Infants are born with the ability to hear and understands the sounds (phonemes) of all languages throughout the world. After about 8 months of age, they begin to lose this ability and solely discriminate the sounds of the language or languages they hear most often.
Young children who begin to learn English around ages 3 or 4 called Sequential Dual Language Learners often need more support to help them learn to discriminate phonemes in English words. This is especially true when the sounds or phonemes do not change the meaning of the word in their home language. For example, Japanese speakers of English, often do not distinguish the /l/ and /r/ when speaking English because these sounds are not phonemic in Japanese. That is, they do not change the meaning of the word as these phonemes do in English. Another phoneme that may be challenging for Dual Language Learners is the /th/ sound. This sound occurs in only a few languages other than English such as in Arabic and Icelandic languages. In English,
words contain voiced /th/ sounds such as the or weather an unvoiced /th/ sounds like with or bath. A word such as bathe contains a voiced /th/. Building phonological awareness skills using the hierarchy provided in the GELDS is critical. This process begins with the development of listening skills. Young children need to learn to discriminate sounds long before they learn to read them in words. Be sure to follow the Phonological Awareness Continuum as outlined in CLL6: The child will develop early phonological awareness (Awareness of the units of sound). Select activities from the Teacher Toolbox for
Indicator CLL6.4 which focus on differentiating sounds that are the same and different.
This is the second of four posts in a series submitted by Linda Snead-Sanders. Stay tuned for more on dual language learners!