The Importance of Speaking in Second Language Acquisition

Second language skills are best learned if speaking is a major component of the learning process, in fact it is essential, but learning a language in countries where that language is not universally spoken can be problematic. This is because the language instructors are not sufficiently versed in speaking that particular second language to teach it. Students, whether in a school setting or in a language training centre often learn to read and write, but they don’t speak enough to be able to get a good grasp of the language to be proficient in both oral and written communication. In some settings, the teacher doesn’t know the language well enough so resorts to teaching the second language while using the native language. In other cases, the new language is so badly pronounced that the student walks away speaking a ‘dialect’ that only folks from that particular country can understand. It would not meet international standards.

Some educationalists believe that a grammatical approach to language acquisition is the best way to learn English. This old-school approach is vetoed by those that prefer the communicative, interactive approach. This second approach can be supported by:

First language learning model – Observation on how the first language is acquired demonstrates that language learning is first learned by verbal interactive communication. Children are well-versed in their mother tongue long before they enter a primary school classroom. If this is how the first language is learned, then learning a second language might well benefit using the same approach.

Grammatical vs. communicative statistics – Students who learn a second language by studying grammar and vocabulary first with only rote speaking techniques generally fare poorly as compared to their counterparts who learned to speak first before settling down to study grammar, reading and writing.

Second language immersion – Acquiring a language through immersion is not only popular but effective. Students come away from this experience not only speaking well, but can often read and pen their thoughts more competently.

So if you don’t have access to instructors who include speaking skills development in their curriculum, what can a student do if studying a second language? Well here are a number of things a student can do; listen to podcasts which may include some interaction, chat with friends and classmates in that language. It doesn’t matter how good or poor you are, you will make mistakes at first. But the more you speak the better you will be come. Of course if your instructor doesn’t speak the language well, it is best to go to the Internet or listen to movies spoken in the second language or try to find someone who speaks it close to what a person who comes from a country where the second language you are learning is the primary or an official language of that country.

Learning to speak moves the student on to developing other language skills such as reading, writing and listening.

, Helen Khan ,