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  • Chris Wylie

The Five Language Skills


If I told you there are only five things you need to learn to use English, you would say I was crazy. And you would be right. But what is true is that everything you need to know about English can be put into five categories. And looking at these categories will help us assess our English level and understand what we need to work on to improve our English. You should not be surprised to learn that these five categories are Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Grammar. By looking at what is expected in each of these, you can have an idea of how good your English is and how you can improve it. We will take a closer look at each of these and learn some ways we can strengthen each skill.


I’ll start with Reading because it is arguably the most important language skill to learn. By improving our reading skill, we also increase our vocabulary, learn correct grammar, understand different writing styles, and improve our minds in general. And improving your reading level is one of the easiest ways to improve your English, too. All you need is a book or magazine, and a quiet place. Well, you also need some dedication. The real benefits of practicing reading only grow quickly if you read every day. I suggest Sitting down for some light reading every night for about 30 minutes. Who knows, you might even enjoy it!

Here is a simple assessment of reading skills for each level:

  • Beginner - Elementary: Can understand simple sentences with context and time for preparation.

  • Elementary to Intermediate: Can understand simple paragraphs with context and time for preparation.

  • Intermediate to Advanced: Can understand complex paragraphs with context and time to prepare.

  • Advanced to proficiency: Can understand complex paragraphs and extended texts with little context and no preparation.


Listening is a similar skill to reading because you are consuming information, not producing it. And understanding what others say is one of the biggest reasons to learn a language. There are many ways to improve your listening. I suggest watching news in English. News is good because you get to practice listening while you see images at the same time, helping make strong connections in your mind. Of course, listening to English songs and watching movies and series are useful, too; anything you can do to keep your ear full of English sounds.

Here is a simple assessment of listening skills for each level:

  • Beginner - Elementary: Can understand a single person talk about a familiar subject.

  • Elementary - Intermediate: Can understand a dialogue or conversation about a familiar topic.

  • Intermediate to Advanced: Can understand extended conversations or lectures on a variety of topics.

  • Advanced to proficiency: Can understand extended conversations, even on topics they are unfamiliar with.


Speaking is the skill everyone wants to be good at in English. And it is the first skill we are discussing that requires students to produce english, not consume it. The only way to practice speaking is to speak. And if you are not in an English speaking country, practice can be hard. Online video calls with friends is one way to keep your speaking skills sharp. You might also see if there are any English language clubs or meet-ups in your town. If all else fails, talk to yourself. Anything you can do to keep English coming out of your mouth is a good thing.

Here is a simple assessment of speaking skills for each level:

  • Beginner - Elementary: Can understand simple sentences with context and time for preparation.

  • Elementary to Intermediate: Can understand simple paragraphs with context and time for preparation.

  • Intermediate to Advanced: Can understand complex paragraphs with context and time to prepare.

  • Advanced to proficiency: Can understand complex paragraphs and extended texts with little context and no preparation.


Writing is a skill that often gets overlooked. But it is so important because most of the communication we do in English is through writing. We write texts, emails, post, and invitations. We write resumes, CVs, bios and profiles. I like to say that nothing gets done until somebody writes something. But writing can be a challenging skill even in our native languages. So, one thing you can do to improve your English writing skill is to write more in your own language, as well.

Here is a simple assessment of writing skills for each level:

  • Beginner - Elementary: Can write basic sentences on familiar topics using simple verb forms..

  • Elementary to Intermediate: Can write more complex sentences on familiar topics using perfect and progressive verb forms.

  • Intermediate to Advanced: Can write simple paragraphs, using multiple verb forms.

  • Advanced to proficiency: Can write more complex paragraphs using linkers and other stylistic devices.



Grammar is the language skill that gives everyone a hard time. But we all know how important it is. Grammar tells us the rules for putting the other language skills to use. Unfortunately, there is no magic trick for becoming good at grammar. It takes patience, practice, and a little memorization. And, of course, finding a good teacher can help, too.

Here is a simple assessment of grammar skills for each level:

  • Beginner - Elementary: Can use and understand simple verb forms. Understands basic word order for statements and questions.

  • Elementary to Intermediate: Can use and understand progressive and perfect verb forms. Has a basic understanding of different aspects of English like phrasal verbs, past participles, gerunds and infinitives, and passive voice.

  • Intermediate to Advanced: Can understand different types of clauses and their use. Has a basic understanding of different aspects of English like passive voice, reported speech, articles, and determiners.

  • Advanced to proficiency: Understands and is comfortable with all aspects of grammar. Understands concepts of word formation, prefixes and suffixes, freek and latin roots, and all of those obscure English grammar rules.



Your English studies should not be random. These five categories are the important ideas you should be thinking about as you try to improve your language skills. Assess your level in each one, and then find the specific lessons that will help you grow in the area you need. With time and effort, you, too, can become proficient in English.



ChrisinEnglish offers online group and private lessons. Send an email to christopherinenglish@gmail.com to find out how you can learn English with ChrisinEnglish.com.





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