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COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES- I ENGLISH LISTENING AND SPEAKING SKILLS 16. GLOBAL LISTENING COMPREHENSION (Understanding the Meaning of Spoken Sentences, Dialogues and Discourses; Distinguishing between Relevant Information and Subsidiary Details; Beginning Writing Skills) The most important part of communication is to understand the meaning when some one is speaking. One has to sift the relevant information among all the details that are spoken and this lesson aims to build skills to listen and understand better.

16.0 Objectives By the end of this unit you will: i. ii. iii.

Distinguish between Relevant Information and Subsidiary Details Comprehend varying lengths of Spoken English Construct different types of sentences

16.1 Introduction You have been working on various skills that help you understand Spoken and Written English. By now you have understood that this language has a vast vocabulary. Additionally, you have learnt many strategies thus far. From this lesson onwards you will be focusing more on your listening and writing skills. Although you will not work extensively in the area of writing, it is important that you understand some basics of sentence formation. Knowledge in this area will support your understanding of written language as well as your comprehension in the area of the spoken language.

16.2 Understanding the Meaning of Spoken Sentences, Dialogues and Discourses When we listen to someone speaking we do several things quickly one after the other: • •

our ear first hears the sounds the person makes our brain registers the sounds and tells us how the sounds go together to make words, which in turn are put together to make sentences

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thereafter, the brain uses all that it knows already (like familiar words, and previously known information of the topic) to make sense of and understand what has been said. It does not matter whether we are listening to a short sentence, a longer sentence, a short speech or a long discourse. The same steps that have been described above occur. We need to be aware of these steps. Although we go through the same steps, in the case of longer discourse yet, it is imperative that we are able to understand the gist of the whole speech. We need to know the main idea and then pay attention to the supporting details. That is, we need to know exactly what the speech is about, and pay attention to the various details that support the main idea. It is therefore, essential that we build upon our listening skills so we are able to fully understand what we hear. As always, we must remember that the more carefully we listen to conversations in English, we will be better equipped to understand words in this language.

16.3 Distinguishing between Relevant Information and Subsidiary Details So, what will we do when we listen to people around us? The primary goal is to understand two important things: • •

What is the main idea? What important details are there in the spoken language that help us understand the main idea better? The main idea is the main reason why that person is speaking. This is the relevant (or important) information that the speaker thinks you need. The supporting details are details that give us more information about the main idea. These are the subsidiary details. Tips for understanding the relevant information and subsidiary details. When you listen to someone talking, you must do the following:

1. First, quickly think about who is speaking, and under what circumstances he is speaking (i.e. the context or the situation-why is he speaking?). By doing this, you are automatically preparing yourself to listen actively. 2. Then, you must think about the main idea. 3. Listening for the subsidiary details has to occur almost simultaneously with the main idea. Remember, people do not repeat what they say- they expect you to understand what they are trying to tell you once. It is almost like taking

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“mental” notes and “writing” down in your mind every important fact that they say. 4. Sometimes, you may have a chance to repeat the whole or part of the conversation before you need to act. But most likely you may not. 5. It is almost like making a summary about what the whole conversation/speech was about. Think about only the most important meaning of the conversation/speech and perhaps 1 or 2 details.

16.4 Beginning Writing Skills: Constructing Different Types of Sentences One of the greatest challenges for writers of all ages and in all areas of life is writing in clear, precise and concise language. It is very easy to have sentences that begin correctly but end up being very confusing. Some sentences can be incomplete, while others may be so long that the reader just cannot understand what is being said. Hence, it is important to develop skills that will enable you to compose sentences which express complete thoughts and make sense in the context. Now, let us see what you should do to develop good sentence writing skills. Be conscious of the following guidelines when writing. 1. Write Complete Sentences You must use only complete sentences in your writing. A complete sentence has a subject and verb. It also expresses a complete thought. 2. Avoid Sentence Fragments A sentence fragment may look and sound like a sentence, but in reality, it is not a sentence. Instead, it is a group of words which is missing either a subject or a verb. e.g. Thought he did well in the exam. (Here, the subject is missing) Instead, it should be a complete sentence- My brother thought he did well in the exam. 3. Avoid Run-On Sentences A run-on sentence is when two basic sentences are joined together without any connecting word (conjunction) or punctuation (like a comma or semi colon). E.g. By the end of the day I was so tired my eyes kept shutting my head was hurting I thought I would fall down. (Here, the sentence needs punctuation and conjunctions) Instead, this run-on sentence should actually look like this: By the end of the day I was so tired, my eyes kept shutting, my head was hurting, and I thought I would fall down.

