[Steve Ziolkowski, Gary Buck and Makoto Shishido, Seibido. 2011. pp. vii + 132. Included: CD. ¥2,200. ISBN: 978-4-7919-3091-3.]
Listening Lounge is a listening textbook written for beginning to pre-intermediate level Japanese university students. Each student book includes two self-study CDs and a separate set of teacher CDs. The teacher’s book contains all of the scripts for the listening activities in Japanese and English. The textbook is comprised of 20 units of new material with four review units. Each unit is five pages long and follows a set format of eight different sections that focus on a variety of listening and speaking skills that cover a range of useful topics such as: self-introductions, making/accepting invitations and past experiences. This makes it easy to divide the semester into content lessons. For example, I designed a lesson on traveling that included activities from Unit 9: Past Experiences, Unit 10: Traveling, and Unit 22: Transportation. Although there seems to be some progression in terms of difficulty, I did not find it critical to follow the units in order as the skills practiced are not linked together from unit to unit.
Listening Lounge has been written following the principles found in task-based learning. Each unit is carefully structured to follow a task sequence of: introduction, discussion, listening task, focus on form, and report (Willis, 2007). As is important in task-based learning, the topics of each unit reflect real life and many of the activities are authentic for various situations (Ellis, 2003). As Skehan (1996) also notes, for an activity to be a task, meaning must be primary and task completion, with a clear outcome, is a priority. Each unit and the tasks they include have been designed to meet both of these requirements. I found the best part to be that the main listening sections are a combination of two or three tasks using the same recording. This gives students the opportunity to really focus the language being presented and use it in a variety of ways.
Unit 7: Daily Routines is a good, representative unit. It begins with the Start It Off: Grammar and Vocabulary sections, which have students match phrases, such as “make breakfast” and “have a lecture” with corresponding pictures. It then asks students to talk about their daily routines with a partner using the previously mentioned phrases and adjectives of frequency. This is followed by the first Listening Practice in which students circle phrases they hear as a woman describes her daily routine. The students then listen to the same speech again and complete a cloze activity. This is followed by the Get It Right section, which includes three more listening tasks. These focus on more specific skills such as listening for false starts in which the speaker interrupts the flow of speech to restart his or her utterance.
This brings us to Listening Lounge’s most unique task sequence. Research has shown that listening tasks often provoke anxiety in students and that “listening once only at normal speed” can be problematic for lower level students (East & King, 2012, p. 209). East and King found that by scaffolding a listening segment, by first slowing it down by 20% and then gradually increasing it to normal speed, students gained proficiency and confidence. Listening Lounge effectively puts this idea into practice. In the Speed It Up section, students listen to the same recording three times, once at slow speed, once at medium speed and once at normal speed, completing a variety of tasks each time.
The unit then winds down with one more recording in the Fill It Out section, which reviews one of the earlier tasks. And finally, students are asked to go online in the Go For It! section in order to expand on the topic just studied and use the knowledge in a real-world format. The fact that there are so many tasks in each unit makes it easy to pick and choose what skills fit the needs of the students.
Unfortunately, I did not ask the students in a formal survey what they thought of this book and the listening tasks, however, positive course evaluations, active participation in class and high-attendance rates would indicate that they enjoyed the activities. Also, one student did mention that her TOEFL listening score had increased significantly since the beginning of the semester, so, I take that as a positive sign.
The authors have put a lot of research into designing this book and for teachers looking for a good listening textbook that offers a wide variety of tasks and activities to choose from, I feel Listening Lounge is a good choice.
East, M., & King, C. (2012). L2 Learners’ engagement with high stakes listening tests: Does technology have a beneficial role to play? CALICO Journal, 29(2), 208-223.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Skehan, P. (1996). A framework for the implementation of task-based instruction. Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 39-60.
Willis, D. (2007). Accuracy, fluency, and autonomous learning: A three way distinction. Retrieved from <www.willis-elt.co.uk/books.html>