We get better at what we practice most. Sounds obvious, yes? Yet far too many language learners wonder why they aren’t getting better at listening and speaking despite all the hours they’ve spent reading, memorizing vocabulary, and studying grammar rule. See the faulty logic here? Trying to get better at speaking by memorizing words and rules is like trying to get better at martial arts by watching kung fu movies. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Here’s the reality:

  • Listening will make you better at…wait for it…listening!
  • Reading will make you better at…wait for it…reading!
  • Speaking will make you better at…wait for it…speaking!
  • Writing will make you better at…wait for it…writing!

I will concede that there is a little crossover between the four language skills, especially from listening to speaking, and from reading to writing, but you will see the most improvement when you practice each skill directly.

If your goal is to actually speak a foreign language (and such is usually the case for the vast majority of language learners), then you have to actually speak the language. I know it can be scary, especially in the early stages when you have very few active words or structures in your linguistic arsenal. But be brave and realize that making mistakes is a necessary part of the journey. Learn to laugh at your gaffes. Find joy in your logical—but incorrect—guesses. And have the courage to keep at it day in and day out no matter what.

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