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The Effects of Audiobooks on English Language Learners

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All students need to be able to read, listen, write and speak proficiently in order to achieve academic success, and subsequent college and career readiness. Receptive skills (reading and listening) are preconditions of productive skills (writing and speaking). Yet listening is the least understood and most overlooked skill; instruction tends to focus on reading, grammar and vocabulary.

In a recent study published in the Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal (Volume 17, Number 1, April 2017) entitled, "The Effects of Audiobooks on EFL Students' Reading Comprehension," the authors (Kartel and Simsek, 2017) explain listening is much more than hearing. One can hear, but may not listen. Similarly, one can listen, but may not understand. In their view, repeated exposure to words read aloud fluently and in context increases understanding. As a result, determining effective methods for enhancing listening skills is critical to language instruction. No single method answers the need. A combination of learning techniques and strategies must be employed, including audiobooks.

According to their study, easy access and use of audiobooks by teachers and students improved reading comprehension and listening skills. They mention key differences between audiobooks and traditional reading aloud, including:

  • Listening to audiobooks is not restricted to time and space. Listening can be done on any number of devices at any hour.
  • Professionally narrated audiobooks are enjoyable. They are good stories, well-told by famous actors and even the authors themselves
  • Audiobooks provide students with accurate word pronunciations since the narrators are native speakers. This is particularly important in environments where educators or parents cannot provide the same

Kartel and Simsek concluded that listening to audiobooks made significant contributions to reading comprehension skills of first year EFL students.

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