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How to learn a language
How to learn a language

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1 Speaking is not a discreet skill

The main reason why people learn a language is usually because they want to speak it. Speaking is probably the ultimate goal for most language learners. One important thing to highlight right at the start of this week is that speaking is not a discreet skill, but one that is inextricably linked to other aspects of language learning, most notably listening, vocabulary and grammar, and to automaticity.

After all, in order to speak, you need to know words and be able to put them together to make coherent sentences, and you need to do this fairly fast, so you need to access the right vocabulary and grammatical forms without thinking too much about it. Moreover, you need to be able to understand what your interlocutor is saying, hence the importance of listening skills when developing your speaking. You might spend some time thinking about how you are going to ask for directions to a museum or thinking about how to ask a new local friend to tell you about life in their country, but if you can’t understand the answer, you will not be very successful in your communicative exchange.

A cartoon with four frames.
Figure 1 Asking for directions

This week you are going to think about what is involved in speaking, and then look at practical ways to develop your speaking skills.