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Language Skills

           Learning a language can be attributed to mastering a set of skills to use the language. Language is a skill subject different from content subjects like Mathematics, History or Geography.  

Teaching of English or any other language predominantly rests on developing of four main skills mainly listening, speaking, reading and writing in the learners.
* The following are the four aims of teaching English according to Thompson and Wytt:

a) to understand spoken English (Listening).
b) to speak English (Speaking).
c) to understand written English (Reading).
d) to write English (Writing).
* The above four skills listening, speaking, reading and writing can be divided into Active and Passive or Productive and Receptive skills.

The following diagrammatic representation vividly depicts the classification of the skills



           Though Listening and Reading seem to be passive outwardly, they are active which need lot of concentration.

  Listening is the primary channel in language acquisition. It is an activity of paying attention to and trying to get the meaning from something we hear. We see some people using listening and hearing a synonyms but there is a clear distinction between the two.

Listening and Hearing
* Hearing is a physical process of receiving sounds. Enjoying music while doing some work comes under hearing.
* Listening on the other hand is a conscious mental process or an active cognitive process. Listening is conscious and focussed where as hearing is casual and general.

Listening - Definition
       Listening is the ability to identify and understand what others are saying. This involves understanding a speaker’s accent or pronunciation, his grammar and his vocabulary and grasping his meaning. - Howatt and Dakin

Fathers of listening
       James Brown, Ralph Nichols and Carl Weaver were the eminent linguists of 1940s who established, listening  as a skill and are considered to be 'Fathers of listening'. 

Sub- skills of Listening
     The skill of listening may be classified into:
     1. Listening for sound perception 2. Listening for comprehension.


1. Listening for Sound Perception
    This involves:
* identifying sounds.
* segmenting (separating) sounds into meaningful groups.
¤ recognising stress and intonation patterns.


2. Listening for comprehension
    This involves:
* Understanding the meanings of the words.

* Following commands or directions, requests given orally.

* Understanding questions, dialogues conversations.
* understanding narrations or descriptions.
* understanding the tone of the speaker.


Kinds of Listening:
    Wohim and Coakely (1982) described five kinds of listening.
* Discriminative listening - listening to distinguish fact from opinion.
* Comprehensive listening - listening to understand a message.
* Critical listening - listening to evaluate and then accept or reject.
* Therapeutic listening - listening to understand the speaker's problems / feelings and help him.
* Appreciative listening - listening for enjoyment or to gain sensory impression.


Listening Tasks
* Use of minimal pairs (pairs of words which differ only in one sound).
E.g.: pat - bat The teacher says the words of these type and asks the children whether they are the same or different.

* Identification of the words with different stress patterns.

e.g.: 'conduct - con'duct 
         (noun) - (verb)
* The teacher gives commands and children follow them.
* Reading out the listening passage and asking a few questions to check if the students have listened and understood correctly.
* The teacher plays a tape containing a recorded speech and asks the students to listen to the tape keeping in view the questions already written on the black board.

    Language is primarily speech. French said ‘speech is the ground work; all the rest are built up from it’. This view is supported by Champion who said 'The first duty of the teacher is to teach students to speak English'. According to Celce Murcia speaking and listening are interdependent (or) intertwined conversational skills which are paramount in the development of language.

What is speaking?
Speaking is an orderly form of message. It can further be elaborated as:
         "Arranging of thoughts and ideas in coherence and expressing in phonological terms". Message words string together orders - articulation

Types of Speaking
* Spoken English is part of communication i.e, oral communication. Oral communication implies communication through mouth. It includes individuals conversing with each other.
* A vivid picture of types of oral communication is furnished in the table given below.


Sub Skills of Speaking
     The students should be taught to communicate effectively in formal, informal and semi-formal situations.
In order to enable the learners to speak effectively in any situation, the following sub-skills of speaking should be developed in them.
1. Asking questions and answering when others put questions.
2. Introducing themselves and others.
3. Talking about themselves to others
4. Describing people, places, objects and processes.
5. Making enquiries and giving complaints
6. Asking and giving directions and instructions
7. Arguing, Persuading and convincing others.
8. Participating in group discussions as an initiator, contributor, critic or reporter
9. Participating in debates
10. Announcing and compering an event.

