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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:18 pm 
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My daughter has an issue with poor phonemic segmentation, a dyslexic trait. It was picked up a couple of years ago and made a lot of sense out of all the issues she had prior. She has great memory & comprehension skills and, and a very mature vocabulary, so has always done very well at English, and is in top groups for all her subjects.. until this term, she was dropped down in French & German. She is currently Yr 9, and in her end of term tests, scored very highly in her comprehension papers, but poorly in oral & the written papers that required her to break down the word and spell it! So she returned to find she had been dropped into the lower groups in both. I am wondering whether this is something that can be tackled? The school had all her assessment reports on this 'difficulty' when she joined, and to begin with the emphasis was on helping with various 'exercises' in English, until they concluded that as she was spelling correctly practically 100% of the time, there was no need to continue. But of course, with different languages, the familiarity for memorising words, just is not there, and it is obvious she has difficulty breaking down words, in a language that is not her own. Has anyone experienced anything like this, and if so, do you have any recommendations or suggestions that might help? Thank you!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:26 pm 
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I run tests which include this as a sub - element (CTOPP). I am not sure that it really is proved to have this direct connection with spelling and speaking a foreign language.

Tell me more and I will have a look in the publisher's handbook for the test.

How did they test comprehension?

Was the marking of the written papers heavily skewed towards correct spelling?

What was wrong with her oral work?

Will being in a lower group affect her ultimate grade at GCSE?

Is she having significant problems with spelling and speaking English similarly?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:59 pm 
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Thank you Mystery, sounds like you have some expertise on this one! I'm afraid my knowledge of the test formats is limited to the report I received, coupled with DD's feedback. The reports state, that while both her listening and reading papers, scored 75%+, on her oral & writing papers, she only scored between 48 and 55 across both French & German. So a marked difference in both. And yes, the report states that she lost marks on the spellings, and needs work on this. Her English is great, she regularly scores 80% + in both lit and language, and her spelling vocabulary is very mature, although I am not sure if this is down to 'memory' or actually breaking words down. This is why I wondered if this could be the problem with her languages. I'm not sure what the grade impact would be to be honest. She is making her choices later this year, and seems very uncertain as to which language would suit her best. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:34 pm 
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Much of her problem may relate to the fact that the grapheme-phoneme (the way a sound is written) correspondences in French and German are different from in English.

For example, in English, the letter 'a' can (amongst other things) represent the sound you hear in the word 'state'. In French, the letter 'a' never represents that sound. In fact, the nearest sound to our 'a' as in 'state' in French is the sound represented by é (e with acute accent). I've seen a student repeatedly try to represent the é sound in French with the letter a, and I suspect he is not alone.

Similarly, in English, the letters 'au' represent an 'or' sound (as in august, augment), but in German they represent an 'ow' sound as in 'cow' (eg, the German word blau).

So even if your daughter has learned to break words down, and then has learnt in English which graphemes (letters) correspond to which phonemes (sounds) she probably hasn't learnt the new correspondences for French and German. In my experience, this is little taught in schools, because there simply isn't time for it. If a teacher or tutor can listen to her read aloud in German and French, they should be able to establish where her problems are coming from.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:15 pm 
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Yes, but let's not forget that when we acquire language our reading of it is usually ahead of our writing of it, and our understanding if the spoken language is usually ahead of our speaking of it. It sounds like she needs more practise writing and speaking the language.

Was the pattern of her marks atypical? Were the oral and writing tasks ones where one could pretty much learn them off by heart beforehand?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:53 am 
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Thank you both, makes sense, and yes, practice has definitely been the keyword I am hearing! I just wondered if there was something more specific that could be done, rather than general reams of practice, because as you say Mystery, you are spot on about the atypical marks, the tests she did worse on, were the ones she had most confidence in. She was very surprised herself, and seemed despondent because she had learned it all so well, while the papers she had least expectation for, she did the opposite. And the theme on both languages, has always been similar. In fact, if I cast my mind back to early KS1 years, her English caused great confusion with her teachers, as her reading was way ahead for her age, but her writing barely made the grade. The disparity was always huge. She could read very advanced material with perfection, but her written work would persistently have odd spelling mistakes like, 'colud' or 'nihgt' for could and night. And b and d were interchanged until year 4. But then it all seemed to catch up, and she had easy grade 5's on both her English papers at KS2, and has been in the top set since. But of course, that catch up took time, and with KS4 looming next year, in languages that are still quite alien, I guess time is perhaps not enough.. :?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:11 pm 
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I think it's important for her to see where she lost the marks. Does school give proper feedback? My children are only at primary school but I get more and more despondent at the lack of fairly immediate and precise feedback on what was needed to get full marks. To me half their time learning is wasted because it's not built on in this way and there's a vicious circle where children start to compound their errors by them becoming ingrained.

Does one lose a lot of marks for poor spellings in the real French and German exams that she will sit? What had lost her marks in the oral?

Quite often, in a foreign language that is less orthographically opaque than English, a child's spellings will be better than English. Also, they are learning the spellings from scratch and not building on a faulty base. However, in English they have years of bad habits to put right and this is so much harder than learning things correctly from scratch.

It is very hard to give more specific advice without you having more detail of what "went wrong", and the tests you have had in the past which hint at these "dyslexic" traits in English.

I remember when a close relative did French and Spanish GCSE about 6 years ago. She was certainly not well read, and her English spelling was appalling in my view, and her French pronunciation was pretty bad, but she got A* in both. I think they pretty much learned beforehand what they were going to say in the oral exam, and had some controlled assessment or other where they could just spew out what they had written beforehand. Has this been banned? There was also a vocabulary book which pretty much set out what she needed to learn to be able to read and spell. I'm sure she got a good grade with a few bland prepared speeches and essays on shopping etc, and this seemed to carry on through to a very high grade at Spanish AS level too.

Could she switch to Spanish?! Have you considered a language course abroad, or an exchange for her? Even if it doesn't improve the GCSE grades it would be very good for her languages and a lot of other things.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:54 pm 
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Thanks Mystery, I will definitely look into the format required and try and get more comprehensive feedback on exactly where the marks were lost. I'm not sure whether the format has changed, but I too have a family member who sat his GCSE French about 6 years ago, and also did very well, despite relatively average English ability, dreadful pronunciation that at the time we found quite comical, and a apathy towards the language as a box to tick for going forward. So who knows. But thank you, I will delve this one a little more, all is not yet lost :)


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