The study of the problem of the formation of skills and abilities in a foreign language is historically conditioned, since it involves a scientific solution to the problem of creating an optimal system of exercises for teaching practical knowledge of foreign languages.
One of the main aspects of the discussion is the question of the differences in foreign language and language skills. Speaking about the basic qualities of a speech skill, it can be defined as “the unity of automatism and consciousness, fixity and lability.”
There are traits of a speech skill such as spontaneity and integrity of the performance of speech actions, situational and communicative motivation of its functioning. The use of language means in speech is based on speech skills – lexical and grammatical.
Under the speech grammatical skill in the “norm”, i.e. normally functioning with perfect knowledge of speech (in any language) is understood as the skill of grammatically correct speech “by feeling” based on grammatical speech automatisms or speech automated communications.
A lexical speech skill means the skill of correct word usage and word-formation “by feeling”, based on verbal automated lexical connections.
Speech skills in their native language a person acquires from the first year of life, develops and improves them during all subsequent development and, especially, during school education.
This improvement takes place, first of all, along the lines of learning by the students of various kinds of operations with linguistic material in connection with the mastery of written speech and the assimilation of theoretical knowledge in grammar and spelling.
These operations acquire the character of skills, and therefore they can be called, unlike speech, language skills.
Language skills are understood as skills of operating language material outside the conditions of speech communication, based on the appropriate language knowledge – the rules. These skills include formative skills (in particular, the formation of case endings of nouns and adjectives, personal endings of verbs), structural and educational skills (skills of constructing sentences). Language skills can be attributed to those types of skills that in psychology were called “intellectual”, “mental” skills, which are characterized by a predominance of awareness, discursiveness over “automatism”. Intellectual skills usually include fewer automated elements, and in some cases some of these components are not automated at all and require continuous focused attention and awareness of the actions. Such skills include, for example, the skills of solving typical problems, where only certain computational operations and the order of their execution are automatized, as well as language operational skills.
Language grammatical and lexical skills in the native language are created in the process of teaching literacy, spelling, in the performance of analytical grammatical and lexical language exercises.
In school, students, mastering literacy and spelling in their native language, improve at the same time and their speech skills – their speech acquires such qualities as greater awareness of not only content, but also its formal side, greater lexico-grammatical correctness.
If language exercises in teaching the native language, i.e. in conditions of possession of a speech skill, contribute to their improvement, then in the practice of teaching a foreign language, where they were transferred, without taking into account the fact that students still do not speak with speech skills, these exercises will play a negative rather than a positive role. They are not able to replace themselves with speech exercises, in the performance of which speech skills are mainly formed.
Being analytical, non-practical, communicative-unmotivated, such exercises can not form the basic qualities of a speech skill.
The concept of teaching grammatical skills of a foreign language on the basis of linguistic analytical grammatical exercises was first reflected in the works of V. Tsetlin. The author claims that speech skills are based on memorizing language material and on mastering language skills. The author does not use the term “speech skills”, as, however, did not use this term earlier and other methodologists.
In connection with the intensive development of the theoretical foundations of creating exercises in the methodical literature, an attempt was made to determine the role and place of linguistic and speech exercises, their correlation in teaching a foreign language in the context of differences in speech and language skills. It was found that since only speech skills function in the use of oral speech, and only in case of difficulties, and more often in written speech, language skills are used, the main attention should be paid to the formation of speech skills, speech automatisms in speech exercises.
For the formation of speech grammatical skills, it is recommended to perform grammatically directed communicative (or conditionally-speech) exercises, to create speech lexical skills – lexically-directed conditionally-speech exercises. The irrational use of language exercises for the purpose of forming speech skills was indicated in the methodical literature in the sixties.
At the same time, one should not underestimate the role of language skills and, accordingly, language exercises. Although language exercises can not ensure the mastery of speech skills, this does not mean that they are useless and should be excluded from the system of exercises. Language exercises are a means of comprehension and memorization of linguistic material when teaching a foreign language, as well as a means of forming an indicative basis for mastering the complex language of a foreign language. They are also a means of forming a mechanism of conscious self-control over the correctness of speech and the “compensatory mechanism” in the event of the failure of automatisms or their insufficient formation.
Thus, in the system of exercises for teaching a foreign language, a certain number of language exercises should be provided along with the speech exercises.