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Computer game might help language skills

OXFORD, England, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A new study indicates a simple computer program that teaches children to distinguish between sounds might help also to develop their listening skills.

The game's creator, David Moore of the University of Oxford, claims his program allows children to progress by the equivalent of two years in just a few weeks.

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The game was devised as an aid for children with language problems, specifically to improve their ability to distinguish between different phonemes -- the basic sounds that form the building blocks of language.

With 44 phonemes in English, there are potentially more than 1,000 different pairs, but the game concentrates on just 22 pairs of the most common and similar-sounding phonemes.

In a study involving 18 children between the ages of eight and 10, researchers found dramatic improvements in language abilities, with listening ages up by an average 2.4 years compared with 12 children who did not play the game.

But some experts warn such trials can produce misleading results. Ted Wragg, an expert in education at Britain's University of Exeter, told New Scientist the improvements could be due to the efforts and attention of teachers and therapists, rather than the game itself.

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