First is listening, not grammar, not writing, no other skill but listening. Why I am saying that? Keep reading and you will find the answer. Everybody wants to speak English but they don’t know how because they “never” listen to English so they don’t have an example to follow.
A new born child can not read, write or speak but instead he can listen. And he does it very well. A child listens then imitates what he hears. He imitates pronunciation, vocabulary used by parents, intonation, and of course many other things not related to the language learning.
My daughter is six years old now (2013) and she can speak Vietnamese, Romanian, and English. She speaks Vietnamese because she uses Vietnamese 90% of the time being a native speaker of Vietnamese.
She speaks Romanian because I speak Romanian to her. She listens and imitates. We don’t speak that much but we speak everyday; every evening at home we communicate in Romanian. She doesn’t know how to write Romanian, she doesn’t know how to read Romanian, and she doesn’t know Romanian grammar. Everything she does is to imitate me and she does it better day by day. At this point in time I can say that she is fluent in Romanian.
She speaks English because she hears English everyday. She hears when I speak English to my wife and she watches only English cartoons and movies. She hears English everyday and she imitates. So, exactly like there is a Vietnamese environment in her life, there is a micro environment for her to learn Romanian and English.
If she wouldn’t hear me speaking Romanian she wouldn’t have any example of language to imitate. This is the same in the case of English.
First, you have to read or listen so you will know what to speak.
Second, you have to listen so you will know how to speak.
Third, you have to speak so you will not forget.
As you can see, listening comes before speaking and it is the one that provides the absolutely necessary example that learners of English can imitate. As any other skill, if you want to get better at listening then you have to practice it everyday. Since speaking is a productive skill it must follow listening otherwise the effect is zero.