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Primed to Love Rhyme

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An American who worked as an au pair in Italy found that children there didn’t seem to react so positively to fun sayings like, “No way, Jose” or “Ready, Freddie?” Yet some research suggests we’re primed to love rhyme. This is part of a complete episode.

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  • I taught English in Japan for two years, and one day tried what I thought would be a simple, fun exercise involving rhyming words. It was a flop–no one could manage it. Not even the advanced classes! It wasn’t that they didn’t understand what a rhyme was, but they couldn’t shift to create even basic rhymes. For example, someone might suggest “boy” as a rhyme for “toe” and so on. I ended up deciding that it was because in English we have some many variations on spelling the same sounds (i.e., homophones), that it takes on a pivotal role in teaching and learning with children to use rhymes. I can remember filling out worksheets on this topic in grade school! In comparison, different spellings to create different sounds doesn’t really exist in Japanese, so that part of the listener’s ear hadn’t been trained to do this. Perhaps this is similar in other languages?

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