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Developing your Oral Skills - How to Listen / Speak - How to Learn
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Developing your Oral Skills
Ways of Listening and Practicing Speaking
Becoming a life-long language learner/user
by michelle (2007, 2009)

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point Listening: A daily routine (listening to English every day)
Listening to English every day using some of these techniques:

  • Listen-n-Repeat (L & R) for fluency and accuracy (F & A) – use useful language you have selected, the audios of your textbook, your favorite lines from news, interviews, scripts and screenplays... Check out the TP Podcast to find collection of useful sentences.
  • Listen-n-Repeat while Visualizing grammar – reviewing grammar
  • Listen to learn by heart useful language + F & A
  • Listen-n-Visualize – named objects/actions
  • Listen to identify the theme (Skimming)
  • Listen to identify the main points (Skimming)
  • Listen to scan for specific information (Scanning)
  • Listen to summarize / paraphrase (Skimming)
  • Listen to take notes in class
  • Listen to jot down language from an audiovisual
  • Listen to take notes from an audio
  • Listen to take dictations & Self-dictations (in class and elsewhere)
  • Listen to improve your Reading Aloud (use short stories, poems, news items and dialogues)
  • Listen to imitate (textual structure) – e.g. listen to a photo description and then describe your own photo
  • Listen to get the lyrics of a song
  • Bring to mind – try to remember and repeat the language you worked on before
  • Bring to mind – try to remember and write down dialogues or other texts using that language, while you read aloud what you write.

Tip: To learn something, to really know it, be fluent and correct in it, we need to have listened to it hundreds of times before, so keep this in mind! The more you listen, the more you increase your chances of being a competent user of the language.

point Speaking: Jotting Down Useful Language

A lifelong language learner needs to have a few small notebooks scattered all over the house!, so that when you listen to audios or audiovisuals and find a word, a phrase, a sentence you'd like to learn, you can jot it down before you forget!

As a student, you should have a section in your notebook called "Useful Language" where you should gather this material, quoting where you got it from. When you just jot down words you wish to learn, you should always copy a sentence next to each, to illustrate how the word is used.

Finally, these useful sentences and expressions should be the basis of your oral drilling: remember to listen to them and repeat them as often as you can!

point Listening: How Can We Decipher Meaning? (A natural technique!)
Use everything at hand! You need to notice: CONTEXT / SITUATION – PEOPLE INVOLVED - KIND OF TEXT - TOPIC / PROBLEM

  • Listen and Predict: we often know before we hear! We can imagine some things because of our knowledge and experience.
  • Listen and Infer: very often, based on data from text and context, we deduce something, part of the meaning.
  • Skimming / Getting the gist of what's being said: this is only possible if you step back and contemplate the complete scene. It's not possible if you focus in a word-by-word approach, because you are likely to encounter a word you don't know and then you'll panic, and because in order to understand a situation, we just need to understand the whole picture plus a few key words -- just think of conversations at discos!
  • Scanning / Looking for specific information: sometimes we just need to understand specific words, so we don't pay attention to the rest and we just know how to look for the information we need. Think about this. Then how do we know when the info we need is going to appear? Because we know about textual structure and we know what we are looking for.

When you listen, you should also use your...

Life knowledge, sociocultural knowledge. Notice:
• The atmosphere sounds in the situation – what's happening – cars moving slowly, horns sounding
• The tone of people's voices – moods, feelings... – conversations at a party
• What you recognize from the situation because of your experience - someone hailing a taxi, a crowd cheering, a baby crying...
• The "problem" or theme or topic

Linguistic knowledge
Guessing words in context: because you know another language, because they are similar to Spanish, because the context makes them clear!
• Guessing key words because of your knowledge of syntax
• Guessing key words because of stress and intonation

Textual knowledge
• The topic
• Textual format (layout)
• Textual structure and the distribution of contents

point Speaking Strategies: Textual Structure Awareness and Practice: Monolog(ue)s & Dialog(ue)s


  • brainstorming for ideas
  • doing an outline: selecting and organizing ideas, main points
  • brainstorming for useful language: tenses, modals, linkers, expressions, types of sentences, vocabulary…
  • practicing monologue/dialogue (no time limit) + communicative strategies
  • practicing monologue/dialogue with a time limit


  • Doing monologue/dialogue
  • timing yourself
  • using communicative strategies
  • being aware of structure
  • monitoring your production


  • Jotting down ideas and info on mistakes, strong points, to work on that later on.
  • Listening to similar texts, to consolidate and expand your knowledge and awareness.