Strategical approach of comprehension


23 Mar 2015

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Disadvantages of the Strategical Approach of Comprehension

For students of English, it is listening comprehension that usually seems to be the hardest to master among the different skills of language learning. Therefore, there are numerous theories published in order to make listening tasks more effective and to devise more useful types of practice. One of these methods proposes the separate improvement of particular sub-skills, of which listening comprehension is claimed to consist, and it also suggests the application of listening strategies, which theoretically make listening easier. It is not hard to realize, though, that however tempting they might seem, the strategic approach of listening comprehension means more needless work to students than improvement.

To begin with, it has a negative effect on students' results that this approach of comprehension underestimates the importance of practice. As Field (1998) formulates it, "For fifteen years it has been axiomatic that more reading does not necessarily mean better reading." (p. 112). First, this can mean that the exclusive training of sub-skills does not allow comprehension to improve as a whole. Second, since different types of exercises require different strategies, learners might perform badly in the types not practised extensively. In summary, the subordinated role of practice can have a negative effect on students.

The second reason is that the exclusive use of authentic texts can significantly slow down the progress of students at a lower level of proficiency. First, as the strategic approach fails to realize the importance of grading texts, it can be unnecessarily difficult although the more one can understand in a listening task, the more useful the particular task is, (Ridgway, 2000). Second, a less proficient student might lose motivation if the listening texts seem to be impossible to understand. Third, the theory of listening strategies suggests predicting the meaning and guessing unknown words from content; that, however, can lead to the reduced expansion of vocabulary. To summarize, the use of authentic texts can mean a definite disadvantage on certain levels of proficiency.

Finally, one could say that listening strategies can prove extremely helpful for learners, but actually it consumes a significant amount of resources to practice these techniques. On the one hand, practising each of these techniques separately consumes a far larger amount of time than a student could afford at the expense of training other areas of language proficiency. On the other hand, the constant effort to choose the appropriate strategy can be very difficult and exhausting for students and is often futile; Field (2000) himself tends to admit this, as well, "it seems that they may not be capable of employing it appropriately in relation to a particular listening text or of combining it successfully with other strategies that they have encountered." (p. 192). To summarize, the application of strategies requires more time and energy than the advantages it provides.

In conclusion, it can be seen through various reasons that the strategical approach of comprehension is not as beneficial for students as it might seem in the beginning. First, it provides a smaller amount of practice for the students. Second, the extensive use of authentic texts suggested by this theory can be inappropriate for certain students. Third, the strategy-based approach is definitely more time- and energy-consuming than it is helpful. From the above mentioned points, it is clear that the use of different strategies is not required for effective language learning.


Field, J. (1998). Skills and strategies: towards a new methodology for listening. ELT Journal, 52(2), 110-118.

Field, J. (2000). 'Not waving but drowning': a reply to Tony Ridgway. ELT Journal, 54(2), 186-195.

Ridgway, T. (2000). Listening strategies- I beg your pardon?. ELT Journal, 54(2), 179-185.


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