The role of paired listening in L2 teaching

Fernandez-Toro, Maria (2005). The role of paired listening in L2 teaching. Language Learning Journal, 31(1) pp. 3–8.



Paired listening was originally developed as a research tool with the aim to understand the strategies used by L2 learners when listening to recorded speech in the target language. It offers researchers a useful combination of direct observation and verbal data, whilst avoiding the common drawbacks of subjective introspection. This paper examines the potential of paired listening as a learning tool in the foreign language classroom.

The principle is illustrated by means of a study that was conducted at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where 19 dyads of undergraduate students were observed as they tried to understand Spanish recordings in pairs. The study examined two sets of data: the way in which each pair played back the recording (using the play, pause and rewind buttons on their machine); and the participants' conversations throughout the task.

A number of strategies were identified, comprising cognitive strategies (such as decoding and inferencing), metacognitive strategies (such as playback decisions) and social-affective strategies (such as pair co-operation and affective reactions to the input). The discussion of typical playback patterns and their related strategies forms the basis of a series of recommendations for the teaching of listening skills.

Paired listening can assist listening instructors to assess and adjust the relative difficulty of a particular recording for their leamers, to encourage effective playback strategies (such as the optimum pace of progression through a recording), to evaluate and induce pair cooperation, and to channel affective reactions productively during the listening task. It is recommended as a complement to (rather than a replacement of) individual listening practice.

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