Hello everybody! my name is Tara Musich and I am a teacher of American English, currently teaching online while living abroad. Today I am going to talk to you about a topic that many of my students and I discuss together. The topic that we often discuss is “Why listening is not enough.” Now, when I say that to you, you might think “Hey wait teacher what do you mean listening is not enough? Everybody tells me I should listen like a baby and I should just be listening all the time and then this will help me speak”…and in many ways listening does help you, but let me give you an example of why it is not the best way to start speaking.
So, imagine you want to learn to swim, swim, right? In the pool or in the ocean. You know you start reading books and watching documentaries about swimming. Maybe you watch some sporting events about swimming. Maybe you decide to talk to someone about swimming. Someone who is a good swimmer, for example …And they can give you some advice about how to swim correctly and how not to make mistakes and things like that. Maybe you join a special group guided by an experienced swimmer and you know, you can discuss all of your worries and difficulties in regard to swimming. After you’ve done all of these activities, have you learned to swim? …Well the same is true for speaking, truly. You can read about it, and you can watch movies and you can think about it, do all of these things, but unless you truly use it and practice with it, you’ll never really be able to speak in a foreign language, any foreign language, if you don’t really start speaking.
For example, I speak Spanish fluently – I have for fifteen years – but I am currently studying French. French makes me very nervous. The pronunciation of the language is very difficult and sometimes I feel a little bit apprehensive when needing to speak. But the fact of the matter is that if I don’t speak at all then I will never be able to. You have to do something to be able to…you have to practice something to be able to do it. That’s the way that it is with anything in the world, with any special skill. So, I know that from my own personal experience with foreign language, that even though I read books, and I watch TV and I listen to music in French – I still can’t speak it, because I don’t, I don’t – I haven’t practiced enough actually “talking” with native speakers.
Like I’ve been saying, the new age English teachers, the new age English professionals out there are telling you that you should be listening in order to speak. They think that you should buy some of their useful audios and materials, so that you can, you know, improve your speaking skills. But it is really hard to believe, as a student of a foreign language, that listening is all that it takes to be able to be conversational. The truth is nothing will ever replace a live speaker, a native speaker with whom you can discuss your challenges and your difficulties and then together improve on your speaking. It is very important to remember that one should study all the different areas of English language learning. This is a truth, but another truth is that an audio program, a computer program will never replace what a live teacher can do for you.
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