Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

‘What’s a potato clock?’ Helping learners hear where one word ends and the next one begins.

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Italy Cambridge English exams teacher

I was chatting to an intermediate student the other day about my plans for the following day.  I said, ‘I have to get up at 8 o’clock tomorrow.’

The student looked at me rather puzzled.  ‘What’s a potato clock?’ she asked.

‘I have no idea’, I replied.  ‘Why do you want to know?’

‘You want to buy one’, she said.

‘Me?’ I asked, rather surprised.  ‘What for?’

‘I don’t know’, she said, ‘that’s why I’m asking’

And so it went on.

potato personEventually I realised that it was a listening problem: ‘up at 8 o’clock’ sounds extremely similar to ‘a potato clock’.  Try saying them both out loud and you’ll see what I mean.

The correct term for this is ‘understanding lexical segmentation’: in English words often link up when you put them together to form a sentence, so it’s often difficult to know where one word ends and the next…

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Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

April 14, 2016 at 4:30 pm

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