Four Skills of English Language Learning

Four Skills of Language Learning: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

The purpose of language learning is to improve the speakers’ four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, with the base of large vocabulary and good grammar, but this is not the final purpose. The final purpose is to let speakers be able to use the language. For instance, why do people study English? If a man is only good at listening and speaking, can people say that he is good at English? No. If a woman is only good at reading and writing, can people say that she is good at the language? No. In addition, most of the speakers do better in reading and writing than in listening and speaking. They can read and write, but they can hardly communicate. They can hardly express themselves with their own words. We are not able to change the examination system, but we can improve our learning method. So when speakers want to use a language well, do not forget to know all the abilities of the four skills.

Listening, one of the means of language communication is used most widely in people’s daily lives. In addition, teaching the learners a lot of listening activities is a good way of enlargening their vocabulary. On the other hand, it also helps the learners improve their listening comprehension. For instance, people know that the largest difference between mother language learning and foreign language learning is the environment. For a foreign language, we can meet it only in formal places and classes. Training and practicing the oral reading is not a day’s work. Practice is important. Only through the practice can the learners improve their listening comprehension.

Next, Speaking is often connected with listening. For example, the two-way communication makes up for the defect in communicative ability in the traditional learning. Two-way means the relationship of the communication between the teacher and the students at school. This relationship is connected with the communicative activities between two people. It can create a fresh environment for speaking language. The two-way communication can lengthen the dialogue limitlessly. This is its advantage. At the same time, if the speakers want to give the correct response, he has to think hard, the sentence is not easily forgotten which is created by themselves through thinking, sometimes with the teacher’s hint. They can talk freely and express themselves as well as they can.

Next, Reading is an important way of gaining information in language learning and it is a basic skill for a language learner. There are a lot of reading exercises in an examination today. But all these readings must be done in limited time. So learners are asked to read them correctly and with a certain speed. For instance, someone reads word by word. Someone reads with his finger pointing to the words or with his head shaking. Those are all bad habits. They should read phrase by phrase. Do not blink eyes so often and shake head. Just move the eyeball. That is enough. If they want to get more word information, there must be a proper distance between their eyes and the reading material.

Finally, Writing is one way of providing variety in classroom procedures. It provides a learner with physical evidence of his achievements and he can measure his improvement. It helps to consolidate their grasp of vocabulary and structure, and complements the other language skills. Sentence is the base of an article. So he should begin his writing with sentences. For example, translation, sentence pattern exchanging, and text shortening and rewriting. It helps to understand the text and write compositions. It can foster the learner’s ability to summarize and to use the language freely.

Generally these four skills cannot be separated. People often say “First listening and speaking, then reading and writing.” But this way of saying is fit for the beginning stage. Before they are going to have a new lesson, do reading and writing first. So, training and practicing helps learners that raise their ability of language skills.

 

The Production of English Sounds

How are speech sounds produced?

Physically, the production of speech sounds starts from the lungs. Why I say ‘physically’? It is because as a matter of fact, speech production starts in the brain. The brain creates the message and the lexico-grammatical structures which then are executed by speech organs.

First, lungs produce an air stream and expel it through the trachea. In English, speech sounds are the result of “a pulmonic egressive air stream” (Giegerich, 1992).

Second, this air steam goes through larynx. The larynx has two horizontal folds of tissue; they are the vocal folds or vocal cords. The gap between these folds is called the glottis. Glottis can be closed, have a narrow opening, or be wide open. When it is closed, no air can pass, when it has a narrow opening, the vocal folds vibrate to make a ‘voiced sounds’. When it is wide open as when we have a normal breathing, the vibration of vocal folds is reduced and ‘voiceless sounds’ are produced.

Third, the air can go into the nasal or oral cavity. The velum is the part responsible for that selection. If the oral cavity is closed and the air goes into the nose, nasal consonants ([m, n, ŋ] are produced.

Finally, it is the articulation process. It takes place in the mouth and it is the process through which we can differentiate most speech sounds. In the mouth we can distinguish between the oral cavity, which acts as a resonator, and the articulators, which can be active or passive: upper and lower lips, upper and lower teeth, tongue (tip, blade, front, back) and roof of the mouth (alveolar ridge, palate and velum). So, speech sounds are distinguished from one another in terms of the place where and the manner how they are articulated.

English Diphthongs and Triphthongs

Diphthong
• Diphthong: Sounds which consist of a movement or glide from one vowel to another.
• Pure Vowel: A vowel which remains constant, it does not glide.
• Diphthongs have the same length as the long vowels.
• The first part (sound) is much longer and stronger than the second part.
• Example: aɪ in the words ‘eye’ and ‘ɪ ’ consists of the ‘a’ vowel, and only in about the last quarter of the diphthong, does the glide to ‘ɪ’ becomes noticeable.

English has 8 diphthongs.
Centering diphthong:
1. three (3) ending in ‘ə’ : ɪə, eə, ʊə
Closing diphthong
2. three (3) ending in ‘ɪ’: eɪ, aɪ, ɔɪ
3. two (2) ending in ‘ʊ’: əʊ, aʊ

Examples:
• ɪə : beard, weird, fierce, ear, beer, tear
• eə: aired, cairn, scarce, bear, hair,
• ʊə: moored, tour, lure, sure, pure
• eɪ : paid, pain, face, shade, age, wait, taste, paper
• aɪ: tide, time, nice, buy, bike, pie, eye, kite, fine
• ɔɪ: void, loin, voice, oil, boil, coin, toy, Roy
• əʊ: load, home, most, bone, phone, boat, bowl
• aʊ: loud, gown, house, cow, bow, brow, grouse

 

Triphthongs


• A triphthong is a glide from one vowel to another and the to a third, all produced rapidly and without interruption. For example, a careful pronunciation of the word ‘hour’ begins with a vowel quality similar to ‘ɑ:’, goes on to ‘ʊ’ then ends in ‘ə’.
• It says /aʊə/
• Triphthong : 5 closing diphthongs with ‘ə’ added on the end.
– eɪ + ə = eɪə . as in layer, player
– aɪ + ə = aɪə. as in lire, fire
– ɔɪ + ə = ɔɪə, as in loyal, royal
– əʊ + ə = əuə, as in lower, mower
– aʊ + ə = auə, as in power, hour.

 

The Dash

As noted in the section on commas, you can use a dash at the beginning and end of parenthetical information. Usually, you will use dashes when you want to emphasise the information, but you might also use them if the parenthetical information is too long or abrupt to be set off with commas. Continue reading “The Dash”