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The Four Modes of Language Learning

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One person will tell you that it is hard to learn another language and yet another will tell you that it is a breeze.  So, which is it? Unfortunately, there is no one answer to that question. The reason being is that there are several variables that affect the outcome. Let’s talk about these variables. They can be anything from natural ability, time investment, motivation, environment, effective instruction, and access to resources. To truly be able to function within a language with native or near native ability, one has to have a command of the four language modes (listening, speaking, reading and writing).

The assumption remains that if a person is skilled in one then surely he is skilled in the others. Let’s analyze this misconception a little closer. How many people know a person or have heard of adults that are unable to read? As a teacher, parent or student, have you seen students struggle to string together a sentence on paper? Or how about this, have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone but their speech is so poor you can’t quite understand what they are saying? Chances are we have all experienced or known someone who has experienced any of these scenarios. All the people in these scenarios are native speakers, so why are they having problems? The answer– they have a deficiency in one or more of the four language modes (skills).

In the next four articles we will highlight some suggestions on how language students can strengthen each language skill area in their second language.


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