Thursday, August 7, 2014

IELTS Listening Strategy

Why do some people want to learn a new language?

As one of the most spoken languages in the world, more and more foreign nationals are studying English. English has been used for different purposes; most of these are related to business and education. Many believe that learning the language puts a one step forward to a promising career and education all over the world. Indeed, one has an edge over another person who does not know how to speak English.

IELTS listening

For many years now, a lot of people have been taking English proficiency examinations. More companies and academic institutions trust these examinations as they gauge an individual’s fluency with the English language through a series of tasks from the four core skills in English – reading, listening, speaking and writing. One of the trusted names in this industry is the IELTS or the International English Language Testing System examination.

The IELTS is one test where one should improve their skills to be able to get an outstanding score. Among the sections of the test, the listening section needs a good strategy to achieve a good score. It is known that there are two listening processes that one must know and even discover: the top-down and bottom-up listening.

Top-down Listening

A top-down listening relies on the person’s natural knowledge on things. This can cover his or her background knowledge on the topic or the situation or even with the language used. The knowledge that the person have naturally creates an expectation to what is heard which results to anticipation.

For example:

A student hears this, “I really want to visit the museum on Saturday; the problem is I have to attend a lecture for one of my major subjects in school.”

Using the person’s prior knowledge, he or she anticipates that the speaker will not be going to the museum on Saturday. This prediction is based on the fact that the speaker has to attend a school lecture. In top-down listening, the listener puts emphasis on the background knowledge he or she has to understand a message. He or she could use his prior experience or knowledge to come up with this assumption.

Bottom-up listening

Conversely, the bottom-up listening is dependent on the information presented to get the meaning – the person has to strip each word to get the meaning in the context. It is technical as knowledge is drawn upon the effective usage of words and grammar in the sentence. This skill is more evident on new learners of English language as they are particular with the sentence construction to understand.

For example:

A person hears this, "The Maori value genealogy highly."

Since some words in this sentence are new to the listener, he or she breaks down the sentence to understand the context. It is possible that the person will look up the meaning of the words Maori and genealogy in the dictionary to understand what the sentence means.

In IELTS, these two listening process are needed to understand listening passages. Candidates have to understand the context based on what they have experienced in their lives and apply their knowledge on vocabulary to understand the whole message of the passage. Through these, candidates can respond correctly to the questions.

Building skills for these takes practice. Hence, as early as today, learners of the English language, particularly those who want to take the IELTS, should know more on top-down and bottom-up listening.


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