Looking for Strategies and Activities? Click Here!


The Tree: Branches

The tree has six branches which represent what the learner needs to learn in a language. The branches can be divided into three categories: Oral Language, Written Language and Culture. Spolsky’s theory of second language learning (1989) recognizes that learners will have differing levels of ability in each category. Receptive language (listening and reading) generally develops prior to and to a higher level than productive language (speaking and writing). Thus, teachers must consider that their language learners may not be at a uniform level of language proficiency across the four domains. This pattern may also be reflected in their native language proficiency.

Oral Language

Listening (or oral comprehension) involves processing, understanding, interpreting and evaluating spoken language in a variety of situations.

Speaking (or oral production) involves engaging in oral communication in a variety of situations for an array of purposes and audiences. The goal of language is communication and the aim of speaking in a language context is to promote communicative efficiency; teachers want students to actually be able to use the language as correctly as possible and with a purpose.

Written Language

Reading (or written comprehension) involves processing, interpreting and evaluating written language, symbols and text with understanding and fluency. There are many benefits to developing excellent reading skills in the target language one benefit is the culture that one gains by reading in the target language

Writing (or written production) involves engaging in written communication in a variety of forms for an array of purposes and audiences. Writing is an integral and necessary skill when learning a second language as communication is not only done orally. Writing also results in increased practice using the language.


The final two branches belong to the category of C or culture and consist of cultural knowledge and cultural experience.  One can learn about a culture without experiencing it.  Trips abroad or contact with native speakers constitute cultural experience.   Stories, audio visual presentations and use of the target language in class also offer students invaluable exposure to culture.

Cultural knowledge- Knowledge of facts or information about a certain culture such as knowledge of holidays, art, literature, and food.

Cultural Experience- Experiences that involve the culture and allow the learner to learn about the culture first-hand such as through field trips, guest speakers and community visits.

Identify three different activities that you could do to develop listening skills, speaking skills, reading skills, writing skills, cultural knowledge, cultural experience. 

For more information on Four Skills Activities click here.


Dr. Bilash Bio How this site works Site Map Glossary Useful Links Acknowledgements Contact

Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011