Monday, 6 February 2017

Practising your Four Language Skills Online in Line with your Goals

A simple question: ‘Do you speak English (German/Spanish etc.)?’ apparently reflects the main desired outcome of learning a foreign language. The verb is not to read or write or understand. It is to speak.

There is no doubt that the most impressive thing is when someone opens their mouth and starts speaking a foreign language fluently, better even with no phonetic burden of their native mother tongue, an accent. Like in a scene from Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ with Christoph Waltz speaking Italian (love this scene!)

While fluent speaking is deemed a pinnacle of foreign language acquisition, it would be a mistake to think that one needs to focus only on practising speaking during the learning process itself.

Reading as well as listening is that ‘input’ without which ‘output’, i.e. speaking and writing will just not happen. And ‘output’ cannot be limited to just speaking, especially online.

It’s not difficult to find content online to practise all four skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. But with the abundance of very often random information, comes a problem of its structuring and choosing what is actually useful. So, you need to focus on what is really important for you.

Just think about the goals you would like to achieve in life. And I don’t mean just linguistic ones as language is a form in which important content comes to you. Think about your professional, your family and personal goals and aspirations when you explore the following online media.

News Websites and Papers

When reading news online, it might be useful to check out specific news sections connected with the area of your expertise, i.e. technology, business, arts, etc. With articles, short videos and opportunity to comment, you have reading, listening and writing covered here. For example, if you are in IT, it’s technology section you might want to check for the latest news. Or if you are an opera admirer, arts section will keep you up-to-date with your craze.

Social Media

Social media are often deemed a mere distraction and a time waster. But it can be really useful as you don’t have to search for the content yourself, it finds you instead. Just make sure you unfollow the sources that don’t bring you any value and follow the ones that do. The professionals you admire on Twitter or LinkedIn, relevant businesses or groups on Facebook, just people who bring you joy on Instagram. Again you have three skills covered here - you read posts, comments and articles, watch videos and post updates and comments yourself.


If you don’t like social media but would still like a nudge now and then referring you to the relevant content, subscribe to emails from gurus in your area of expertise or the area of expertise you would like to develop and explore the content as it lands in your inbox. With some of them it’s not only reading that you have covered but also writing, as some experts encourage you to reply to their emails. Just make sure that, as with all of the above, you don’t do it just to practise your language skills but actually have something to say or a relevant question to pose. For example, if you are a marketeer specialising in email marketing, you might find AWeber newsletters useful. Or if you need language learning inspiration and advice to keep you going, do subscribe to our newsletter by signing up here. We won’t spam you, we promise :)


Some experts also run podcasts so you might want to check iTunes or Google Play to subscribe. Or just browse online for the relevant audio content. It covers your listening skills practice and you can write reviews to help others find great content in your area of expertise. And if this is your thing, you can share your own content with others by creating podcasts yourself. Here is speaking covered for you.


And some gurus even have their own youtube channels which you can subscribe to. There are all sorts of tutorials and vlogs there as well. And I mean, all sorts. Whether you need to plant fuchsia in your garden, put up a shelf in your bedroom, crop a photo, bake a cake, plait you daughter’s hair or do your nails, YouTube has it all. And for writing skills practice there is an opportunity to comment on videos. If you are feeling adventurous, you can create videos yourself with the speaking skill practice covered as a bonus.


These are really popular and give you an opportunity to listen to the experts you follow in real time, post or even ask questions if it’s an option for a specific webinar you attend.


With a bit more time on your hands, you can attend a MOOC (Massive open online course) to get the academic level knowledge related to your professional interests. You listen to the lectures, read recommended books and / or articles on the subject, do the written assignments and interact with other students via forums, covering your listening, reading and writing skills all on one platform! There are even opportunities for meetups organisers of some courses provide (speaking!) if you happen to be nearby.

The table below sums up what skills you can practise with which online medium and also what action you need to take. Happy browsing!

P.S. Before taking these actions, you might want to check out this post to make sure you build in your language practice into your day or week in order to stay on track and prevent slacking.

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