Listening is complementary to speaking. When we speak we try
to convey information to others and when we listen to others we concern
ourselves with what others are trying to tell us.
Listening itself is an intentional act to perceive what
information people are trying to convey to us. Hearing is about sound
perception, but does not convey meaning or at least is not supposed to convey
meaning. Thus, listening is about an intentional act to perceive information
carrying sound we can convert to meaning. We can safely say that sound becomes
information when we decode the meaning associated with the sound.
In our context listening is about what other people want to
convey to us: but this need not be language type exchange. People might use
various forms of means to convey meaning: ambulance sirens, chimes of the ice
cream vans, the ding dong of a lift, a child crying and so on. Indeed one of
the most important features is context: without a common context between “speaker”
and listener there won’t be any meaning.
So what are the issues for us when it comes to listening to
others? One of the main issues is the ability of the speaker to convey the intended
information to others. When we want to communicate with others we want them to
act on our message, but this cannot happen without conveying the right
Indeed this is one of the drawbacks of language; sometimes
the efficiency of language is limited to those who understand that language,
something akin to code breakers. And of course, language can also be an
issue for those whose command of a language is very limited. Nuances and subtle
meanings can easily be lost in the absence of an adequate command of a language.
These language issues are not only relevant for non native
speakers of a language but also within native speakers, especially in
professional contexts. Maybe the language might be the same, for example
English, but meaning of words or expressions might change from country to
country. The danger here is that the listener might misinterpret certain
language acts or maybe misunderstands completely what is being conveyed.
Whether people are speaking or listening to each other there
is always an element of emotional engagement among them. Emotions are good
motivators for people to do something for example listen to someone speak. Good
speakers make people listen to them, for example by using emotive language, use
pauses and gestures in the correct places.
One sure criterion that makes us listen to others is when they
say something of great interest or importance to us. An example is when there
is an unexpected announcement on the metro. New information is always
interesting for us; which probably explains why students of a second language find
learning the language difficult. They are subjected to the same stale and old
information that is simply not interesting and certainly not relevant.
In effect, intelligent listening means not interrupting
others while others are speaking. Apart from being impolite, interrupting
others means that we are not listening but reacting to words. Too much
interrupting others might even backfire and turn people against us. The other effect of interrupting others means
that we deprive ourselves of useful information others are willing or
unwittingly prepared to share with us.
The essays are meant to give some ideas for the discussions we have. That is, if people feel like using them that way. I also use these essays to express some of my ideas and thinking on the subject.
However, because I usually write these essay at short notice, I have no time to do in depth research on the subject. And any ideas I feel are my own, might have already been expressed by others. But I did not come across them in the limited research I some times do.
Finally, most times I do not have time to polish my essay as they ought to be. I apologise for this.