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 are also defined as the macro skills of communication. These macro skills are utilized by essentially all languages. Babies develop language skills by first listening and then speaking, followed by reading and writing. When learning a new 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 and you become. The same is true with improving communication skills.
There are three modes of listening: competitive, passive and active. Active listening is 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. 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 he is talking is a good way to ensure you hear more of what is being said.
Speaking can be an intimidating experience, even in your native tongue, let alone when learning a new language. 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.
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 has many benefits, including improving memory by exercising the brain, increasing vocabulary, and exposing you to new ideas.
Writing is perhaps the most complex of the communication 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 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.
Robina Sharma has been an online editor and writer since 2007. Her writing has appeared in “Crow Toes Quarterly,” “Education Canada” and on style.ca. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and sociology from the University of Toronto.