Writing and speaking are the “output” skills whereas reading and listening are the “inputs”. To my opinion, when we are practicing output skills, we are merely utilizing our ability to organize our thoughts – not learning anything actually. Because during writing, we are utilizing a concept, writing-styles or language mechanics to some way that we already know. What about the other attractive styles that we donot know? Similar thing happens in speaking. We are using our personal ways of giving a lecture and pronouncing a word and there is no way to understand if I am wrong until and unless someone is drawing my attention to it.
Yet, the output skills are not something to neglect about. Because this is the way to make someone’s knowledge sharper and thoughts well organized. It is well established that coming up with a cogent and enchanting write-up without lots of practice is an impossible task. And people will obviously stumble while speaking if they don’t usually talk much. However, the input methods are much more effective to learn about the stylish approaches of a language.
Now, which one is the better between the input approaches – Reading or Listening? If we consider about learning a language – certainly it will be reading. Because listening is some kind of volatile activity; people get a very little time to think about the uttered sentences. The timing requirement to think about a specific style or a new word is not well understood by the speaker. As a result those tidbits of language usually washed away by the consecutive rush of words.
Contrastingly, a reader have enough time to ruminate the styles, approaches and the new words. She can imagine the full context and this is a much more cognitively enriching process than the others. By reading good and diversified articles a person can master about the styles of a language by himself. Therefore, in my opinion, reading is the cardinal process of learning a language although the other processes (ie. writing, listening and speaking) also worth significant attention for overall expertise on a language.