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Listening For Main Idea



While listening to a lecture, we need to take notes in order to help us to get the main ideas. Anyway, there are some reasons for taking meaningful and useful notes. The following are reasons for taking notes:

Ø      It is normal to forget, even after a few hours, what we have heard.

Ø      The act of writing makes the material easier to remember.

Ø      The act of writing forces us to focus on and identify the main ideas and important details.

Ø      We can identify the areas that we do and do not understand.

Ø      Instructors often give assignment and exams based on lectures as well as reading assignment.


I would like to take the example from the “Study Skills for MUET”, in order to elaborate on this skill.


Your teacher will read aloud an advertisement. Listen carefully to this announcement.


          The “Jaguh” from the Modenas stable comes at the right time when interest in the “Easy Rider” or “Chopper” type of motorcycle is on the rise. Powered by a 175 c.c. single cylinder power plant, the “Jaguh” looks big. Anyone who has not told about its engine capacity will think that the “Jaguh” has a 500 c.c. engine, at the very least. It is fitted with a five-speed gearbox that doesn’t show any apparent lack of power. Its price of RM 7,200 is a steal.


Study these questions and answer.


1.      What kind of announcement is this?

An Advertisement


2.      What is the subject of the advertisement?

“Jaguh”- a motorcycle



The technique that we had used to get the answers is listening for the main idea. It is also known as ‘extensive listening’, as we need to listen in a more general way to get a rough idea of what the speaker is saying.


In the advertisement, a lot of specific information is given like the name of the motorcycle, type of gearbox, the engine capacity, price and so on. However, we can ignore some details, as they are not necessary to our understanding the general message that is being put across by the speaker. We should be able to recognise the subject or the topic of the text without paying particular attention to specific information contained in the text.




            Often, speakers stress important information of points in their discourse and if you are able to recognise when a speaker does this, it will help you listen for the important points and will enable you to get the main idea of the text. Some of the techniques used by speakers to stress important points in their discourse are:

o       Rephrasing

o       Repetition

o       Summarizing


General listening strategies to help us listen better:

v     Concentrate and focus on the listening text.

v     Try to listen with a purpose and grasp the gist of the text. Decide what information we should listen for. Look for the key words.

v     We need not try to understand every word the speaker is saying in order to understand the general message the speaker intends to get across.

v     Learn to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words by paying attention to the context in which they occur.






Components of the HURIER Model


I’ve taken a short passage from Listening Attitudes, Principles, and Skills as an exercise for “Listening for main ideas”. The article is related to the listening skills.



Listen carefully to the text and answer the questions that follow:


            We begin by examining the six- component HURIER listening model, which serves as a framework for building your listening skills. Competence in each component is developed by acquiring appropriate attitudes, learning relevant principles, and demonstrating specific information.

            The letters in HURIER represent six interrelated listening processes: hearing, understanding, remembering, interpreting, evaluating, and responding.



Hearing involves the accurate reception of sounds. To hear, you must focus your attention on the speaker, discriminate among sounds, and concentrate. Chapter 3 introduces the physiological aspects of hearing and the principles that govern attention. In addition to learning techniques that improve your concentration, you will also be introduced to the effects of listener apprehension and the importance of nonverbal attending behaviours.



The ability to understand what you hear, listening comprehension, improves with practice. A number of processes involved in comprehension are intrapersonal; that is, they take place inside your head. This section familiarizes you with the nature of human information processing and the concept of inner speech. You learn guidelines to help you improve your understanding of message as you develop strategies to build your vocabulary, ask appropriate questions, and take efficient notes.



There has been a great deal of research on memory. Remembering is essential if you intend to apply what you have heard in future situations. This chapter acquaints you with the three basic memory systems and the work that has been done in listening training and assessment with regard to the memory process. You will learn key techniques for retaining and recalling information as well as the obstacles that inhibit memory. Creative approaches to problem-solving are also addressed.



When you interpret message you do two things. First, you take into accounts the total communication context so that you are better able to understand the meaning of what is said from the speaker’s point of view. Your ability to empathize, or to see a situation from the other person’s perspective, requires that you pay attention to emotional meaning and to the communicate context. Second, effective listeners let their partners know that they have been understood. This chapter, then, introduces you to topics related to nonverbal communication such as facial expression, body posture, eye behaviour, silence, and vocal cues so that you can develop greater sensitive to these important dimensions of the communication context.



You listen from a unique point of view and are influenced by your perceptual filters- your past experiences, attitudes, personal values, and predispositions. It is therefore impossible not to evaluate, to some extent, everything you hear. Understanding the principles of logic and reasoning, and recognizing bias, stereotyping, propaganda, and other factors that may influence the conclusions you draw, is essential. Effective listeners, as you might suspect, deliberately reduce the influence of their own view- point until they have first understood the speaker’s ideas. Objectively, in this sense, is prerequisite to making wise evaluations. This unit sensitises you to language and propaganda, and provides guidelines for assessing speaker credibility.



Your partner makes judgements regarding the quality of your listening based largely on the nature of your response. As you will learn in Chapter 2, our approach to communication views each participant as both speaker and listener. The HURIER model incorporates your response as an integral part of the listening process. This approach suggests that effective listeners analyze the communication situation and purpose, and then choose an appropriate response from among alternatives. Once again, you can see the listening is prerequisite to formulating an appropriate response.



                                                (taken from: Listening Attitudes, Principles, and Skills)




After listening to the article, use the skills that you have learnt, answer the following  questions.


1. What are the six related listening processes mentioned in the article?

Hearing, understanding, remembering, interpreting, evaluating and responding.


2. How many basic memory systems will you learn in the chapter   


Three basic memory systems.


3. What do you do to interpret message?

First, we take into accounts the total communication context and secondly we let our partners know that we have understood.