The Four Basic English Language Skills
As any well-versed English or other foreign language teacher knows there are four basic skills to most foreign languages. These are reading, writing, listening and speaking. You might note that I just said “most foreign languages”. Why? Because, believe it or not, there are some languages which do not have a well-defined written form, or NO written form at all. There are in fact, a number of languages which have a purely “oral or spoken” tradition. In such cases, there is no literature to speak of. There may well be a strong tradition of story-telling however, frequently accomplished through skilled historians / story-tellers called “Griots”.
Literacy in English and Other Foreign Languages
Most foreign languages by far, do contain an alphabet or characters which allow the foreign language to be written. The written character forms may be unique and highly different from the Roman alphabet used in the English language, therefore initially incomprehensible to foreign language learners at first, but that will be acquired over time with intensive study and not a modicum of patience on the part of the foreign language learner. Consider Asian, Middle Eastern and African or Eastern European languages, for examples of other alphabet and character sets.
Reading is Fundamental
Since reading is a fundamental English or foreign language basic skill, you can, should and will certainly use it to tackle most foreign languages. Actually, if you want to ramp up your English or other foreign language vocabulary, pronunciation, reading comprehension and foreign language fluency in record time – we’ll say substantial improvement in one month, 30 days or even less – then you could literally read your way to increased foreign language skills easily in that amount of time. I’ll almost guarantee it if you’re truly persistent.
Use Reading to Improve Foreign Language Skills Fast
Since I live and teach English as a foreign language in Colombia, we’ll use Spanish as our initial example. Most other foreign languages can be improved using the same or similar techniques, as long as they have a well-defined written form and available literature online which you can access freely and easily. If you do need any help, you might try contracting a tutor for a couple of weeks or so to guide you through pronunciation, word formation, some basic grammar aspects and connected speech elements in your target foreign language. Use a portable tape or digital recorder to capture the sounds and pronunciation modeling from your tutor for later and on-going use. One seemingly small, but significant key point I’d like to insert here is this:
A Key Foreign Language Speech Pattern Modeling Point
If you’re a man, try to get a male tutor for your pronunciation and speech practice. If you’re a woman however, then try to get a female foreign language tutor of speech model. Men and women have some very distinctive and noticeable differences in the native language speech patterns, usage and connected speech elements. It has been my experience that ultimately it will make a difference in the way you sound and in the way you use the foreign language. No, I’m not a male chauvinist you-know-what by any means, I’m a university foreign languages professor – just trust me on this, it matters. As an example of what I’m referring to, just turn on a newscast or two and listen to both a male and a female newscaster. Then compare what you hear and you should immediately see what I mean.
In part two we get into the precise details of what you’ll need to do in order to effectively read your way to foreign language fluency in 30 days or less. See you then.