Language, teaching

Confused about phonics?

Ever since my previous blog post about “ Marrying the Letterland Characters with Phonemic Chart“, I am glad to have received various requests for the materials. However, many in my circle of mothers have responded that they do not understand what I have written.

I figured that my earlier blog post might be too technical for those who do not know what phonics, or phonemes are. In this blog post, I will attempt to put in simple terms what these are all about.

In the English language there are 43 sounds based on the Phoneme Chart (19 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds). Phonemes (i.e. sounds) in English are just like “Hanyu Pinyin” in Mandarin. They represent the sounds for words in the language; they help us pronounce words.

The 43 sounds are internationally represented by weird looking symbols which are hard to remember. Seriously, will you remember /ɔ:/ and the sound it represents? How about /ɪəʳ/ or /aʊ/ ? Honestly, I cannot remember, and will not remember even with sleepless nights spent staring at them. If adults cannot remember, how can we teach them to children? And so that is how Phonics was born. Phonics are a method of mapping sounds to letters of the alphabet, and there is a limitation because there are only 26 letters in the alphabet.

Teaching the 43 sounds is difficult because of these two reasons: (1) there are more than one way to spell each sound, and (2) there are more than one way to sound out each spelling. Let us look at some examples below.

The “I” sound (some calls it the ‘long i’ sound) can be spelled in so many ways :
i                in pie
ie              in cried
i_e            in kite
y               in cry
uy             in buy
ig              in sign
igh            in night
ei              in either
eigh          in height

Now let us look at the spelling “ei”. It can be pronounced as ‘I’ in the word either, and it can also be pronounced as “A” (long a sound) in the word vein.

There are no fixed rules to spelling a sound, or sounding a spelling. Phonics method attempts to teach the most common sounds and spellings.

Hope that this blog post clears some doubts.

Happy December!

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