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Quick Write 083011 “Hierarchy of speaking skill”

I’m reading a book on English learning methodology called “残念な人の英語勉強法”. The title sounds rather shocking, but the content seems to be relevant to those who’d like to learn English while having their full-time jobs. Chapter 2 of the book covers undesirable English learning methods, and I found an interesting topic there. Mr. Masashi Yamazaki, the author, talks about the hierarchy of speaking skill which consists of the following three layers.

The basic layer: Pronunciation and Grammar.
The middle layer: Vocabulary
The top layer: Speaker’s Literacy

I suppose that there should be little argument regarding the basic and middle layers, though there could be situations, for instance, where the richness of vocabulary makes up the lack of speaker’s grammatical competency. What I found unique is the top layer, speaker’s own literacy. I’m not quite sure if the word “literacy” is appropriate or relevant to talk about this issue, but I agree that what really counts in trying to develop communication in English is the amount and the depth of the background knowledge and familiarity of the topic being spoken.

As the author suggests in the book, what if you understand what is spoken and what it means, but don’t have anything to say about? What would you say if one of your close English speaking colleagues asks you out of the blue like, “What’s your speculation on the possible risk in recent Dow futures trading?” If you’re an expert in the field, fine, you’ll start giving some lecture or go so far as to give financial advice. But I’m not at all an expert and will never say anything specific or beneficial except “What? ‘Dow futures trading’? Sorry, I have no idea. But what makes you think I can answer that question to begin with? You’re asking a wrong person.” or something like that.

The literacy that we discuss here cannot or should not be defined uniformly. The literacy you’ll need depends on what topics you’d like to or will need to speak in English and how you present your thoughts and ideas to your conversation partners. It is total nonsense that you have “nothing” to tell although you have impeccable, flawless speaking ability, isn’t it?

(30 minutes / 376 words)

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Aya

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