The Skeleton of Meaning (SkoM) Technique, by michelle
I’d like to explain something about human speech which may help you in certain kind of listening activities. It’s something about prosody, this is, about stress, rhythm and intonation of our natural speech, this is, when we are speaking spontaneously, as in conversations and while being interviewed. [In other kind of speaking this happens too, because not as clearly or not in the exact same way, e.g. flight attendants use a special kind of music in what they explain to people on their planes! On the news that usually happens, too. And that is extreme when radio reporters broadcast a footbal match!]
I would like you to read the part called “Listening: How Can We Decipher Meaning?” in your Developing your Oral/Aural Skills handout.
When we speak spontaneously our mood, our intentions, our main concerns are reflected in how we stress and intonate words. We tend to pronounce more clearly, stress more and repeat the Key Words in our discourse! (Or words belonging to a same semantic field!) Key words are not only nouns (names) or verbs (actions, states). Sometimes they are particles (“BUT I wouldn’t do it!”, “AFTER the lesson, I mean”), adjectives, adverbs, or words like “Ouch!” “Hey!” “Yuck!”
Think about what you do when you are in a noisy place and people are talking to you. Perhaps you just pick certain words, but then you follow because you can reconstruct the meaning with your life knowledge and other knowledge you have! It’s amazing how much we can understand from just a few words picked up like that! The news are not in natural speech but we use this strategy too, every day, while we are setting the table for lunch. The moment we hear a key word we’re interested in, we tune in to listen to that piece of news!
So try this: if you are lost while listening to a recording, try jotting down the words that are pronounced more clearly, or more stressed, or more repeated, and think: Does that list of words (which I call the Skeleton of Meaning, SoM) help you identify what the person is talking about (the topic/s)? Can you reconstruct more meanings (main ideas, or particular points) with your life knowledge and those words? And with your grammar knowledge and those words?
Note-taking in listening activities is of paramount importance, then. If you’re taking an exam, you can’t do that in the space for your answers, but you can certainly scribble in any other place!
I’ll try to upload here or link to more stuff here. See you!