Teaching English as a Skill Subject
Language is skill subject as it involves the various skills like listening, speaking, reading and writing. It has to be developed by oneself by constant effort and with proper training of senses. In a skill there is a co ordination of muscular activities along with the intellectual activity.
Differences between skill and content subjects:
Skills cannot be taught but rather caught. Language is skill subject and not a content or knowledge subject as history or science is. While learning history what the student learns is the subject matter or facts. One learns certain facts about history. But in language work one does not gather information about the language, but learns the language itself. Knowing a language is different from knowing how to use the language.
Emphasis on Repeated Practice:
As Thompson Wyatt say, “The power of expression in a language is a matter of skill rather than of knowledge; it is a power that grows by exercise, not by knowing merely meanings or rules”. Language is a skill subject like painting or dancing. The basis of learning a skill is practice. So language has to be learnt through constant and sustained practice.
The rules of grammar and the meanings of words are taught as another abstract subject. Knowing them is not sufficient to acquire mastery over the language. Students have to be provided ample opportunities to use the language. Each of the four skills, viz. listening, speaking, reading and writing has to be mastered.
Co-ordination of muscles & Intellect:
Though a skill does not need only the intellectual activity, it is more a matter of doing than of knowing. In case of listening, enough practice has to be given to the hearing nerves so as to be familiarized with the speech sounds of the language. Apart from the intellectual competency of comprehending the new words and grammar, the ears must also be trained so to accustom with the new speech sounds of English as it is a foreign language.
In case of speaking, the speech organs like tongue, lips, palates, nostrils are to be trained by constant efforts to produce the speech sounds fluently. Some may know how to pronounce the words / sounds, but they cannot do so because of the lack of co ordination of speech organs. In case of reading also the nerves have to be trained to recognize the new symbols (English alphabets) and know how to read them. One has to develop eye span also.
In case of writing also, without the co-operation of the finger muscles one cannot write the letters in their appropriate forms. There comes the need of training.
Division of skills:
In any language, the skills can be divided into two major divisions;
1. Productive or Expressive skills
2. Receptive or Comprehensive skills
Receptive or Passive Skills:
Listening and reading skills are comparatively passive and require less exertion on the part of the person. They are receptive because when listening and reading, the person is at the receiving end of the communication channel.
Productive or Active Skills:
Speaking and writing are active skill since the person being at the transmitting end of the channel has to take the initiative. So that only they are called productive skills.
Audio – lingual / aural oral skills:
Listening and speaking which demand the exercise of te auditory and speech organs may be called audio –lingual or oral – oral skills.
Graphic Motor skill:
Reading and writing involve the psycho motor organs. Hence they are called graphic motor skills.
The language is not just a conglomeration of diverse skills, but one of the integrated skills. Hence we have to use more than one skill simultaneously in many situations. For instance, when one engaged in a conversation, he/she has to listen and speak at the same time. So is the case of reading and writing