Language Skills: Definition, Examples And How To Improve
Updated 30 September 2022
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Language is an integral component of communication and helps professionals interact with colleagues, managers and clients effectively. There are four core language abilities that help people exchange ideas, thoughts and emotions. Knowing about these four skills can help improve your communication in the workplace and interaction with customers. In this article, we define language skills, explain four essential language abilities, discuss how to improve them, list their utility in the workplace and share ways of highlighting them when applying for jobs.
Related: What Are Language Skills On A Resume? (And How To Add Them)
What Are Language Skills?
Language skills are the abilities that enable you to express your thoughts coherently and communicate with others. These skills provide structure and relevance to the information you wish to convey to the recipient. Reading, writing, listening and speaking are four essential skills that comprise basic language competency. While communicating, people usually use a combination of these skills simultaneously. Choosing the right skills usually depends on various factors urgency of the message, the number of people targeted and whether it is a formal or informal communication.
It is common to combine two or more language abilities while interacting. These skills, when used together, are co-dependent on each other. For example, if listening is an input of information, speaking is a form of output where the audience can interject, ask questions or provide inputs after listening to the message. Similarly, writing is the summary output of what is read, understood and interpreted, which requires reading skills.
Related: Different Linguist Skills (Definition And Development Tips)
4 Essentials Language Skills
Here are four basic language competencies that can help improve how you communicate:
Listening refers to understanding, interpreting and analysing the speaker's message. Listening is an integral part of the communication process as it is vital for the listener to stay engaged and actively comprehend what is said. This helps increase clarity, ask relevant questions, frame appropriate responses and prevent misunderstandings. Listening is crucial when participating in meetings, discussions, feedback sessions and interviews.
Listening attentively has several benefits that can be essential even after the conversation is over. Active listening can help you process and store information for later recollection. Focusing on what the person in front of you is saying can also help increase focus and enable you to articulate your thoughts effectively.
Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition And Examples
Speaking is the verbal expression of your thoughts and ideas. Speaking effectively includes having clarity and fluency in your expression and vocabulary. It also includes other essential abilities such as confidence, passion and storytelling. Speaking skills are usually important when companies are hiring new employees. Strong speaking skills can help you progress in your career, contribute during meetings and improve your interpersonal relationships.
Related: What Are Essential Oratory Skills? (And How To Improve Them)
Writing involves presenting your thoughts in the form of text using the right structure and flow of information. Writing includes changing the format and tone of the text as per the target audience. Choosing the right vocabulary, medium and outline for what you wish to convey can ensure that your writing is interesting and delivers the intended message. Writing grammatically accurate text, using short sentences and researching comprehensively are some ways to make your text more impactful.
No matter the role or industry, professionals often write emails, reports, letters and proposals. This makes writing skills essential for all professionals, particularly those in the IT, marketing, strategy, consultancy and data analytics industry.
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Reading skills help understand different texts, their context and inference. These skills are crucial to improving your overall literacy skills as they can help enhance your vocabulary, expression, analysis and communication. Reading different text forms carefully, such as letters, messages, notes, memos, emails and reports, can help prevent miscommunication in your personal and professional relationships. Being attentive and focused while reading can also help you interpret the meaning of the text effectively and retain the information for a longer duration.
Related: What Are Essential Reading Skills? (Plus How To Improve Them)
How To Improve These Skills?
Here are some steps that can help you improve your language abilities and skills:
1. Listen to the different types of content
Listening is one of the most effective ways to improve your language and communication skills. Choose a topic that interests you, and listen to different forms of media, such as songs, audiobooks or podcasts related to the topic. It is vital to ensure that you actively concentrate on listening while performing this task, so avoid multitasking when you are doing it. You can improve your listening, speaking and writing skills in this manner.
2. Improve your fluency
If you are anxious about speaking in a particular language, make a conscious effort to converse in it, even if you do not feel confident. Regularly speaking in the language you are trying to learn can help develop fluency. You can ask your colleagues to correct your mistakes or join different interest groups to improve your language speaking skills. Additionally, you can converse with people who are fluent in the language to enhance your proficiency.
3. Record your conversations
As you learn to speak more fluently, record your conversations to listen to them later and identify your mistakes. Try to point out where your vocabulary, pronunciation or grammar was incorrect or where your accent made words challenging to understand. Doing this can also help you measure your progress and focus on improving your shortcomings effectively.
4. Maintain a list of unfamiliar words and their meanings
While reading text and listening to new content, you may come across new and unfamiliar words. Create a list of such words and learn about their definitions, synonyms and antonyms whenever you have spare time. You can also carry a pocket dictionary or instal an application to help you in this process.
5. Complete a language course
If you are learning a completely new and foreign language, you can also sign up for short language courses to help improve your vocabulary and fluency. Several courses are available online and also offer the facility of weekend classes for working professionals. You can also consider taking help from professional language coaches and trainers to improve your expertise.
Related: How To Improve Speaking Skills In English (With Tips)
Language Skills In The Workplace
Here is why skills like reading, writing, speaking and listening can be crucial in the workplace:
Reading can help develop thinking skills. Reading skills can help you interpret the information conveyed accurately. Reading also helps enhance your knowledge, build your thought process and improve your analytical skills.
Speaking can enable you to convey your thoughts effectively. Talented professionals can express their opinions confidently, ask relevant questions and engage their colleagues effectively. This can help you make valuable contributions during strategy meetings and presentations, enabling career progress.
Active listening can allow you to focus and understand better. Listening carefully to others can help improve your concentration, relationships and networking efforts. It may create a feeling of trust and empathy and enables you to understand your colleagues better.
Writing helps communicate clearly and quickly. Strong writing skills can help you deliver your thoughts and messages unambiguously in emails, reports and memos. This clarity can be valuable in a workplace as it can help prevent misunderstanding and improve efficiency.
Highlighting These Skills When Applying For Jobs
Here is how you can showcase your language abilities during different stages of the job application process:
On a resume or cover letter
Mention your language proficiency throughout the resume in different sections such as the professional summary, work experience and skills. Use action verbs to state how your skills helped you achieve professional goals and benefited past companies. In the cover letter, select the two or three most relevant language skills and mention them. You can showcase your writing skills by crafting an impressive resume and cover letter that communicates your intent and achievements.
Related: Guide: How To Effectively Use Action Verbs In Your Resume
During a job interview
You have a chance to demonstrate your language abilities in the interview by listening actively and speaking eloquently and fluently. Framing your thoughts and answers before speaking can reflect your reading, articulation and expression skills. If necessary, practise answers to common questions and prepare a list of professional achievements to share before the interview.
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