We have two ears and one mouth…thus we should hear twice as much as we say! This is a very old saying, but holds very true when we look at it from a language learner’s perspective.
Many of our learners, in their needs analysis, state that they need to practice their speaking skills. However, speaking itself usually implies that we have an audience (be it of one), and people tend to respond to what we say. Thus it is not enough for us to speak correctly and fluently – our listening skills must also be up to standard.
A colleague of mine told me that he had spent quite a lot of time and money improving his Spanish. When the time came, he took up a job in Barcelona, and was very excited to be able to use his new linguistic skills. One of the first things he did was go to the local “bodega” (grocery store) to buy some basic foodstuffs. He worked out the shopping list and off he went. However, to his disappointment, whenever he asked the shop assistant for something off the list, he was bombarded with a number of questions which he couldn’t understand…was it the speed, the accent, or wasn’t my colleague’s Spanish up to speed?
Many times it happens that we focus on our production skills (i.e. speaking & writing) and neglect the importance of our receptive skills (i.e. listening & reading). However once we realise that communication, in whatever form, is (at least) two-way, then we begin to comprehend why it is important to not only say things properly, but also that it is imperative to understand what other people are saying. This is the basis of communication.
At Elite Learning we place great importance on successful communication. This is why we reserve some time during each course to practicing two-way communication – that is both speaking and listening, ensuring that learners can successfully communicate their thoughts in English, and also successfully respond to what others are saying.
If we look at “telephone” skills (nowadays the telephone may also be substituted by a computer), the basis of successful communication is not only being able to say what we need to, but also to understanding what is being said on the other end, and then responding in an appropriate manner.
Listening as a language skill should be given the importance it deserves, since it is the backbone of successful verbal communication.