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Language Skills Essay

Updated on September 25, 2013

The Four Language Skills - Language Skills Essay

Teaching English as a foreign language is not always as easy as you might think, especially when teaching adults. Many of my adult students are at a very basic English level and it can be especially challenging to teach them. This is where an understanding of the four language skills helps out. It's also especially helpful to look at how children learn their mother tongue, and the order they acquire the language skills. A good EFL teacher understands the four skills and has the ability to apply that knowledge to his/her students. If you plan to teach students independently, for example as a freelancer, you'll have a bit more freedom to tailor your teaching style to the needs of each individual student. If you plan on teaching in a school or language company, you'll most likely be required to follow some sort of curriculum. However, in either option, a thorough understanding of the four language skills, and language acquisition is essential.

Language Skills Essay
Language Skills Essay

Order of Language Skill Acquisition

Language Skills Essay

Teaching English as a foreign language is not always as easy as you might think, especially when teaching adults. Many of my adult students are at a very basic English level and it can be especially challenging to teach them. This is where an understanding of the four language skills helps out. It's also especially helpful to look at how children learn their mother tongue, and the order they acquire the language skills. A good EFL teacher understands the four skills and has the ability to apply that knowledge to his/her students. If you plan to teach students independently, for example as a freelancer, you'll have a bit more freedom to tailor your teaching style to the needs of each individual student. If you plan on teaching in a school or language company, you'll most likely be required to follow some sort of curriculum. However, in either option, a thorough understanding of the four language skills, and language acquisition is essential.

As babies and children, we begin acquiring our mother tongue by first listening to the adults around us. Of course, it's not as easy as listening and doing. As the adults are talking, babies are absorbing the sounds. Around the second year, toddlers are beginning to understand the sounds and words produced by parents. Parents model the words to give them meaning and toddlers begin to understand through trial, error and correction by the adult. It often takes 2-4 years of listening to adults before we venture into practicing with the next skill, speaking. When children begin speaking, adults use different techniques to correct errors. The most common technique is repeating what the child said, but emphasizing the correct way of saying it. This technique is also an effective one in EFL classes. EFL students begin in a manner very similar to babies. A good EFL teacher understands that and can adapt to each student's acquisition needs. Understanding how babies learn sounds is especially helpful when teaching the basic sounds of English. English is a bit more guttural with some sounds and this can be especially difficult for speakers of other languages to absorb. This is true for many of my beginner Spanish students.

Later, when children enter school, teachers begin to build on the first two skills already acquired. Teachers will begin expanding the child's vocabulary and speaking skills. Additionally, teachers begin teaching children how to read. The alphabet is taught and then basic words and sentences. Children soon are able to read on their own. Of course, they are able to read only at a basic level. However, the foundation is there and in the years following, their vocabulary will mature and their level of reading comprehension will increase. Finally, soon after children begin reading, they are taught writing. As their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills increase, so will their writing skills.

A good EFL teacher can put themselves in their students shoes and remember what it was like learning English as they were growing up. Remember the activities that we had to do in elementary and high school. These activities were not always fun, but they did help us gain the level of knowledge we possess today.

Following is my TEFL course Language Skills Essay. I received a perfect score from the TEFL instructor. If you are currently in a TEFL certification course, it may help you to follow the basic structure and talking points of my essay. Good luck!

The four language skills are: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

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Language Skills Essay
Language Skills Essay

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Teaching English as a Foreign Language Resource

Teaching English as a Foreign Language For Dummies
Teaching English as a Foreign Language For Dummies

I have used this book as a reference countless times. I purchased the Kindle version to have on my iPad and iPhone so it's always with me. The book is a good read for those who are considering becoming an EFL teacher. After the initial read, it serves as a really thorough reference. For example, it gives great advice on classroom management and what subjects to teach to each level of student. This is especially helpful if you plan on teaching English independently from any educational company or school.

 
Language Skills Essay
Language Skills Essay

Language Skills Essay

As a TEFL teacher, we must go to great pains to create well-balanced lesson plans to support our primary goal: enabling non-native speakers to communicate effectively in English. With that in mind, it is important to know and apply the four basic language skills of English, or any other language: speaking, listening, reading and writing.

