I learned four foreign languages but all of them have one thing in common; reading is the best and writing follows it, and then after the huge gap come listening and speaking. My reading and speaking skills are approximately as follows:
- English: C1/A2
- Mandarin: C1/B1
- French: B2/A2
- Spanish: B1/A1
I learned all of these languages at school, though English and Spanish were taught in my country by mostly non-native teachers. It is very obvious however that the discrepancy of my reading and speaking skill is too high, and I find it very difficult to improve my oral competence.
I'm sure one of the primary reasons is that I'm simply bad at language. From elementary school to high school, I was a typical math-guy and also good at memorization but struggled with literature. While I was teen, my math and social studies were usually +2 SD off the norm whereas language (both native and English), music and arts were below average. I was much better at rules, logics and reasoning than sympathy and communication. For English, I was only good at grammar and vocabulary.
Another reason is that I didn't start from pronunciation. For all of these languages I started from learning grammar and vocabulary, as they are much easier to study and far more fun. I could feel my progress every day, by gradually transiting from the easiest sentence to more complex articles.
But for pronunciation, there is no chance to "try it" unless you know enough vocabulary and grammar to speak and find someone interesting enough to talk with. So it is very difficult to keep motivated until reaching the point where I feel the usefulness of pronunciation training.
While I was in language school abroad, my reading was usually better than other students but my speaking was always the worst in my class. Although the class consisted of students with similar competence and we were learning the same thing at the same space, I felt that the gap was getting wider as the course progresses (the gap between "the gap of my reading and their reading" and "the gap of their speaking and my speaking"; in other words, my reading was getting better at a faster space than fellow students, and my speaking wasn't progressing as fast as others', and thus the gap was getting wider as the time progresses). I was usually the student who spoke the most in class.
But I have not met such people, both online and IRL. If there are any, it is rather opposite. As to the skip of pronunciation training it should apply to other learners as well, but I have not met other learners who struggle in the same way...
So how can I avoid that huge gap and make my skills more uniformed?