System, vol. 28, issue 1 (2000) pp. 55-75
In this article, I offer a cognitive perspective on the comprehension problems of second language listeners. I do this by identifying real-time listening difficulties faced by a group of English as a second language (ESL) learners and examining these difficulties within the three-phase model of language comprehension proposed by Anderson (1995, Cognitive Psychology and its Implications, 4th Edition. Freeman, New York). Data were elicited from learners' self-reports through the procedures of learner diaries, small group interviews and immediate retrospective verbalisations. My analysis showed 10 problems which occurred during the cognitive processing phases of perception, parsing and utilisation. Five problems were linked to word recognition and attention failure during perceptual processing. There were also problems related to inefficient parsing and failure to utilise the mental representations of parsed input. A comparison of two groups of learners with different listening abilities showed some similarities in the difficulties experienced, but low ability listeners had more problems with low-level processing. In the last part of the article, I highlight the benefits of researching real-time cognitive constraints during listening and obtaining data through learners' introspection, and offer some practical suggestions for helping learners become better listeners. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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