A balance between input and output

I tend to spend more time on speaking and writing these days.

Do you think that engaging in certain activities keep you from improving the overall language ability?

If you were a battery, you would worry about the imbalance. But, I don’t think spending a lot of time on speaking and writing is by any means harmful. The more you write, the stronger becomes the incentive for reading.


Exactly! The main thing to do is what you can do lots of. If reading and writing are the things that motivate you, for example, then do them lots.


Thank you for the comments!

I can see that input helps output, but I don’t see the other way around so much. For example, I wonder if writing helps not only speaking but also helps reading and listening.

If you plan mostly on active activities such as speaking and writing, then you will lack a decent proficiency in listening and reading.

I’m the opposite of you. I focus mainly on reading and listening, but I don’t speak or write, so I’m not good in using my active language skills.

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Speaking and listening. When you are speaking with someone, you are also listening to their spoken words. The speaking process can be considered not only as OUTPUT but also as INPUT. The INPUT-OUTPUT dichotomy is irrelevant here.

I do all the four activities: I routinely listen to podcasts in driving, read contents during lunch time, participate in discussions, and submit writing. When I happen to have extra time, I tend to wonder which activity I should do. That’s how my initial question came up. I want to thank you additional comments. :slight_smile:

I think it’s a rare learner who wouldn’t benefit from a well balanced learning plan. You can tailor a plan by reducing the time spent in skills you don’t plan on using much, but it’s almost always a bad idea to completely eliminate a skill from your plan.

If you have extra time, I don’t know your situation, but you might want to consider that the two biggest hurdles in language learning are listening and vocabulary. It takes well over 1000 hours to reach a high level in either of these, and most learning plans don’t really take that into account.

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If you have extra time, you could focus on the skill you are weakest in. Dictations are overlooked, but they develop more than one skill at a time. www.listeningpractice.org is a great place to do a little dictation on the side. Sorry, just had to add my own two cents to a long thread ! :wink:


In my view, Output is Input, too

You hear yourself when you’re speaking, which means that if you use incorrect grammar or speak with a strong accent, you’re getting “bad input” from yourself. That’s probably why “Conversational English classes” can be counterproductive. You get constant, “bad input” from yourself and from the other students. 80% of the English I heard in school was English with a strong German accent.

The same thing applies to writing. When I learned English at school, I used to write “it gives” instead of “there are”. Every time I made that mistake, I read it (reading=input) at least three times:

1st time - when I wrote the phrase that contained that mistake
2nd time - when I re-read my text before I gave it to my teacher
3rd time - when I re-read my text after my teacher corrected it and gave it back to me.

My teacher usually wrote something like “it gives=there are” but I kept making the same mistake. I wonder why…

I got rid of that habit a few years later, when I started reading books, watching movies, listening to podcasts (etc.) on a daily basis. My accent has improved as well.

The bottom line - Brains seem to judge what’s right and what’s wrong based on how often they hear/read something.
—> “Hmm…I read ‘towel’ 100 times and ‘towl’ 3 times…‘towel’ must be the correct spelling”

That’s why I think that you should focus on reading and listening and slowly increase the time you spend on Output. Here are the “input to output ratios” for the languages I’m studying right now:

English (advanced): 70-100% input and 0-30% output
French (intermediate) 90-100% input and 0-10% output
Japanese (advanced beginner) 95-100% input and 0-5% output
Polish (beginner) 100% input


You are making some very interesting points, some of which haven’t been dealt with at all before IMO.

As a language tutor, I have noticed this, and it’s very hard to find a solution. Until now, I thought it has something to do with age, but clearly, I was wrong.

So, you think the brain self corrects eventually with repeated exposure ? sounds promising, must keep track on myself and monitor my mistakes better !

Excellent post!

Also a high level of input becomes a means for judging your own output. I will make a mistake in speaking and a few moments later I will know it was a mistake without being corrected. Why? Because my brain has reviewed what I said, and it doesn’t match the patterns it has already learnt. Speaking will always lag a bit behind our other skills, and that is reflected in our ability to self-correct when speaking.

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“So, you think the brain self corrects eventually with repeated exposure ?”

Yeah, I noticed that when I listened to old recordings of me speaking French. I had a conversation in February, where I kept using incorrect conjugations in the past tense. Then I didn’t speak or write anything for a few weeks (but I listened to several hours of French every day) and all of a sudden I started saying “vécu” instead of “vivé” and “reçu” instead of “recevé”^^

These things apply to everyone - even native speakers.

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Tell me about it! You should hear me speak English :wink:

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Wow, thank you so much for the advice and perspectives on my question, everyone!