35 – Travelling without a map
The way we teach listening is like insisting that travellers arrive at a destination via several stops without giving them the means of travelling.
It’s like asking people to move from point to point with a map that has geographical features (hills, valleys, rivers) but with the roads tracks and trails missing. You may want them to be able to identify Mount Big Meaning, but not allow for the fact that they may find themselves in a tunnel when the moment for identification comes. You may want them to identify Castle Tikbox, without allowing for the fact that they are wholly focussed on crossing a wild river – jumping from stone to stone – without losing their balance.
We need to describe the whole journey, teach the means, teach the patterns of the stream of speech the roads, the trails, the footpaths. We need to focus far more on the relationship between sound substance and its interpretation (decoding, meaning building).
What we currently do is pretend our learners can travel meaningfully, without giving them the means of navigating through the stream of the sound substance. We keep them in ignorance of the sound substance (because we teachers are ourselves ignorant) and therefore deny learners the means of learning how to navigate.
Image from here.