I’ve never been very good at languages: At school, I preferred the absolute nature of the physical sciences to remembering irregular verbs and sometimes-illogical pronunciations that the linguists thrived on. Later on I went to evening classes to learn German and found to my dismay this language has an apparently-random assignment of masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. English, in comparison seems simple – for those of us who were brought up with it as their mother tongue!
Yet English also has irregularities, with words that look the same but sound different and other words that look different but in fact sound the same. The English are perhaps not as tolerant as we might be of those learning our language and mispronunciation can even be construed as a point of humour: Remember the ‘Allo ‘Allo character using phrases such as “You are holding in your hind a smoking goon” and, of course the repeated abuse of Manuel in Fawlty Towers?
For Spanish-speakers learning to grapple with the 20 different English vowel sounds, there is a very elegant solution offered by ColourTrick and explained in a short video on their Youtube channel. In summary, this cleverly uses colours as a clue – linking the sound of the words for colours with the corresponding vowel sounds. For example, think Blue for the words shoe, moon, you and Green for the words beach, field, ski.
Image credits: ColourTrick
The beauty of the ColourTrick technique is that it uses one sense (visual) to support another (sound), as well as the fact that the mind can easily remember colours and users will assign them to recognised words even when the print is in black and white – a sort of visual mnemonic. As well as stopping us behaving like Basil Fawlty, ColourTrick can also help with rhyming couplets, if you are of a poetic disposition!
I met Rosa de la Concha, one of the founding principals of ColourTrick, last Summer at the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School and was really impressed by her idea – I still have the ColourTrick iPhone App on my mobile – and think it must too have broader applications… Now if only there had been such an elegant solution to help me with my German grammar!