Lessons designed to teach reading and listening typically concentrate on the use of higher-level skills and strategies, such as predicting, scanning, inferencing, understanding text structure, or activating background knowledge. Given that these normal communication skills are already available to students for mother-tongue use, they should generally be accessible in the new language without further training, once fluent and accurate low-level decoding and parsing have been automatized enough to free up mental space for higher-level processing. With some exceptions, any remaining comprehension problems are likely to arise from specific linguistic features of the input: for instance unknown vocabulary, textual density, syntactic complexity, or difficulty in dealing with the phonetic characteristics of fast speech. Such difficulties are best addressed not by top-down skills-and-strategies work, which often fills valuable class time to little purpose, but by more closely focused training based on a careful assessment of the real problems involved.

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