The 4 Essential Language Skills – and How to Improve Them
So, I asked on Facebook about which of the four essential language skills you most struggle with:
And wow, did you answer!
The Fluent in 3 Months team were OVERWHELMED with the response we got – and so grateful for your openness and honesty.
Here are just a few of the responses you gave:
What are the essential language skills you struggle with most?
Overall, the results came out like this:
As you can see, listening and speaking came up as the biggest struggles – pretty much equally.
So, I decided to put together a collection of some of the best language hacking resources from Fluent in 3 Months that will help you improve these skills.
Let's get stuck in!
Get Speaking! Resources to Improve Your Speaking Skills
Since I discovered my language hacking method, I've advocated the Speak from Day One approach to language learning.
Speaking a new language – even as a beginner – is the most effective way I've found of learning a language.
For most language learners, their end goal is to speak, so it's really satisfying to be able to do this right from the start.
Here are the articles and resources I'd recommend to improve your speaking skills:
- The smartest decision you will ever make to achieve fluency. Read the story of how I discovered my Speak from Day One approach to language hacking.
- How to Use Skype to Learn Another Language. In this article you'll learn where to find a language exchange partner so you can practise your speaking skills, and what to do once you've found one.
- Speak! Or stop pretending you want to. Get clear on whether you really want to speak a new language, or whether another goal is more appropriate for you.
- How to convince natives to speak to you in their language. A big challenge when speaking a new language is that your conversation parter switches to English. Here's how to avoid that.
- The ONLY way to speak a language… is to speak it!
- How to Speak Spanish in 4 Days. Watch how Martyn prepared for a 10-minute conversation in Spanish after just four days of learning.
- What's it Like to Be a Language Hacker? Read stories of how other language learners have got on using my Speak from Day One method.
- italki Review. Discover my favourite tool for finding language exchange partners.
I'd also recommend that you check out my Speak in a Week email course. This free course introduces you to the principles of language hacking, and gets you speaking your target language in front of an audience in just seven days.
Now Listen Up! How to Improve Your Listening Skills
Listening is probably the hardest skill to master in a new language.
When I took the C2 exam for German (mastery level), listening was the only skill where I fell short. And it seems I'm not the only one who has found listening a struggle:
Here are the top articles on Fluent in 3 Months to help with your listening skills:
- Language Learning Podcasts: Can You Learn a Language by Listening to Podcasts? Podcasts are one of my favourite tools for improving my listening skills – in this post I share the podcasts that I think are the best for language learners.
- How to Improve Your Listening Skills in a New Language. This article by Andrew Barr gives a comprehensive overview of what it takes to improve your listening skills.
- Shocking truth about passive listening. Passive listening will rarely improve your language skills. Find out why in this article.
- How to download free native-spoken podcasts & MP3s in almost any language. The title says it all on this one.
- Is Watching Foreign Language Movies a Waste of Time? Find out whether you can improve your listening skills by watching world cinema.
- What if your listening comprehension really sucks? I was asked this question in the Fluent in 3 Months forum – so you'll see my answer, and the answers of the Fi3M community.
Read All About It! Improve Your Reading Skills with These Resources
Reading didn't feature as a major struggle in your Facebook comments. That's probably because most language courses start with reading (rather than speaking, as I'd recommend).
Here are the top Fluent in 3 Months articles on developing your reading skills:
- 5 Hacks to Learn Languages by Reading Literature. Are you a bookworm? Then you'll love this article by Igor Barca on being a literary language learner.
- Best method to read books in the target language. Discover reading hacks from the Fluent in 3 Months community in this Fi3M forum discussion.
- Books are dead – it’s time to ditch 15th century technology. Find out why I love my Kindle for reading practice.
- Pocket to Kindle: How to Instantly Transfer Web Articles to Your Kindle (in One Click). Want free reading materials? Here's how to transfer web articles straight to your Kindle.
- Language Learning Podcasts: Can You Learn a Language by Listening to Podcasts? What do podcasts have to do with reading? Well, the best podcasts include reading materials so you can follow along as you listen.
Write it Down! Resources to Improve Your Writing Skills
A few of you mentioned writing as a struggle, though it didn't come up nearly as much as speaking or listening. As with reading, my guess is that writing comes more easily because most language courses focus on writing.
Here are our resources for improving your writing skills in a new language:
- How to Learn a Song in a Language You Don’t Know. When does singing improve your writing skills? When you write out the lyrics! Plus you'll develop your speaking and listening skills at the same time.
- Writing a Novel in Another Language. Have you ever thought about writing stories in another language? What about writing a novel? Read about our amazing community members who are taking up this challenge in the Fluent in 3 Months forum.
- HelloTalk Review. HelloTalk helps you find language exchange partners to text chat with. It's perfect for improving your writing and reading skills in a real-world environment.
- Duolingo Review. Did you know that Duolingo makes money from getting community members to crowd-translate documents? So, it has a horse in the race when it comes to improving your writing skills. I'd recommend it for that purpose.