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Common touch

A modern languages teacher from East Lothian has published a paper on how specific teaching of the most commonly used words such as "and", "but" and "who" can aid language learning.

The research by Valerie Thornber, from Preston Lodge High, was prompted by the difficulties many pupils experienced producing a simple sentence, even after years of learning a foreign language.

The words then became a fundamental part of her teaching and she was impressed with the impact on her classes. Ms Thornber went on to make lists and sub-categories, providing a way for pupils to build increasingly complex sentences, in an approach she calls "Progression Through High Frequency Words".

The Scottish curriculum has paid little attention to high frequency words, despite its acceptance in the international language community, she says, and many course books concentrate instead on a vocabulary topic approach.

Part of the problem is that current teaching trends focus on communication in language, and not on language structure, she adds.


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