Friday, November 26, 2010


Most students want to communicate better in English. If this is one of your goals, it is important to study a balance of the four major skills. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing are the main (macro) skills you need to communicate in any language. Being very good at only one of these skills will not help you to communicate. For example you need to be able to read well before you can write well. You also need to be able to listen before you can speak. It helps to think of these communicative skills in two groups.
  • INput <<<
    • Listening (in through your ears)
    • Reading (in through your eyes)
  • OUTput >>>
    • Speaking (out through your mouth)
    • Writing (out through your hand)
It's simple. Think of it this way. First you have input. Next you have output. First you listen to someone ask you a question. Second you speak and give them your answer. First you read a letter from someone. After that you write back to them. These are examples of communicating.
Input and output don't necessarily go in a specific order. Sometimes you speak first and then you listen. Sometimes you write about something you hear. During communication, the person you are communicating with uses one of the opposite skills. Therefore, in order to understand each other, everyone must be skillful in all four areas.
Some students want to know which skill is the most important. Since all of the skills rely on each other, they are all important. However, to communicate we do use some skills more often than others. For example, about 40% of the time that we spend communicating we are simply listening. We speak for about 35% of the time. Approximately 16% of communication comes from reading, and about 9% from writing. These statistics are for an average communicator in English. Depending on someone's job or situation, these numbers may vary.
Each of these main skills have micro skills within them. For example, pronunciation is a type of speaking skill that must be practised in order to improve communication. Spelling is a skill that makes understanding the written word easier. Grammar and vocabulary are other micro skills. Micro doesn't mean they are unimportant. Macro skills such as listening are very general, while micro skills are more specific. (More about input and output)
For the best results, create an agenda that combines all four areas of study. Allow one type of studying to lead into another. For example, read a story and then talk about it with a friend. Watch a movie and then write about it. This is what teachers in an English class would have you do, right? has lessons in all 4 key skills (and all minor skills), as well as many outside links to help you study further. (ESL Internet resources)


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