Published: 07th November 2020
Enhancing English language skills: Why it is important to develop our receptive skills
The purpose of giving these three statements was to highlight the importance of receptive skills which are neglected by most English language teachers
Recently, I was the resource person for a two-hour-long online workshop on "Effective Ways of Teaching English", organised by Oxford University Press. The participants of the workshop were a group of 25 English language teachers from a residential school in Chennai. During the course of the session, they were asked to state whether the following statements are true or false:
A good speaker is a good listener.
A good writer is a good reader.
Developing communicative competence is the fundamental aim of language teaching. The teachers' responses were mixed. The purpose of giving these three statements was to highlight the importance of receptive skills which are neglected by most English language teachers. Of the four major language skills, listening and reading are known as receptive skills and speaking and writing are called productive skills. Some teachers treat productive skills as active skills and receptive skills as passive skills and do not give importance to the so-called 'passive skills'. It is incorrect to label listening and reading as passive skills. All four skills are active skills and should be given equal importance. Let the labels: "active listening skills" and "active reading skills" help us treat listening and reading as active skills.
Let us look at the first statement: "A good speaker is a good listener." It is very much true. Those who have developed their speaking skills and speak effectively have given importance to listening skills. By being good listeners, learners learn how to pronounce individual words correctly. They also acquire the skills of identifying lexical chunks (a group of words) and stressing the words that need to be stressed in connected speech. Most effective communicators attribute their success to their active listening skills.
Let us look at the second statement: "A good writer is a good reader." Reading and writing are related. A good writer is one who writes convincingly and effectively. Their writings are characterised by their clarity of thought and clarity of expression. All great writers attribute their success to their readings. A ‘scrupulous reader’ can become a ‘scrupulous writer’. In other words, those who know the art of reading any text have the potential to become good writers. George Orwell says the ‘scrupulous writer’ asks himself these questions in every sentence: "What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?"
Language acquisition expert Stephen Krashen, based on the results of research in the area of reading, states that those "who read for pleasure do significantly better in all the areas of language use: reading comprehension, vocabulary development, grammatical correctness, writing style, and spelling…"
Developing communicative competence is the fundamental aim of language teaching and language teachers can do justice to learners only by encouraging learners to develop their receptive skills.
Not all readers are leaders,
but all leaders are readers