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Modern Languages - Make diction purr-fect

What the lesson is about

"To speak a new language, become a new musical instrument," a Spanish teacher once told me. "Make new sounds."

Introducing pronunciation this way is fun. Pupils purr their way into French and growl their way into German, writes Catherine Paver.

Take the rolled "r". They must watch your mouth when you say "error" in English, then erreur in French. Your lips moved for the English "r", but not for the French "r". That sound came from your throat, as if you were purring.

Now make them purr at each other in pairs. If some still use their lips, tell them to growl or gargle. Once they can do it, in plenary, tell them to put hands on waists and purr, growl or gargle a big "r" together. They should feel their sides and tummies expand briefly.

Build on their awareness of facial movement. Make an "oo" mouth and then try to say "ee". What comes out is the French "u", as in "tu".

Give pupils a pronunciation rule and let them exaggerate it. To sound French, stress the last syllable of a word. Say "BEE-zay" (for Bizet) and you sound English. Say "Bi-ZEH" and you sound French.

Put pupils in pairs and give each pair a sound that occurs in the new language. They must find a way to remember how to reproduce it. The French word "yaourt" becomes a person dropping a giant yoghurt on someone's foot, with a cry of pain: "Ya-OURT!"

What else?

Try rhawkes' popular phonics and pronunciation resources to perfect every pupil's "r" or get them making up rhymes with homophones.

Check pupils' German pronunciation with a Jeopardy-style game show from suhop.

Try the BBC's Chinese tone games.

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