Speaking Tasks / Techniques 
   The following are some tasks/ techniques which could be used in the class room to enable the learners to speak English.
* The best technique to learn to articulate meaningful sounds in a foreign or second language is to begin naming the familiar objects around us.
* A very enjoyable way of learning to say English words and sentences is through rhymes and chants. Children in the primary classes enjoy repeating rhymes.
* At a slightly advanced level, tongue twisters can be used to practise difficult English sounds, or sounds which learners can not articulate easily.
e.g.: She sells sea-shells on the sea shore.
This tongue twister helps the learners to contrast the (s) and (sh) sounds which are often pose a problem.
* Meaningful drills (repetition drill, substitution drill, completion drill etc.) provide ample opportunity for the learners to speak English with proper stress and intonation.
* Dialogues are helpful to attain speaking competence among the learners. These deal with the interactional aspect of speaking. Dialogues could be used to practise language functions like greeting, agreeing, disagreeing, asking for information, suggestions, apologies etc.
* Role play is a popular technique used in classes to teach speaking skills.

Reading Skill
    Reading is generally defined as a process that helps to:
a) decode, decipher and identify the words in print.
b) articulate, speak and pronounce the words in print.
c) understand, interpret and sense the meaning of the words/ texts in print.
        In fact the education of a child is imperfect unless he/ she is equipped with the ability to read, to decipher, to interpret and to understand properly the contents of a reading material.


Sub skills of Reading
   Many linguists like W.M. Rivers, Carrilio, F. Grellet, John Munby have analysed the skills of Reading. Among them John Munby's analysis is very concrete and comprehensive.

The following are some sub - skills:
* Recognising the script of the language.

* Deducing (forming an opinion) the meaning from unfamiliar words.
* Understanding explicitly (clearly, directly) or implicitly (indirect) stated information.

e.g.: 1) The house became an oven when the air conditioner broke down in summer (Implicit statement - The implied meaning here is 'the house was hot').
         2) The house became hot and oven like when the air conditioner broke down in summer (Explicit statement - The message is clear here as the house was hot).
* Understanding the communicative value (function) of sentences.
e.g.: Fie! How bad! (Expressing disgust)
* Understanding relations between the parts of a text through lexical cohesion devices (linkers).
e.g.: A: Which ice-cream would you like?
        B: I like the pink one.
        ('One' (Pronoun) in the above sentence refers to ice-cream).
* Transcoding information into diagrammatic display.
* Skimming - reading for gist.
* Scanning - reading for specific information.

Skimming and Scanning

* Skimming: Skimming is a reading process where the reader reads quickly in order to find out the central idea/ gist/ substance of a text.
* The reader does not go for the minute details but frames on overall impression.
* It is glancing of the text to understand its general content.

Skimming Activities:
* Choosing an appropriate title for the given passage.
* Selecting a right heading for the news item.
* Matching the text with pictures/ diagrams.
* Scanning: Glancing rapidly through the text to find out some specific information.
* The reader never goes for all the details but exclusively traces out the information he requires.
* It is a timed activity with specific questions.


Oral and Silent Reading
    Keeping in view the manner we read, Reading can be divided into (1) Oral Reading
(2) Silent Reading.

Oral Reading (or) Reading Aloud:
     Reading aloud is barking at print - P.B. Ballard
* Oral Reading is meant for early stages.
* It extracts word - sound association.

* It is aimed at developing speech with correct pronunciation, stress and intonation.
* In Oral Reading students proceed in the following manner as explained by Dr. West.

* Oral Reading provides Auditory training.
* It shows down the pace of reading but it is not possible to dispense with it.
* Reading aloud serves as a base for Silent Reading.


Silent Reading:
* Silent Reading is for pleasure and profit - Ryburn
* Silent Reading is reading for comprehension. It is an activity completely done in silence without moving lips.
* It aims at improving eye - span. (No. of words eyes take at one jump)
* Silent Reading helps the learners to develop the abilities like finding the main idea, answering questions, summarising, predicting, critically examining etc. - Deboer and Dallmann

Intensive Reading and Extensive Reading

Intensive Reading:
* A minute and detailed study of the prescribed prose text is called intensive reading.
* It is reading for accuracy involves approaching a text under the close guidance of the teacher.
* An intensive reading lesson is primarily concerned with developing reading strategies- judgement, reasoning, interpretation, appreciation etc in the learners.


