Is Listening Comprehension Influenced by the Cultural Knowledge of the Learners? A Case Study of Iranian EFL pre-intermediate learners

Morteza Bakhtiarvand, Payame Noor University of Andimeshk (PNU), Iran
Somaye Adinevand, Education Department of Andimeshk, Iran

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Abstract The present study investigated the effect of cultural familiarity in improving Iranian EFL (English as a foreign language) learners’ listening comprehension. To achieve this purpose, a listening comprehension test was administered to three hundred language learners; ultimately one hundred and twenty pre-intermediate language learners were selected and randomly assigned to four groups. The same pre-test was administered to the four groups before any treatment lesson. During the experiment, Group A had exposure to target culture texts in-and out-side the classroom. The participants in Group B had exposure to international target culture texts in-and out-side the classroom. The participants in Group C had exposure to source culture texts in-and out-side the classroom. The participants in Group D had only exposure to culture free texts in-and-out side the classroom. At the end of the experiment, four groups took a post-test which was the same as pre-test to see whether or not there were changes regarding their listening proficiency. The results of the posttest showed that the four groups performed differently on the posttest, which was indicative of the fact that greater familiarity to specific culturally-oriented language listening material promoted the Iranian EFL learners’ listening proficiency.

Introduction Foreign language listening comprehension is a complex process and crucial in the development of second language competence; yet, the importance of listening in language learning has only been recognized recently (Celce-Murcia, 2001). Because the role of listening comprehension in language learning was either overlooked or undervalued, it merited little research and pedagogical attention in the past. But at present, some researchers have devoted some time to listening and believe it to be an important skill in teaching and learning. For instance, Nunan (1998) noted that

… listening is the basic skill in language learning. Without listening skill, learners will never learn to communicate effectively. In fact over 50% of the time that students spend functioning in a foreign language will be devoted to listening…. (p. 1)


As listening is assuming greater importance in foreign language classrooms and in language acquisition (see, e.g., Dunkel, 1991), researchers have conducted detailed study of this skill. One idea that has been a focus is the role of the listener as an active processor of the type of knowledge that he/she brings to the context of listening. In other words, there have been investigations of whether the background of the listener has any effect on the process of listening.

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