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English language : The Four Skills

Adding our knowledge about the four skills in learning English Language

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English language : The Four Skills

  1. 1. English Language : The Four Skills Helen Yong Lee Geok 9/25/2013
  2. 2. Introduction When we learn a language, there are four skills that we need for complete communication. When we learn our native language, we usually learn to listen first, then to speak, then to read and finally to write. These are called the four “language skills”. Listening “Listening” is receiving language through the ears. Listening involves identifying the sounds of speech and processing them into words and sentences. When we listen, we use our ears to receive individual sounds (letters, stress, rhythm and pauses) and we use our brain to convert these into messages that mean something to us. Listening is any language requires focus and attention. It is a skill that some people need to work at harder than others. In addition, teaching the learners a lot of listening activities is a good way of enlarging their vocabulary. People who have difficulty concentrating are typically poor listeners. Like babies, we learn this skill by listening to people who already know how to speak the language. This may or may not include native speakers. For practice, we can listen to live or recorded voices. The most important thing is to listen to a variety voices as often as you can. Therefore, to become a fluent speaker in English, we need to develop strong listening skills. Listening is not only helps we understand what people are saying to us, but it also helps us to speak clearly to other people. It helps us learn how to pronounce word properly, how to use intonation and where to place stress in words and sentences. Good listening skills bring benefits to our personal lives including a greater number of friends and social networks, improved self-esteem and confidence, higher grades at school and academic work and even better health and general well-being.
  3. 3. Speaking “Speaking” is the delivery language through the mouth. Speaking is also known as the productive skill in the oral mode. It, like the other skills, is more complicated and it seems at first and involves more than just pronouncing words. To speak, we create sounds using many parts of our body including the lungs, vocal tract, vocal chords, tongue, teeth and lips. This vocalized form of language usually requires at least one listener. When two or more people speak or talk to each other, the conversation is called a “dialogue”. In addition, speech can flow naturally from one person to another in the form of dialogue. It can also be planned and rehearsal as in the delivery of a speech or presentation. Of course, some people talk to themselves! In fact, some English learners practice speaking standing alone in front of a mirror. There are three kinds of speaking situation that we should understand which are interactive, partially interactive and non-interactive. Interactive speaking situations include face-to-face conversations and telephone calls, in which we have a chance to ask for clarification, repetition, or slower speech from our conversation partner. Whereas in partially interactive situations its involve giving a speech to the audience and no interruption during the speech. The speaker nevertheless can see the audience and judge from the expressions on their faces and body language whether or not he or she is understood. The non-interactive speaking can be defined as recorded speech such as when recording a speech for radio broadcast. To conclude, speaking can be formal or informal. Informal speaking is typically used with family and friends or people you know well. Formal speaking occurs in business or academic situations or when meeting people for the first time. Speaking is probably the language skill that most language learners wish to perfect as soon as possible. Fluently in speaking can help build up our confidence level while speaking to others.
  4. 4. Reading “Reading” is the receptive skill in the written mode. It can develop independently of listening and speaking skills, but often develops along with them especially in societies with a highly-developed literary tradition. Reading can help build vocabulary that helps listening comprehension at the later stages, particularly. In other words, reading is the process of looking at a series of written symbols and getting meaning to them. When we read, we use our eyes to receive written symbols (letters, punctuation marks and spaces) and we use our brain to convert them into words, sentences and paragraphs that communicate something to us. Reading can be silent (in our head) or aloud (so that other can hear). Reading is an important way to of gaining information in language learning and it is a basic for a language learner. Therefore reading skills refer to the specific abilities that enable a person to read with independence and interact with the message. Reading is therefore a highly valuable skill and activity, and it is recommended that English learners try to read as much as possible in English. Moreover, reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning. Like all language, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude and language community which is culturally and socially situated. To sum up, reading process requires continues practice, development, refinement, creativity and critical analysis.
  5. 5. Writing “Writing” is the process of using symbols (letters of the alphabet, punctuation and spaces) to communicate thoughts and ideas in a readable form. Writing is the productive skill in the written mode. It too is more complicated and often seems to be the hardest of the skills, even for native speakers of a language, since it involves not just a graphic representation of speech, but the development and presentation of thoughts in a structured way. To write clearly, it is essential to understand the basic system of a language. In English, this includes knowledge of grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Vocabulary is also necessary, as is correct spelling and formatting. The result of writing is generally called text, and the recipient of text is called a reader. Nowadays, motivation for writing includes publication, storytelling, correspondence and diary. Writing also has been instrumental in keeping history, dissemination of knowledge through the media and the formation of legal systems. A writer may write for a personal enjoyment or use, or for an audience of one person or more. The audience may be known (targeted) or unknown. Taking notes for study purposes is an example of writing to one’s self. Blogging publicly is an example of an unknown audience. A letter to a friend is an example of writing for a targeted audience. As with speaking, it is important to consider your audience when writing. There are many different styles of writing, from informal to formal. Therefore, the four language skills are related and connected to each other in two ways; which is the direction of communication (in or out) and the method of communication (spoken or written). This four language skills or sometime called the “macro-skills” are very important and necessity in towards learning a second language.