When we learn our native language, first we listen, then we speak, then we read and finally we write. Listening, speaking, reading and writing are the four language skills we need to develop for complete communication.
Listening and reading are receptive: input, for example, the exposure you have to authentic language in use. Speaking and writing are productive: output, for example, the action of producing language as part of the process of second language learning.
To achieve these four basic language skills, you need to surround yourself with English: make English part of your life at home, at work, during your free time.
Practice makes perfect, which means that if you want to improve a certain skill you have to practice it. As a beginner learner you will need to achieve all 4 language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Effective listening ensures understanding and it helps improve accuracy when speaking, among other things. How can you improve your listening skills? By listening actively, for example paying attention not only on what is said, but also how it is said. So listen:
1. To music –old or modern; the type you prefer, but pay attention to the lyrics. (Sometimes reading the lyrics may help you understand the song.)
2. To movies, TV shows, news, entertainments, the radio – try the classics. If you can watch DVDs you can watch the movie several times. Watching with subtitles and then, when you feel more comfortable, without them. You can have English radio at home or on your mobile phone. Even if you are not actually listening to it, your ears will be getting used to the sounds of the language.
3. Attend plays, exhibitions, talks in English organized by English speaking schools or communities.
It is often the hardest of the four language skills, but as soon as you can speak a little English there are lots of ways to improve quickly and have tons of fun.
4. Join voiced chats. Technology has advanced a lot in terms of social networks so, wherever you live, youll find a chat-room to join.
5. Talk and record yourself. This may sound funny, but it will help you realize how you can improve by repeating the recording several times until you feel happy with the results.
6. Talk to your classmates in English when you are not in class. You can even make a group to play games, have a meal or just chat together.
It is a process of the brain and it takes time to develop: your mind has to attach meaning to the words, phrases and expressions represented by symbols, plus get to understand the grammar and structure of the language used in the passage to read. If you develop strong reading skills, it will be very helpful to your future. You can read:
7. Books in English and articles on the web. Maybe, books you have already read in your mother tongue or which have been turned into movies. Try to start with easy books, even childrens books and comics: The images will help you understand even if you dont know all the words.
8. Switch the operating system of your mobile phone, your PC or tablet into English. Associating a function with a certain word, will improve your vocabulary.
Even though it may be intimidating to a lot of people, anyone can get used to writing with a little discipline and a willingness to learn.
9. Write down words or expressions you think useful with their meaning and examples. If you see them in sentences you will remember them better. You can use them if you keep a diary.
10. Write comments in English blogs. At present blogs are websites that resemble journals. Lots of people use them to expose their ideas on a certain topic or to explain things – from how to knit a scarf, to very complicated ones where technical or philosophical topics are dealt with. One common feature of all these blogs is that they are interactive: the readers can make comments or debate the ideas stated in the blog. Even if you are not a blog fan, you may find some that really encourage you to take part. So, just do it. You dont need to be an expert to write a few sentences about what you think or feel about the content of the blog.
All the above mentioned tips can be reduced to just one: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Whatever learning style you have, whatever your native language is, the key to acquire and master a foreign language is PRACTICE it as much and as often as possible.