Tips on Developing Language skills
It is a disheartening fact for the education industry that so many people are misled by advertising and swear by the many products that claim to make one fluent in a language, and yet it rarely ever produces any useful results.
The not-so-shocking truth is that passive listening will never be the way to even become familiar with, let alone master, a language. Just as children imbibe language through interactions with their families, every person desirous of gaining or improving his/her language skills needs to spend time using the language in real life, not just reading it or, even worse, listening to it on audiotapes or compact discs that are pushed by savvy promotions. Let alone improving your usage of the language, it won’t even help your ability to understand.
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 four language skills are sometimes called the "macro-skills". This is in contrast to the "micro-skills", which are things like grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling.
When you already understand the language, it is different – but become skillful in the language is a different ball game altogether. The problem with embracing a passive means of learning a language – reading, listening, watching tutorials, whatever the means of uselessly pouring information into your senses – is that a language is active.
It requires both your attention to grammatical constructs as well as your ability to use them coherently, to actually converse. Passively hearing instructions and making an attempt at learning a language while you do something else is lazy.
It doesn’t show any devotion at all to the task at hand. It only gives you a “sense” of doing something useful, and it can even be fun for some people! Playing computer games and watching TV can also be fun, but it doesn’t mean you get anything useful out of it.
Rather than thinking that many hours a day “doing something” counts, take small parts of your day and do some active learning! Read in the language you want to be skilled in, and try to understand as much of it as possible, listen to online radio but try to make notes of what is being said and use a dictionary if necessary – and most important of all find fluent speakers and speak to them.
It takes patient pursuit of the goal of developing language skills to actually achieve it. The only sure shot way is to practice all known aspects while always keeping an eye out for including new concepts and even trivialities into the knowledge you have.
----- Guest author of the above article is Head –Academics, Career Launcher