IGCSE French/Spanish: 10: The four key skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

IGCSE French/Spanish: 10: The four key skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

In the last blog in our current series on studying distance learning IGCSE French and IGCSE Spanish, an Oxford Open Learning tutor looks at the four key skills in language learning.

For some students, an IGCSE is the ultimate accolade and also the culmination of years of hard work and language learning. For others, those who are going to continue studying their language or use it for personal, work or travel purposes, it is merely the beginning of a challenging yet immensely rewarding journey. Either way, the IGCSE in French or Spanish is an incredibly useful qualification to have. It is very thorough in terms of grammar and language content, and it involves the acquisition of the four key skills of listening/ speaking/ reading and writing; none of which are necessarily straight forward even in a person’s native language, let alone a foreign one.


Often the trickiest skill to master, but essential for verbal interaction to take place. Ever been on holiday abroad and managed to muster up a phrase about asking the way to somewhere but not been able to decipher the reply? I rest my case! Listening skills are also necessary for passive comprehension of music, spoken announcements, radio, television… the list is endless. Being able to understand all of these not only opens up a whole new cultural world to you, but just think about what else you could miss without that skill. I once caught a train in southern Spain with the destination Málaga but as I didn’t understand the announcement saying that the back two carriages were splitting off and going to Granada I ended up in completely the wrong city. Absolutely true!


Although the speaking exam is optional at IGCSE (due to certain logistical issues with distance learning) to make the most of your language experience, you should really try to learn to speak it. Speaking is the oldest, easiest and cheapest form of human communication – think about the doors you would close in your day-to-day personal and professional life if you couldn’t/didn’t communicate verbally. More to the point, think of the doors you can open for yourself if you can make yourself understood in French or Spanish! The personal, professional, recreational and travel possibilities are endless!


Another passive skill but one that anyone in the developed modern world simply cannot live without. How many formats of the written word do we use every single day? Books, newspapers, letters, reports, adverts, flyers, official documents, subtitles, websites, text messages, kindles… Need I continue?!


With all those verb endings and accents to remember, learning to write French or Spanish accurately is no mean feat, but absolutely essential to round off your skill base in the language. Imagine receiving an email from abroad that you understand but cannot reply to… or having to turn down a job with a foreign firm because the job entails knowing how to write in your foreign language. And of course it goes without saying that if you can’t write the language down, you won’t be passing any formal exams in it, least of all your IGCSE!

Good Luck!

Chloe Bullock


For more information on home study courses visit the Oxford Open Learning website or contact a student adviser for more details on 0800 9757575.

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