In 2003, two small-scale studies were conducted to investigate the benefits of extensive listening. Data are presented on students’ affective responses to listening to the recordings of popular graded readers.

Study 1

Twenty-eight (1st year) and thirty (2nd year) English literature students in two reading skills classes (n=58) were required to listen while reading to one title of their choice and report on this experience in their reading notebook. A follow up questionnaire asked them if they found this EL assignment: helpful, enjoyable, difficult or boring, and say why. Their responses are shown below.


Difficult:   38%

Helpful:    28%

Boring:    6%  

Enjoyable:  28% 



1. 56% of the 58 respondents reported positively on the extensive listening they did. Being their first experience of listening to a book, they did a form of ‘sheltered’ extensive listening: i.e. they listened while reading a book at their current reading-ability level, i.e. at i-1.

2. Conversely, 44% of the 58 respondents reported negatively on the extensive listening they did.

3. It was reported difficult because: e.g., ‘I cannot follow the story as the reader’s voice is very fast’, ‘so hard for me, too fast’, ‘couldn’t concentrate’, ‘couldn’t find the word’, ‘difficult until I got used to it’, ‘listening only without book, I can’t do it’ & ‘too fast for me to listen’.

Study 2

48 (pre-intermediate level or above) students in three groups (A,B,C) read and/or listened in class to three complete stories selected by the teacher (Elephant Man, One Way Ticket, & The Witches of Pendle), all at the 400-headword level.

Three different modes were deployed: (i) listening only; (ii) listening while reading; (iii) reading only.

The texts had been modified for a concurrent vocabulary experiment. Thus, in each story there were 28 unknown words of varying frequency, the meanings of which students had to infer. It was ensured that text coverage remained high: at the outset, students knew at least 95% of the running words.


Having listened/read the three stories, the students were asked the following three questions:

  1. Which of the three stories did you like the most? Why?
  2. Which story was easier? Why?
  3. Which mode did you prefer? Why?



Elephant Man

One-Way Ticket

Witches of Pendle

Question 1




Question 2




The 48 students’ responses to question 1&2







Question 3




The 48 students’ preferred modes


Details: Question 3: 

1. 58% of 45 respondents said they preferred l/r-mode because, e.g., ‘only listening or reading I may miss words, content & atmosphere’, ‘I remember better this way’, ‘l-mode, tape too fast, r-mode takes long time’, ‘could hear pronunciation and see words’, ‘could concentrate better’, ‘could understand almost all words’, ‘could read with my eyes and ears’, ‘the words can enter my heart from both my eyes and ears’, ‘knowing the pronunciation helped reading’, & ‘only listening is too difficult’.


2. 40% said they preferred r-mode because, e.g., ‘l-mode makes me sleepy’, ‘can know the spelling this way’, ‘can read at my own pace’, ‘can control pace’, & ‘I can re-read parts’.



a) Both studies confirm students’ potential difficulty with or aversion to l-mode.

b) In Study 1, although all texts were self-selected and done in l/r-mode, 38% of   students still had perceptual-processing problems.

c) In Study 2, only one student out of 48 said she preferred l-mode.


Some Preliminary Conclusions

1. Introduce extensive listening in gradual stages: r-modeà l/r-modeà  l-mode.

2. When students’ reading-ability levels are established, i.e., they have 95%+ coverage of the running words (i-1), they should go down one level (i-2) before embarking on l/r-mode.

3. They should go down two levels, i.e. have 98%+ coverage (i-3) before embarking on l-mode, enhancing automaticity of recognition of words in their spoken form.

4. Teachers should provide a program for improving listening comprehension.

5. In l-mode, initially it should be ensured that the text’s narrative order and chronological order are the same, and that not too many characters abound.