A consensus within that TEFL field holds that English should be taught using the four skills in the order used during first language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and finally, writing. This theory makes sense. As babies, before we can speak, we listen, learning from our parents how to form sounds and words. Later, we began to speak and still later, we learned how to read and write. The four language skills are divided into two categories: speaking and writing are productive skills; listening and reading are receptive skills. I feel that teaching the language skills by dividing them into their productive and receptive groups is counterintuitive. I support giving priority to the aural skills (listening and speaking) and adding the written skills (reading and writing) as the students progress in their learning. This is not to say that I would teach only one set of skills (aural vs written) at a time. The goal is communication: we must strike a balance and teach all four skills, in varying degrees, at the same time.

Listening is the first and perhaps the most important skill to develop. Consider listening to be the foundation on which we can build the rest of the learner's English language "house." in addition to helping to develop our speaking skills; listening helps develop writing and reading skills. Without being able to hear phonemes, we can't form the words or learn proper pronunciation. Listening comprehension should be our goal. We want students to be able to understand what they hear. We begin by teaching recognition and selective listening so students gain the ability to hear the different sounds; a method used most often when teaching pronunciation. An example activity is having the teacher model appropriate pronunciation with the class repeating after the teacher. After basic listening skills have developed, TEFL teachers can begin using orientation and global listing techniques to focus on understanding conversation. Students could listen to recordings of native English speakers and summarize and continue the story. Students would thus practice their listening skills, as well as their speaking and/or writing skills. When working on these skills, we we can start to use the bottom up processing approach, coupled with intensive listening for learners to be able to discern the basic building blocks of what they're hearing. As learners progress, we can move towards the top down processing approach coupled with extensive listening in order to gain an overall understanding of what is heard, even though every single word may not be understood. The difference between top-down and bottom-up processing is evident: "It is the difference between looking at a forest (top down), or studying individual trees (bottom up)."

"When people with similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds get together they speak to each other easily because they know the rules of conversation in their language and their shared culture." This idea is quickly discarded when learning and communicating in a foreign language. Not only is the language new, but so are the culture and context. When teaching speaking, teachers should try to get shy or reluctant students to overcome their fears and practice as much as possible. Teachers can begin by focusing on accuracy and pronunciation and later move to focusing on fluency. When working on accuracy we can do repetition activities, drills and pronunciation practice to teach students. As they progress, move towards freer, more communicative activities such as discussions, role-plays or impromptu speeches.

We should not be tempted to neglect our next skill, reading. TEFL teachers may need to push students are little harder because reading is a skill not loved by all. However even those students most opposed to reading may not realize how much they use it daily while reading such authentic text sources as, the Internet, looking up videos on YouTube, sending texts or emails or reading signs on the street or in stores. Beginner students need to be taught decoding skills, as we ourselves were when we first learned to read. Decoding is the process of sounding out the letters or words to pronounce them correctly. Ask our learners progress, they can begin to move up the scaffold, towards encoding the reading material. Encoding means to make meaning of the text, similar to our definition of listening comprehension for the listening skill. TEFL teachers want their students to read and understand what is red. As the students gain increased reading skills, we can provide different types of reading activities to maintain learner enthusiasm. We can provide reading material with an intensive purpose in mind. Intensive reading is reading to gain knowledge or information, such as reading the newspaper. During intensive reading activities, it is a good idea to teach students the skill of scanning text, or reading quickly for specific information. Students should also be given extensive reading activities. Extensive reading is where we read for pleasure. Adding a skimming activity to extensive reading is a great way to practice reading quickly and allow students to make educated guesses about what the material will be about.

Writing skills are also another set that must not be neglected. If students can read, speak and listen, writing fits naturally in the progression. A couple of important sub-skills to learn when writing are spelling and punctuation. Spelling is important but not the be-all, end-all of writing. Punctuation, on the other hand, can easily change the meaning of the sentence. Take the following example:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Different punctuation applied to the same words changes the meaning of the sentence. When teaching beginning writing, punctuation is the most important sub-skill. As learners progress, we can focus on formal and informal writing with essays and journaling activities, with emphasis on text cohesion.

To summarize, when teaching a language it is important not to neglect any skill within the language as foreign language learners in particular need all four skills for travel, work or other reasons. Each skill should be taught concurrently with one skill always reinforcing another.

What are your thoughts about the order we teach the four language skills to EFL students?

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