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English Language Skills Training: Theory and Practice-A Cuban Perspective - Face to Face InterviewsThirteen final year undergraduate English language students and their teachers from the Faculty of Humanities placed a high importance on the attitude and abilities of foreign language teachers to make language teaching in the classroom and laboratory interesting and exciting. They considered that it is not the syllabus in itself that will lead to the successful teaching of foreign languages but how teachers interpret the syllabus and how they consider and develop new methods of effective teaching. To have detailed knowledge of a subject matter such as English language is no panacea for success. It is the teachers’ personal ability to engage with language students in an interesting, motivational and exciting way that will make all the difference. The authors, based on many years of practical language teaching in classrooms, consider that students learn much better if different teaching approaches are applied as this allows different levels of immersion in the language. The students considered that the four linguistic skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking are still valid but that it is the practical application of these that will make a substantial contribution how quickly and how effectively students learn foreign languages. All participants insisted that real names should be used to give this research authenticity. Individual interviews were conducted with the students who considered what they associate with effective language skills teaching and what effective teaching methods should be applied to improve the long-term proficiency in a foreign language such as English:
1.    What is your definition of Language Skills Teaching? “It means teaching the language by dividing the teaching process into the different skills of the language: reading, writing, listening and speaking”. “The teaching of language skills is the implicit teaching of separate language skills in order to help the student achieve the proper competence in the language”. “Language skills teaching is the teaching of a foreign language dividing the content into the four linguistic skills and at the same time combining it into one major skill or competence”. “It is about the teaching of a foreign language in respect of the language’s idiosyncrasies through the methods of reading, writing, speaking, listening and other sub skills”.
2.    What are the aspects you associate with effective language skills teaching? “Teaching language skills in an effective way requires teaching the content the students actually need at the time and thus motivate them to study the language in an accurate way” (Lianne).” To teach language skills effectively the teacher must be well prepared in the proper methodology to teach each of the skills separately and all in tandem. Besides, a key factor is the inclusion of real life situations in the teaching learning process2 (Alberto).” A skilled language teacher should combine all the content of the four skills so that the students learn the four skills in tandem and thus develop the required language competence”. An efficient and proficient teacher would integrate the content of the four skills in his/her lectures and would also raise students’ awareness of the importance of the four linguistic skills as well as provide a positive feedback”.
3.    What is your view on the claim that the concept of practical language skills teaching is a desirable and effective methodology? “The concept of practical language skills teaching is quite relevant in the training of language students. Students will get the language and the culture of the source language as well”. “It is so because it enables teachers to prioritize the elements of language skills they would like to concentrate on”. “It is effective for people above a basic level and a faster way to learn the language for immigrants or academic applicants”.
4.    What potential problems do you associate with practical language skills teaching? “The potential problem would be for beginner learners; this approach is more suitable for intermediate and advanced students who have more background to acquire vocabulary and grammar rules in this way”.
“Using the practical language skills teaching approach would probably be a problem for it alone would not cover all the aspects that the students need to properly learn a language “. “Practical language-skills teaching should not present problems but with the grading of the content to be taught which should be suited to the student’s needs “. “Practical language skills teaching should not be used on its own. It should be combined with other methods to achieve the required level of competence “.
5. What are your personal practical experiences with practical Language Skills Teaching -give some real life/practical examples/feedback on courses you attended. Why did it work for you?