Have you ever been in a position where you can understand almost everything that is said around you but taking part in the conversation seems unthinkable? Have you ever felt that you are able to read and understand authentic articles but when it comes to putting your ideas into words everything seems to mix up? Are you still concerned about your accent in French? The tricky “r” and the unpronounceable “lle”?

You might then define yourself as a beginner or even a slow learner. But determining one’s proficiency in a language is often biased by our own judgment. Today, I want to let you know that bilingualism doesn’t only refer to your ease of speaking. Proficiency is in fact the product of four different language skills.

First of all, we distinguish reception skills from production skills. Reception skills refer to our ability to understand information while reading or listening.

Understanding written content is an index of progress. If beginners start deciphering short texts such as advertisements, posters or menus, advanced levels can tackle more complex contents. Articles and essays on a wide range of topics or even long literature become common to them. The best tip is to follow your own interests. Do you like short stories? Do you prefer to follow the news?

The objective here is to move from recognizing some familiar words in isolated sentences to being able to understand long discourses. Authentic TV shows or local radio stations are the best way to track your progress in that skill. Some valuable online resources aim at second language learners too. The last step would be to become familiar with accents and being able to adapt yourself accordingly.

On the other hand, production skills are related to our capacity to produce written or oral content either continuously or in interaction with someone.

Writing is often the task set aside by learners as it requires time and involvement. Yet, this is probably the best way to improve your oral expression. From simple texts such as postcards to structured texts to express one’s viewpoint, writing helps your brain fix linguistic contents.
While writing, you reuse chunks that have been read and you automize structures you studied on. If you target fluidity while you speak, writing is definitely essential!

From basic question-answer frames to speaking with a certain degree of accuracy, how does that work? Being able to express yourself beyond functional purposes but for social relationships necessitates patience (and commitment). There is no secret though, immersion in the target language appears as the easiest and quickest way to note real progress.

All of these competencies are equally important and even interconnected. That said, none of them is to neglect while learning a language and each of them counts as an index of your proficiency. This is also through immersive experiences that we best shape our brain for a second language. By being exposed to authentic content or authentic situations, you will develop your production skills inextricably.

How do you improve your language skillset? Let us know in the comments below :)