The Language Arts (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010


The language art of listening begins developing at birth and provides the basis for development of speaking, reading, and writing skills. Listening can be defined as the interpretation of sounds that are heard. When a baby is first born, he immediately begins to receive sensory impressions, including hearing sounds. However, in this early stage, the sounds are merely received by the ears; they are not interpreted by the brain. As time passes and the child hears a particular sound, such as milk, which is accompanied by the presence of a particular substance, the child begins to associate the substance with the sound. This is the place where experience produces meanings for the child. When a mere mention of the word milk by another person excites the child, he is probably interpreting the sounds. At that time, listening has taken place.

Young children learn much language by listening to those around them. They listen not only to spoken words but also to the rhythms and intonation patterns of the language that they hear. They take the language they hear and make generalizations based on it. For example, they may generalize about how adjectives are changed to the comparative degree. They may say that something is &ldblq;gooder&rdblq; than something else, having applied the generalization to an irregular construction. Because they learn much through their listening and thinking behavior, children enter school when they are five or six years old able to converse with their teachers and their peers in understandable language.

It is possible to hear sounds and not listen to them. You have probably, at some time, been engrossed in an activity and not responded when a friend asked you a question. When the friend persisted by saying something such as &ldblq;Well, is it?&rdblq; you may have been able to reconstruct what you heard him say originally, interpret the sounds that you received, and respond to the question appropriately.

Children who are not hearing impaired come to school with a fairly long history of hearing, but their listening skills are not necessarily good. Children learn to &ldblq;tune out&rdblq; things around them that they do not choose to hear and, therefore, may need to be taught what things are important to listen to in school.

Listening is a skill that allows a person to receive oral information from others. It is therefore sometimes referred to as a receptive skill and as an oral language skill. Through it, a person can take in new ideas by decoding into meanings the oral symbols (words, phrases, and sentences) that make up the communication.

Listening is often not given adequate attention in the classroom, partially because some people seem to equate listening and hearing.


Speaking is making use of vocal sounds to communicate meaning to others. The newborn baby comes into the world making a variety of sounds. These sounds, however, are not produced in an overt effort on the part of the child to convey meaning in his early days. Except in the case of crying and whimpering, the child is simply producing random sounds of which his vocal mechanism is capable. Meaningful speech develops as children learn the effects of particular sounds on the people around them. When a child deliberately uses a word to communicate with others, speech has occurred. The child has attached meaning to the sounds that he makes, based on past experience.

Speaking is often referred to as an expressive skill and an oral language skill. The speaker encodes (represents in oral symbols, or words) a thought into an oral message and transmits this message to a listener, who must decode (translate into meaning) the oral symbols in order to understand the message. Speakers can transmit information about past and present circumstances, as well as about future events and abstract ideas.

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