Extensive Reading:
* Reading of longer texts for pleasure is the basic motto of extensive reading.
* It is meant for developing the habit and a taste for reading.
* Extensive reading is not concerned with a detailed examination of the text.
* It helps the students to learn more vocabulary.
* It develops fluency among the readers.

Undesirable Reading Habits"
   The following are some reading defects in a poor reader which are to be avoided by the teacher.
1. Finger Pointing: Many readers run their fingers on the text while reading. This habit impedes the reading speed. The teacher should take care to detect this bad habit in the initial stage and refrain the pupils from doing so.

2. Faulty Head Movement: Moving head slightly across the line while reading is a stumbling block. It drastically decreases the reading pace. The learners should be encouraged to give up this bad habit by sensitising them constantly.
3. Sub-vocalising: Some people have the habit of making sounds of the words they read or murmuring them aloud. If pupils are encouraged to sub vocalise, they tend to read a text word by word instead of in sense groups. This habit therefore be curbed.
4. Regression: This is yet another bad reading habit. In this the reader moves his/ her eyes frequently back to check the previous words instead of moving forward. Naturally this slows down the reading speed. The readers should be advised not go back while reading unless there is necessity for better comprehension.

Methods of Teaching Reading
The following are some important methods of teaching reading

1. Alphabetic method (or) ABC method (or) Spelling Method

* This method is of Greek and Roman in origin.
* Students first learn the names of the letters of alphabet.
* The progression of reading in this method is

* Unit of reading is letter.

* Dull, mechanical method
* Eye span cannot be improved
* It is slow, lengthy and tedious.


2. Phonic Method: Emphasis in this method is on learning the sounds of the letters because words are produced/ articulated not by letters but by sounds. This theory was envisaged by psycho linguists like Huey, Edmund Burke, Anderson and Deborz.
* Unit of reading is sound of the letter.

Limitations: It confuses the pupils because many words have same sound but different spellings (Homophones).

e.g.: buy - bye weather - whether
* No chance for the expansion of eye span.
* Delays the process of reading.


3. Word Method/ Look and say Method/ Flash card method: Comenius (1657) introduced this method.
* Words are presented along with pictures.
* Unit of reading is a Word. According to some scholars, the unit of reading may be a word/ a phrase/a sentence.

Limitations: All words can not be taught with pictures.
* Children will be put to lot of strain in remembering the words.

4. Phrase method: Harold Palmer - the strong supporter of this method. According to him the word is too small and the sentence is too long to read.
* This method believes phrases are more interesting than words.
* Unit of reading is a phrase.
Limitations: It has all the limitations of word method.

5. Sentence Method: WM Ryburn believed that this is the right method to teach reading of short sentence where there is not more than one sense group.
e.g.: She is eating.
* A sentence is the unit of reading.
* The procedure of reading in this method is -


Limitations: The reader find it difficult to read a sentence without the knowledge of words and letters.
* This is time consuming.


(Writer: S. Rahamathulla)

Posted Date : 09-09-2023


గమనిక : ప్రతిభ.ఈనాడు.నెట్‌లో కనిపించే వ్యాపార ప్రకటనలు వివిధ దేశాల్లోని వ్యాపారులు, సంస్థల నుంచి వస్తాయి. మరి కొన్ని ప్రకటనలు పాఠకుల అభిరుచి మేరకు కృత్రిమ మేధస్సు సాంకేతికత సాయంతో ప్రదర్శితమవుతుంటాయి. ఆ ప్రకటనల్లోని ఉత్పత్తులను లేదా సేవలను పాఠకులు స్వయంగా విచారించుకొని, జాగ్రత్తగా పరిశీలించి కొనుక్కోవాలి లేదా వినియోగించుకోవాలి. వాటి నాణ్యత లేదా లోపాలతో ఈనాడు యాజమాన్యానికి ఎలాంటి సంబంధం లేదు. ఈ విషయంలో ఉత్తర ప్రత్యుత్తరాలకు, ఈ-మెయిల్స్ కి, ఇంకా ఇతర రూపాల్లో సమాచార మార్పిడికి తావు లేదు. ఫిర్యాదులు స్వీకరించడం కుదరదు. పాఠకులు గమనించి, సహకరించాలని మనవి.

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