How to Create a Foreign Language Whiz
Today's snack: A handful of Spanish
a square of German sweet chocolate,
and a piece of French toast!
Some people say that it's important to start foreign
language instruction in the early grades of school. That may be. But what seems
to set the stage even better for a child to excel in a foreign language is for
that child to develop what's called "a phonics ear."
With "a phonics ear," the child is able to pronounce
words more precisely than most children can. That skill tends to pay off in the
ability to read, understand and speak words in an unfamiliar tongue.
Children who are taught to read with phonics-only
reading instruction tend to do better in foreign language instruction because
they have been taught to concentrate on precise pronunciations of words. It
matters whether a word ends in a "t" or a "th," for example. Phonics readers
tend to "hear" those pronunciation differences better, and it helps them pick
up the pronunciation of words in a foreign language more readily.
It is thought that understanding the "sound system"
of English sets up a child to conquer the "sound system" of the foreign
language more easily than those children who are taught to read using the
holistic and eclectic methods of Whole Language reading instruction, which lean
more heavily on visuals than on sound cues.
Over the years, Americans have become rather sloppy
in their pronunciation of words, often leaving off the "g" in words that end
with "-ing," for example. No wonder young people, who aren't trained for
precision in either reading or speaking, have trouble getting words correctly
when they try to read, write or speak them in a foreign language.
But you can improve your pronunciation. It's easy,
with a good dictionary. Never look up how to spell a word without also seeing
how to pronounce it properly. It'll really help you with English spelling and
pronunciation, as well as with any foreign languages that you study.
Here's a pronunciation guide from a popular