What are Four Macro Skills of Communication?

We often think communication is limited to what we say or hear, but that's not the case. Language is expressed in four ways: reading, speaking, writing and listening. These four language skills are also defined as the macro skills of communication for any language, including English. These macro skills are utilized by essentially all languages and all learners. Babies develop language skills by first listening and then speaking, followed by reading and writing.

When learning a new language and the skills of language, the best way to do so is by engaging in a balance of each of these areas, as they are all interconnected. As with any skill, the more you practice or exercise, the stronger you become. The same is true with improving communication skills. The English language can often be difficult for non-native speakers, so these language learning skills help within early communication processes in the learning period. ESL is also a great communication skill to learn for those wanting to learn English and for the most versatile communication skills.


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There are three modes of listening: competitive, passive and active. Active listening skills are considered the most effective because the listener is not only listening with interest, but actively acknowledging listening by brief responses. Most individuals are not as skilled at listening as they think, even with it being an important skill for language acquisition. Depending on the study, listeners likely remember 25 to 50 percent of what they hear, according to Mindtools.

Giving the speaker your undivided attention and not focusing on what you are going to say in response while they are talking is a good way to ensure you hear more of what is being said, especially from someone teaching English. Language learners often do their best when listening to the language during their learning process. Short stories are often great examples of what to listen to when learning a language.


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Speaking can be an intimidating experience, even in your native language, let alone when learning a new or foreign language for the first time. The best way to learn how to speak, though, is by practicing, so put your inhibitions aside and strike up a conversation whenever you are given an opportunity to do so. When speaking, be aware of your pace and try not to mumble, speak clearly. Consider being expressive when you talk; avoid a monotonous tone. Expression adds interest and depth to what you are saying and it will keep your listener interested. Learning English is easier when learning to speak English to others, and many non-native speakers use English as a second language to improve their public speaking skills and for effective communication.


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Children learn to read by first learning their ABCs and sounding out the letters to discover what sound they make. The phonetic approach to reading—using sound units to figure out the words—is arguably the best approach because theoretically, if you know the sounds, you can read any word, regardless of the difficulty level. This is also the case when learning a new language. Reading skills have many benefits, including improving memory by exercising the brain, increasing vocabulary, and exposing you to new ideas in linguistics. Flashcards can also be used to enhance language skills with new words, and they can even help with sentence structure. Small reading efforts can even eventually lead to extensive reading once mastering this productive skill.


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Writing is perhaps the most complex of the communication micro-skills and takes the most time to master. As with any other skill, the craft of putting words on paper is improved through practice and a willingness to improve on past attempts. The more you practice, the better you will get! Moving beyond the basics, many types of writing skills can be used, depending on audience and purpose. Writing can be a basic means of conveying information—such as in newspapers—or it can be a tool to create elaborate new worlds, much like those found in fiction novels such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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