This is our second post of our three post series on "Jagged Profiles". This post will give some tips about how to refocus your English study so that you can develop a more balanced English proficiency profile.
For many learners they naturally gravitate towards a few skills. Extroverts love to speak and listen, and introverts usually prefer to read and listen, especially when they are at a lower level. Few people prefer writing, it is less common because it is usually the least developed of the four skills in the initial and intermediate stages.
The best strategy is to identify your weakest skill, and then focus on it until it is at a similar level to your other skills. Following are some practical recommendations about how you can put more work into each one of them.
When you are walking to school or work use headphones and listen to a podcast: at Level Up English we recommend http://www.lingq.com. They have an app in both the apple store and google play. As you are coming home from school work listen more. Just let the words pass over you and see what you naturally understand and what you don't understand, don't worry about.
When you are at home continue to use LingQ, but read at the same time. As you are listening really look for the parts that you don't understand well, and then reread them.
Don't be afraid to repeat, or rephrase, often not understanding is because you simply didn't know that word, so you can even ask, what does "limousine" mean?
Attending classes at language schools are the best way to improve overall speaking. If you talk with native speakers who aren't trained in language teaching they will probably ignore your mistakes if they can understand you, and if they can't understand you, they won't be able to help you fix your errors. You will get to practice in pairs and groups
For students who are at a very low level of pronunciation, it is best to find a private tutor who is either very experienced, or also speaks your first language so that communication of task instructions are still clear. They will give you feedback.
To develop accurate sentences the best way is to practice producing sentences that you already know are correct, from your textbook or from a magazine that you are interested in, online interviews or other materials that aren't too academic. You need to practice saying correct sentences out loud so that you can feel how accurate grammar sounds.
If you already have relatively accurate grammar and vocabulary, but it takes you a long time to produce each sentence, or you are having trouble speaking for extended periods then you can attend language exchanges.
Writing really needs to be taught, and you need feedback on it. Joining an English for Academic Purposes course to learn the craft of writing and have an experienced teacher. Writing is most often developed most significantly when students are in university courses and can attend the university's writing skills unit.
There are some excellent texts that are appropriate for self study. For absolute beginners there are a variety of good textbooks: http://www.cambridge.org/au/cambridgeenglish/catalog/skills/effective-writing">Effective Writing (Whithrow). For intermediate learners who aspire to write academically but are just beginning: "http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Academic-Writing-Edition-Longman/dp/0131933957" Introduction to Academic Writing (Oshima & Hogue). For students already at university and struggling to improve their writing this text is really the best choice: https://www.mup.com.au/items/120101" How to write a better thesis (Evans, Zobel and Gruba).
Getting a penpal through one of the exchange sites such as http://www.livemocha.com is a good way to do it. You may have to look for a long time to find a reliable partner, and definitely don't use their language learning software unless you want to learn a swag of unrelated nouns.
When you read from a textbook they always give you true or false, or multiple choice questions, right? One of the easiest ways to develop your English reading skills is to read a text, and then imagine you are the examiner, figure out which parts could be misunderstood easily and write your own questions. You will know the answers to all of them, but the process of writing them will really force you to: understand the whole text, read for details, pick out hard words, find the parts where the grammar conveys subtle meaning.
Start using twitter and follow the celebrities and sports stars that you love and allow notifications for your phone, but don't let them buzz or make a sound, they just turn up when you want to open your phone. When you are looking at the posts, make sure you read each one. Don't worry if you don't understand everything, just read for interest.