Sunday, 6 March 2011

Applied Linguistics: Teaching Language Skills

When talking about language skills, the four basic ones are listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, other, more socially-based skills have been identified more recently such as summarizing, describing, narrating etc. In addition, more general learning skills such as study skills and knowing how one learns have been applied to language classrooms.

In the 1970s and 1980s the four basic skills were generally taught in isolation in a very rigid order, such as listening before speaking. However, since then, it has been recognized that we generally use more than one skill at a time, leading to more integrated exercises.[4] Speaking is a skill that often is underrepresented in the traditional classroom. This could be due to the fact that it is considered a less-academic skills than writing, is transient and improvised (thus harder to assess and teach through rote imitation).

More recent textbooks stress the importance of students working with other students in pairs and groups, sometimes the entire class. Pair and group work give opportunities for more students to participate more actively. However, supervision of pairs and groups is important to make sure everyone participates as equally as possible. Such activities also provide opportunities for peer teaching, where weaker learners can find support from stronger classmates

Writing, speaking and listening are communication skills that are important in all subject areas in the curriculum. Hence, literacy should have a central position in the curriculum. Even so, differences between students’ levels of literacy mean that some students fail to acquire the verbal foundations for learning. For this reason,increasing numbers of students fall short of proficiency as they proceed through the school.