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4. Avoid Rambling Sentences Rambling sentences are formed when several simple ideas are connected with the word and. e.g. Last night when my father came home he told us that he had been promoted to the position of the manager and we were so happy to hear his news that we wanted him to give us a treat and we all went out for ice-cream. Instead, it should be several sentences in sequence: Last night when my father came home he told us that he had been promoted to the position of the manager. We were so happy to hear his news we wanted him to give us a treat. So we all went out for ice-cream 5. Write “Agreeable� Sentences You should be careful with the subject and verb agreement (Concord- as you learnt in Unit 2). This means, that when you use a singular subject, you need to make sure you use a singular verb. e.g. Mohan likes to eat cake. (Mohan is a singular subject, therefore we use the singular verb likes.) 6. Write Clear, Concise Sentences It is important to use sentences which are clear and to the point (concise). Any sentences which are confusing or have too many words will make your piece of writing difficult to read and understand. 7. Combine Sentences Carefully Sometimes in our effort to write clear, concise sentences, we may end up with several short, choppy sentences. In order to avoid that, we need to take similar ideas and put them together into longer, yet clear, sentences. e.g. The baby cried. His mother picked him up. She comforted him. The ideas in these short sentences go together. Therefore, to get a fluent, less choppy sentence, we can combine the sentences: The crying baby’s mother picked and comforted him.

Self-Check Questions Answer True or False 1. A complete sentence has a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. 2. When you listen to someone speaking, you should think only about the main idea and forget about all the other details. Fill in the Blanks 3. A sentence fragment is a group of words which is missing a ______ or a ______. 4. When writing sentences one should avoid sentence _______ run-on sentences and _________ sentences.

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16.5 Summing Up In this lesson you were taught strategies that would help you comprehend spoken and written language well. You learnt how to • • • •

Understand the Meaning of Spoken Sentences, Dialogues and Discourses Comprehend varying lengths of Spoken English Distinguish between Relevant Information and Subsidiary Details Construct Different Types of Sentences It is essential that you continue applying these strategies on a daily basis so they come naturally to you, hence, making problem-solving easier. As always, we recommend that you continue to read extensively and participate in conversations in English as much as possible.

16.6 Answers to Self-Check Questions 1. 2. 3. 4.

T F Subject or a verb Fragments… rambling

16.7 References 1. Ferreira, Linda A. Beginnings 1. United States of America: Newbury House Publishers, Inc.,1985. 2. Gill, Mary McVey, and Pamela Hartmann. Tapestry Listening and Speaking 2. United States of America: Heinle & Heinle Thomson Learning, 2000. 3. Croes, John. Ready? Listen!. San Diego, CA: Dominie Press, Inc., 1991.

16.8 Glossary • • • • • • •

“Agreeable” Sentence: a sentence that shows subject-verb agreement Complete Sentence: a sentence that has a subject and verb Concise: to the point Construct: build; create; make Rambling Sentence: a sentence consisting of several simple ideas which are connected with the word and. Relevant Information: information that is…appropriate; important to; applicable to Run-On Sentence: two basic sentences are joined together without any connecting word (conjunction) or punctuation (like a comma or semi colon) 5


• • •

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Sentence Fragment: a group of words which is missing either a subject or a verb that may be perceived as a sentence Subsidiary Details: supplementary; additional; auxiliary (helping) Summary: outline; review; synopsis


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