Date of Award

1-11-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dan J. Tannacito, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Nancy Hayward, Ph.D.

Abstract

Effective listening comprehension skills are important as the world becomes increasingly global and television, radio, and the Internet become forums for English communication. However, many countries, such as Tunisia, do not use English as a first or second language, but as a foreign language. Therefore, realizing the importance of English, the Tunisian government encourages university students to specialize in the English language. Universities students, who elect to study English, are required to study oral subjects, such as listening comprehension, as part of their studies. However, these EFL learners struggle to understand oral English texts, in their listening comprehension classes. This present study studies the reasons that Tunisian EFL learners have difficulty understanding oral English transactional texts. Using qualitative research and a cognitive, strategy-based theoretical framework, the study used a questionnaire, interviews, listening diaries, and think-aloud protocols with Tunisia university EFL learners to identify the listening strategies that they use and the obstacles that they encounter while they listen to oral English transactional texts. Based on the conviction that EFL learners are active in the listening comprehension process, this research is grounded on a cognitive strategic model, which combines Anderson's (1993) memory model, Kintsch's comprehension model, and listening strategies (Oxford, 1990 and Wenden, 1991). The findings of this study show that Tunisian EFL learners are active in the listening process and use some strategies to help them understand some texts. However, when they encounter listening obstacles during the listening process, they are unable to orchestrate their strategy use and fail to comprehend the texts. Furthermore, the study indicates that the learners have few reserve strategies to use when they are prevented from using their default strategies. I conclude by proposing ways for listening comprehension teachers to incorporate strategy teaching, graded oral texts, and culturally appropriate tasks so that listening obstacles can be minimized and strategy orchestration can be maximized.

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