Sounds of a language an important skill in language learning


On Friday last week I met with a small amount of ITT primary education students, who are also specialist linguists.We considered the way we introduce language and language learning skills to new young learners.
What was interesting immediately was that as we become more sophisticated language learners and more competent in a particular language we can easily lose sight of the importance of playing with sounds on a language. 
For example as a Germanist I can quite easily assume that everyone knows how to say "ei" and ie" in German.It's also easy to assume that learners should be able to break an unfamiliar German word down into its component parts and sound it out.But how can they do this if we don't practise the sounds of the language? 
New learners of a language, be they children or adults,need to practise the sounds of a language so that they grow in their confidence to move from the very familiar to less familiar!
(EYFS and KS1 colleagues are often the first at staff CPD to get and understand this message and to come up with games and activities that enable their colleagues to practise the sounds of a new language and to link this learning to communication and literacy skills in English). 


To support linguists to experience new sounds in an unfamiliar language we listened in the session to Swedish numbers 1-10. I asked  the students to practise the numbers so that they could join in with the activities in our number lesson all about growing sunflowers .
Here is a link on quizlet to the numbers 1-10 in Swedish.Have a listen! Listen carefully to the sounds you hear in numbers 2, 3,7 and 8. Can you replicate the sounds? Can you break the spoken number down into its component sounds?
Numbers 1 to 10 in Swedish

The listening and responding activities and the spoken activities we tried whilst trying to remember the sounds in the numbers raised lots of discussion .For example how some of us are visual learners and need to see the word and is this because we are older learners etc? How we needed time to take in the new sounds. How we need to draw pictures in our heads to link the sounds to words in our own language that are similar e.g. 7 in Swedish is "sju" and we could think of a "shoe" in English etc...One lovely idea we generated from the discussion of word association was to make a display of sunflower heads for 1-10 with children's drawing in each sunflower head that prompted us to think of the sound of the number word.

Here are some of the games to play with the children on a regular basis to practise the sounds of the language being learnt.




Crocodile Paths -listening and responding- can the children make a marching rhyme of their favourite sounds. Create stepping stone cards om the floor of the sounds - repeated several times so for instance if we are using 6 sounds then we can have 4 sets of each sound so that there are 24 stepping stones. Ask the class to march across the stepping stones and say/sing their marching rhyme.Call "crocodile" and the children must freeze. Pull a one of the sounds written on small cards out of a bag or a box and say the sound for the class. any children stood on that sound stepping stone must sit out ...as the "crocodile has caught them!




Magical potions- spoken activity.Can the children in groups create magical nonsensical words out of a sequence of target language sounds that the class know? Can they say their magical nonsensical words for the class and can the rest of the class jot down on whiteboards the component parts of these words?Ask the group to write up their nonsensical word and say it pointing to each component sound- did anyone in the class write it down correctly?




Sound nets,remembering and revisiting written sounds - collect new sounds as the written sound on cards and keep them in a pretend "butterfly net" in the classroom - as if they were precious butterflies- and have special sound times ,when we pull out cards from the net and look at the sound cards and try to remember the sound we must make.




Air writing- as simple as can be. Can the children make a running dictation of a sequence of sounds that you say - just writing them in the air  






A Class Word Invention- creative speaking and writing activity.
Why not invent a new class fruit, vegetable ,sweet or toy and then ask the class to use their sound potions to create a suitable name and share their ideas with the class as a written and a spoken word with the class? Do their sound word's reflect the type of fruit, toy , sweet that  the class has created