Dictation, in its more traditional format, has many benefits that, from our point of view, make it essential.
Dictation is one of the oldest language teaching activities. It is perhaps because it has been recently neglected by the teachers, claiming that it is “too teacher centered, uncommunicative, boring and old fashioned”.
Dictation is a decoding-recording activity. It is the act or process of dictating material to another for transcription. Oller (1979) defines it as a “psychologically real system that sequentially orders linguistic elements in time and it relates to extra linguistic context in meaningful ways”. “The passage intended for dictation has to be broken down into stretches that will be spoken without a break. These should be fairly long, beyond rote memory so that the candidates can decode, store and then re-decode what they hear”. Then the stretches are read out, not too slowly, one after the other with enough time for the candidates to write down they have heard. Three elements are involved in dictation:
(a) Filter, (b) Organizer and (c) Monitor.
The merit of dictation has been underestimated for a long time. Some of the common objections to dictations are:
El dictado, en su formato más tradicional, tiene muchos beneficios que, desde nuestro punto de vista, lo hacen imprescindible. Sirve para mejorar:
(a) It might cause high effective filter especially for ‘frightened’ and ‘insecure’ learners.
(b) It does not require any talent or information on teacher.
(c) It is only the aural skills that are developed in dictations.
(d) It is uncommunicative, boring and old fashioned.
Although some of the objections to may be true, dictation is an activity that it has been both misunderstood and misused. Most of the criticism towards dictation are not valid. One can easily detect the following advantages in carrying out this activity:
(a) Dictation can be fun if the passages are chosen carefully in a way that causes laughter and amusement.
(b) It is an integrated activity that involves all the skills:
* Listening as the passage is dictated for the students to transcribe.
* Writing: when students write down the dictated material.
* Reading: as a follow up, students may read the passage first silently to check for materials, then loudly to practice pronunciation.
* Speaking: when the passage is used as starting point for a discussion activity.
(c) Dictation activity can be used as a basis for error analysis to spot areas of weakness and strength as well as build on the errors dictated to prepare future lesson plans. This yields interesting confusion about students’ level of proficiency although this may demand extra effort on the part of the teachers.
Dictation is one of the oldest pedagogical activities. Nevertheless, its materials are necessary. Teachers gain a lot by depicting language areas that should be addressed and learners actively build their language proficiency.
Source: Md. Anwar Hossain