Active Listening: The single most important language skill to accelerate your learning

Do I need to be an extrovert to be good at languages? Introversion and extroversion lie on a continuum. I think that the vast majority of people are in fact omniverts. Most people adapt their personalities in line with the type of people they are around, in essence we are all chameleons.

However, if I had to gamble on an introvert or an extrovert then I would choose the introvert.

When did languages become about talking and not communicating?

Dedication and effort will get you far in bettering your grasp of a foreign language. Trying numerous ways of improving your level, from playing games to acquiring language exchange partners will help you. However, I think that the strongest attribute to have is to make a conscious effort to listen more than you talk. Whenever we talk too much, we need to remember the saying that we have two ears and one mouth because we need to listen twice as much as we talk.

Benefits of active listening:

1. Learn.

We cannot teach ourselves new things when we are the ones talking. If we are the ones  talking then we are only hearing things that we already know. If we try and listen more to other people then it is pretty hard not to learn something new, each and every day. I believe that if we acquire a little bit of knowledge every day, while it may seem small at that point in time, over time this will prove to be invaluable to us.

You don't set out to build a wall. You don't say 'I'm going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that's ever been built.' You don't start there. You say, 'I'm going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall. - Will Smith.

2. Friends.

We all want to be listened to. As language learners we need to make friends of our target language. There is no getting around this. It is human nature that we like to talk about ourselves and what is going on in our own lives. We are all our own centers of the universe. The Moon and the Sun both revolve around each and every one of us.

Take advantage of this, make friends in your foreign language and actively listen to them. Listen to their problems, worries and ambitions. Even if you don't have a very good level in the language you will probably have already realised that people aren't always looking for advice. A lot of times people just want to talk things over and they end up giving advice to themselves. This fact doesn't change across different countries and cultures.

3. Less Energy Consumed.

This depends on the type of person you listen to, but in general it is less draining to listen than it is to talk. You can then use that saved energy on other endeavors. A great 'side benefit' to language learning is that you get talking to people from all walks of life based on the sole fact that you speak a common language.

There is no better ice breaker than having a knowledge of the native language of the person you are speaking to. You don't even need knowledge, you just need a genuine interest and the knowledge will come gradually. You begin to acquire some insights into many different aspects of life and you begin to see that there are commonalities across all of lives industries and sectors. You begin to see that nothing is impossible if you decide that you have sufficient interest in it.

Life is about growth - Abraham Maslow.