Understand the Four English Language Skills

Lisa Cai Newcomer Information

We are starting a new article series called “English Learning Tips for Newcomers”. In today’s article, let’s first take a look at the basic language skills.

What are the basic English skills?
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
How do we group these four skills?
  1. Based on the direction of communication:
  • Input (receptive) skills: Listening & Reading
  • Output (productive) skills: Speaking & Writing
  1. Based on the method of communication:
  • Auditory / oral (spoken): Listening & Speaking
  • Written: Reading & Writing
Why do I understand more English than I can speak?

Many newcomers who are learning English as a second language find their listening and reading skills are better than speaking and writing skills. There are different explanations for this.

  • Recognition is easier than recall. Passively receiving information is easier than actively producing information. Seeing a word and understanding it is easier than retrieving it when nothing is triggering or activating the memory of that word.
  • How good you are at a specific skill depends on how much time and effort you put into it. You can practice listening and reading in many different ways. You live in Canada and you are exposed to English whether you like it not, but when it comes to writing and speaking, it’s more limited.
  • It takes time to think in your first language, translate your thoughts into English, and come up with a reply.
  • Adult English learners tend to be afraid of making mistakes. They feel shy or even ashamed when they say something wrong, which can prevent them from speaking in English.

In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of articles telling you how to improve your English by yourself. Keep visiting our website for more updates!

Immigrant Services Calgary offers online language assessment services and referrals for clients in Calgary and Southern Alberta. Want to get in touch with one of our newcomer language specialists? Answer a couple of questions to help us know you better! Feel free to chat with us online if you have any questions.

Word of the Day:

Retrieve: to get (something) back. In this article, it means “to find or extract (information) from your memory”.