The relationship between Speaking and Writing

G’day mate, what are you up to? Today, I am going to talk about the difference between Speaking and Writing. It’s a kind of controversial topic, isn’t it? For English learners, which one do you reckon more important? Well, you can’t possibly figure out, can you? History tells you what it is. I won’t delve deeper into the history, but try to address my candid opinion. Let’s begin.

Writing is a much more exclusive thing than speaking, which means that it is the prerequisite for you to have sufficient knowledge of how to speak properly, unlike the everyday spoken language

Some linguists say that writing is not a language but merely a way of recording language by means of visible marks. So if you can’t speak English in a proper manner, it’s going to be difficult to write sentences in English. Theoretically speaking, it’s dead simple. But, someone might try to rebut this argument, like even if you can’t speak English very well, you still can write sophisticated sentences. For native speakers, that’s probably not correct, whereas for non-native speakers this argument might be somehow true, in part because writing has to be artificially taught.

Historically, speaking is many thousands of years older than writing. That is, it develops naturally in children, whereas writing does not, unlike speaking. Since English as a second language like us does not have this kind of nurturing system, we can technically write excellent English sentences without having the ability to speak. Before the 19th century, there was no alternative approach between speaking and writing. But today we could consider writing as a higher dimension of linguistic study.

For writing, you have to have rather highly sophisticated vocabularies and grammar rules, whereas for speaking those things tend to be ignored or condemned as an unworthy of being studied

It’s difficult to tell you, but the reason why I said writing is deemed to be a much higher level and exclusive is that writing is not a language, but a piece of recording what needs to be preserved. Spoken language tends to be vanished indefinitely, especially like in cases where some minority cultures are fast disappearing and their languages are progressively dying out. In order to prevent this circumstance, writing system was born.

As for speaking, it doesn’t really matter whether you speak English with a proper grammar and vocabularies as not many people seriously care about them. However, writing needs to be different as it has a more sophisticated purpose. Making sure that everyone can understand what it is said, so that the use of grammar and vocabularies have to be accurately and appropriately used.

As I said, speaking develops naturally in children and it’s not worthy of being studied, but it’s still necessary to follow the correct norms as laid down in the recognised grammar texts.

You can probably see some native speakers are not good at writing like spelling and even grammar, but they have no worries at all in speaking. They can speak fluently because they are born and raised in an English speaking environment, and they learnt it naturally. However, writing is a different dimension. Whether they are adept at writing or not depends upon how they grew up and how they’ve been educated. They cannot learn writing naturally, because as I said writing is not a language, and it has to be artificially taught in schools. Thus, if you haven’t studied it properly, then you can’t write English sentences in a proper fashion, due to lack of understanding of grammar rules, written formal vocabularies, punctuation rules. But nevertheless, you should have understood minimum grammar rules such as basic sentence structures and the etymological roots of basic Anglo-Saxon words for the everyday spoken language.

Many linguists came to think of writing as a tool of secondary importance used only for sophisticated purposes such as science and literature amongst exclusive communities

The chief reason why I said this is that not many people need to be good at writing but capable of expressing themselves freely by spoken language, which is a kinda enough to be able to survive in an English-speaking country. Of course, I am not saying you don’t need to study writing. But nevertheless, you need to be good at speaking well before writing. Writing, seen as a mere reflection of what you are saying in speaking, hence should be excluded from the primary subject matter of your English learning. In my opinion, writing cannot really substitute for speaking, nor speaking for writing. These two very different systems of communication are said to complement each other, but not confront.

All in all, we should study writing after speaking, followed by listening and reading. I highly recommend following this step like a native-like learning style, which I haven’t been educated like this unfortunately. I want to make sure that younger and future generations of those who are born in non-English speaking country are learning English in a more proper, productive and effective manner.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading!

Have a good one mate.

Published by Masato Kawaguchi

I am an English entrepreneur here in Australia. I am mainly teaching the PTE exam, general English as well as academic skills online. In addition to this, I'm offering visa follow-up support and assignment's proofreading service as well. Apart from these stuff, I am passionate about cycling both road and MTB. Nice to meet you guys!

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