotapes. Second, there has been increased interest in group discussion, as shown partly by the conferences, conventions, and workshops that are held, and by the many discussion programs on the air.

The language system encompasses the language of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The acquisition of these skills follows a general sequence of development: (1) listening, (2) speaking, (3) reading, and (4) writing. The different language forms have a core language system that underlies and integrates the four elements of language. Experiences with each language form strengthen the underlying language system, which in turn influences an individual’s facility in each language form.

Numerous situations in everyday living require skillful listening. For example, informal conversation, social and business telephoning; interviews; taking part in conferences; listening to speeches, lectures, readings, reports, and plays; and following oral directions.

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From the young child, who gains much of his or her knowledge from speech activities in the classroom, to the courtroom lawyer, whose success depends largely on understanding what is said, the art of listening is a language skill vital to each person’s life and work. Good listening enlarges the listener’s command of language. Through listening to speeches, poetry, and plays, a person can gain an appreciation of literature and of the spoken language.

Through reading and listening have similar problems, listeners face two special conditions. First, they must grasp the meaning at once; there is no opportunity to reflect on what was said or to go back and review it. Second, listeners are directly affected by the personality of the speaker, whose voice, gestures, and presence are often as important as the words being spoken. Thus, there are good reasons for training people to listen effectively.

To be most effective, listening must meet four requirements.

Listening must be focused; listeners cannot be half-hearted in their attention.
2. Listening must be exact; listeners must grasp precisely what has been said, not some vague notion of it. They must be able to take hold of the content, including the sequence of parts and their relationship to the whole.

3. Listening must be aware. Listeners must be critics as well as receivers; they must be able to distinguish the essential from the nonessential; they must be as objective as possible, alert for bias in themselves as well as in the speaker.

4.Listening must be courteous; listener owes the speaker respect and interest.

In education, listening is an element of the language system that has been neglected by educators. Although concern for the instruction of speaking and reading, is common, the student’s ability to listen has been taken for granted. Students are typically expected to acquire this ability without special instructions.

The fact is, however, that many students  do not acquire functional skills in listening by themselves. According to medical hearing specialists, over half the people referred to them for suspected deafness have no defect in hearing acuity and no organic pathology that would cause their seeming hearing impairment.

Listening is a basic skill that can be improved through teaching and practice. Compared with the quantity of research in reading, research in listening is minuscule. One explanation for poor listening skills is that students and people today are so bombarded with constant sound that may have actually learned to “tune out” what they do not wish to hear, and they have become skillful at not listening.

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