7 Most Essential Skills Required to Learn a Language

AUTHORED BY: Surjeet Dalal @GeekDalal

Surjeet Dalal @GeekDalal

Content Strategist
Educator, Career Counselor & Lifelong Learner

Language Acquisition Skills

Language is a means of communication, which in turn is concerned with exchange of information & ideas among various entities. As is known to one & all, good communication entails the flow of information from the originator (sender) to the receiver without any distortion that may arise due to lack of language skills. In fact, most people are not conversant with the skills needed to learn a language.  In order to be proficient in a language and become an efficient communicator, one must acquire seven skills that may be divided into two broad groups – Core or Basic Skills group and Applied Skills group.

Core or Basic Skills:  

I put Vocabulary Building, Grammar and Pronunciation in the Core group since they are fundamental to developing other skills; and I place the remaining four, i.e., Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing in the Applied group. These can be developed & utilized only by making use of Basic or Core skills; and then can be applied to achieve the desired effect.

Vocabulary Building: Words are the building blocks of a language. It is primarily the words that are spoken, written, read and listened to as isolated units; and then combined to make out a definite meaning. Knowledge of words is a precursor to developing any other skill in language learning. So, special emphasis must be given to develop vocabulary suited to different occasions.

Pronunciation: Pronunciation is fundamental to speaking & listening. It involves the physical aspect which depends on appropriate use of organs of speech (vocal cords, lips, tongue, teeth, nasal cavity, mouth cavity, teeth ridge & alveolar ridge etc). Pronunciation also helps you acquire a particular accent which is critical while communicating with people from different geographies. It also helps you in learning spellings of words and thus contributes to vocabulary building as well.

Grammar Acquisition: Modern linguists (especially the ones dealing in spoken part) pay little attention to grammatical aspect. My opinion is contrary to theirs and I sincerely apologize their poor knowledge of linguistic pedagogy. Grammar is mainly concerned with arrangement of words to form meaningful sentences. It is very much evident and known to everyone that a minute change in order of words may result in totally different meaning and on occasions may cause havoc for the person doing so. I am sure; no one likes to be in such an embarrassing situation. Instead, one would like to amend one’s ways, follow appropriate grammatical rules to frame sentences in order to convey the proper sense & exact meaning.

Applied Skills Group:

This group comprises Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. Generally, listening and reading are considered to be passive skills, while speaking & writing are termed as active or causative skills.

Reading: It involves looking at words printed, written or displayed on an output device such as a desktop PC, laptop, TV, Bulletin board, Mobile Phone or projector screen. Knowledge of wide vocabulary helps you to read faster and infer exact meaning or message.

Listening: Basically, hearing with intent to understand is termed as listening. Significance of listening is generally underlined by the oft quoted statement, “You need to be a good listener first, if you wish to be a good speaker.” This quote has become the most popular declaration made by the speech trainers at the commencement of their course / session.        

Writing: It is concerned with putting your thoughts in the form of words on a piece of paper or a display device. You have to first think what you wish to write, then search for words to convey your idea(s), arrange them in the form of sentences and finally write them.

Speaking: Speaking (along with writing) is an art. It is also an active skill which involves simulation of the brain with the organs of speech. The utterances are in the form of sounds rather than in the form of written words. Knowledge of words is critical to the process of speaking, since the speaker has to make a choice of words suited to the occasion. Failure to pick apt words or illogical arrangement of words (though appropriately selected) is sure to result in a fiasco on the part of the speaker.   

From the above discussion, it can be easily perceived that one needs to be adept at all the seven skills in order to learn a language and become proficient in it. Most language trainers mention only the four skills: Reading, Writing, Listening along with Speaking; and consider them all in all while teaching or training the learners. Usually, the other three i.e. Vocabulary Building, Pronunciation and Grammar; do not get their due and are often neglected, whereas these skills are more basic necessities and are precursory to learning the applied group. Hence, every learner must be quite diligent and should not at all overlook any of the seven skills required to learn a language.         

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