Learn to embrace listening – the ‘ugly stepsister’ of communication

One of the most well-known fairy tales of all time is Cinderella. Cinderella was a classic in everyone’s upbringing.

I am pretty sure everyone has watched Cinderella, growing up. Just like Cinderella, listening is often overlooked and undervalued, compared to the other ‘stepsisters’, which are reading, writing, and speaking, despite its crucial role in language acquisition and communication, especially in English.

In Malaysia, listening is important because it allows students to not only understand spoken English, but also to pick up on the nuances and cultural context of the language. It helps the students to better communicate with native speakers and effectively participate in social and academic settings. Well, who knows, one day we might travel overseas or further our studies over there, and surely, English will come into play in order to communicate and survive.

On the flip side, previous research found that there were quite a number of second language students who struggled with listening, due to a variety of reasons. It is indeed an arduous skill to learn. No doubt! One of the biggest challenges is that the students do not use the target language enough. Therefore, it is hard to learn how to listen well if you do not hear and practise the language enough. Am I right? Logically, how can they get better at listening in English if they do not have enough opportunities to do so, and do not expose themselves to the language?

What should be done in order to polish this “glass slipper” skill? Well, students of a second language can hone their listening skills with the help of technological tools like videos and podcasts. Students can gain exposure to a range of accents and speaking styles through the use of these resources, which provide authentic listening materials.

Also, students may find it easier to follow along and increase their level of knowledge by using the transcripts that are included with many podcasts and videos.

Accordingly, the use of software that provides translation and subtitles can also be helpful for students to comprehend what they are listening to.

As Muslims, we believe that listening is a crucial skill that allows us to better understand and follow the teachings of Islam. Islam places great emphasis on the importance of education and learning.

People believe that gaining knowledge is a way to get closer to Allah and becoming a better person. This also includes learning and mastering a second language.

In the Quran, it says, “God will raise in rank those who have believed among you and those who have been given knowledge” (58:11). This verse discusses the value of learning and the benefits it brings, like being able to talk to others and to see things from their perspective.

Listening is also a crucial skill in Islam, as it helps people understand and learn from others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The best of you is the one who knows the most about the Quran and is the most afraid of God” (Sahih Bukhari).

This shows that learning and understanding the Quran, which means listening to and understanding the teachings and guidance it contains, is very important in Islam. Having said that, learning and mastering a second language, including listening skill, is seen as a valuable and important part of personal and spiritual growth in Islam.

In the end, it is worth concluding that with consistent practice and correct learning strategies, listening can be improved and become a valuable asset for second language learners and also for Muslims. Get creative with the technologies and devices you have at your disposal.

So, do not let listening be the forgotten Cinderella skill in your language journey. Invest in improving it and watch it transform into a valuable tool for successful communication and language acquisition. Do not let it be the fragile “glass slipper” that gets left behind in the learning of the English language.

Wan Afiqah Anis Wan Ahmad is an English Language teacher at the Universiti Malaya Education Centre (UMEC) in Bachok, Kelantan. This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.