Specializations > Language Acquisition

Does knowing the regular sound changes help?


So, what do you guys think, does knowing about the High German Consonant Shift help someone who already speaks English learn German? I believe it does, for the same reason the phonics helps children learn spelling.

Sure, it can. But explicit knowledge like that tends to be slower (in processing) than implicit knowledge (once you know it instinctively). Lots of tricks like that helps linguists (and others who are interested by grammar) to learn a language at the beginning. Others who don't know anything about that will probably eventually develop some intuitive pattern-matching sense (at least for some relatively consistent and frequent) correspondences though they won't necessarily be aware of it. Interestingly some adults do that, and sort of only that, and never reach that implicit (fluent/nativelike) stage. Children, though they can also learn explicitly if taught in that way, tend to learn implicitly (and they're the ones who become native speakers).

Do you know any study confirming that it helps? Also, what exactly do you think about phonics?

Not that specifically, but there is a lot of research on implicit/explicit instruction in general. This is a very nice dissertation about the topic: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34241

--- Quote ---Also, what exactly do you think about phonics?
--- End quote ---
It's a way to pretend that English spelling makes sense. It's somewhat useful, but it has also been shown that, for example, some Chinese learners of English memorize English word-spellings as if they are Chinese characters (not as individual letters) and that they succeed (relatively to other learners) at learning 'spelling'. In other words, English spelling is too disconnected from 'phonetic spelling' to necessarily be learned that way, although it also helps. So, in short, phonics is an attempt to deal with broken English spelling. And in that, it's ok.

I remember that, when I was starting to learn English, I was learning spellings by remembering a Croatian word that would be spelled the same way. For instance, for the spelling of the word "bicycle", I would remember a "Croatized" pronunciation bee-tsee-kle.
I am pretty sure I had a big advantage compared to native English speakers when learning to write English, because I already knew what vowels and consonants were, I knew what a digraph was, I knew what a consonant cluster was, and native English speakers usually don't know that when learning how to write.
Nowadays it's so automatized to me that I sometimes catch myself not being able to recite the letters of a word, yet I am able to write it correctly.


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