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Get ready for beginners’ French
Get ready for beginners’ French

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1 The components of language

If you studied science at school, you will remember that you can take a micro- or macroscopic perspective on nature, looking at it from near or far. You can investigate the subject in question by looking at smaller and smaller parts, for example by looking at the human body, then the organs within it, the organ tissues, their cells and the atoms they are composed of.

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Figure 2 Microscopic perspective

But you can also explore the surrounding environment by looking at bigger and bigger contexts, for example an ecosystem, the planet, the solar system or the wider universe.

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Figure 3 Macroscopic perspective

In a way, studying language is really no different to this. Learning to master a language requires skills and knowledge that relate to the big picture, as well as the smallest details. Imagine a camera lens – you need to be able to ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’ to look at things in different ways. Activity 1 will check your understanding of the components of language and their relative sizes.

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Figure 4 Linguistic perspective

Activity 1 Components of language

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Order these components of the written language from smallest (1) to largest (6).

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. letters

  2. syllables

  3. words

  4. sentences

  5. paragraphs

  6. texts

  • a.3

  • b.5

  • c.6 (largest)

  • d.4

  • e.1 (smallest)

  • f.2

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = e
  • 2 = f
  • 3 = a
  • 4 = d
  • 5 = b
  • 6 = c