Curriculum & Materials

Active Listening: Essential for Peace and for Language Learning

Active Listening is a well-known concept in the peacebuilding field, and one that Peace Scholar Chris Spies delves into quite extensively in some of his published articles and in an excellent blog post entitled Listening Deeper and Deeper! His Five-Level Listening focuses on five body parts and corresponding listening practices that are illustrated by each one. The post is a great place to start in familiarizing oneself with the idea of active listening or as a way to refresh yourself on the concept.

As expected, in peacebuilding, one of the biggest building blocks to success is being sure that all parties hear and understand each other deeply. In many conflicts, a dialogue where stakeholders take active listening roles can reveal similarities in thought that neither side knew existed, or emotional needs that they weren’t aware of. It is incredibly helpful in creating empathic connections between people.

This kind of listening is essential in peacebuilding, but also in language learning. In fact, from personal experience as a language learner, I can attest to the fact that active listening can sometimes even come more easily when I’m learning a language. When I’m functioning in a language that is not my mother tongue, I have a built-in assumption that I will miss information unless I check back with the speaker, ask questions, and be sure to pay close attention to the conversation. This is one key area where we can take a skill needed in both language learning, and peacebuilding let the nuances needed in both fields inform and strengthen our understanding of the concept.

Buildingpeace.org has a  detailed lesson plan for teaching Active Listening. Take a look!

How might this be adapted for language learners so that it both provides practice for creating the needed empathy for peaceful interpersonal interactions and for gaining better listening comprehension in a learner’s target language?

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Contributing Author

Abigail Long is a 2012 graduate of Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and a member of Fairview Ave Brethren in Christ Church in Waynesboro, PA. She spent 14 months teaching English in South Korea at the Connexus Language Institute and is deeply interested in the connections between language learning, teaching and peacebuilding.

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