Barrier cartoon

If we fail to teach phonics, we are condemning many of our learners to be quasi-dyslexic in the foreign language.

Recent research suggest that we do our learners a severe disservice if we fail to give them a solid grounding in the sound/spelling links characteristic of the foreign language they are learning. This applies equally to gifted learners and to those who are struggling with the language. Gifted learners will be able to learn more independently if they are able to sound correctly any new word they come across. Struggling learners' self-confidence grows if they can be reasonably sure at least of sounding right.

Not so long ago, it was suggested that learning the sound of a new word should precede introduction to the spelling. Flash cards typically had a picture on one side, and the printed version of the word on the other. Learners did not get to see the spelling until they had mastered the sound of the word. The argument being that their pronunciation would be affected by a tendency to apply the sound/spelling rules of the mother tongue. But this technique has been shown to be erroneous; learners who are NOT introduced gradually and systematically to the sound/spelling system of the language they are learning have no other option than to refer to the only rules they know: those of the mother tongue. Failing to demonstrate both text and sound in association disadvantages learners who rely on visual 'hooks' to support their learning.

Many text books in current use still ignore the emerging evidence, so provide little help for teachers wishing to develop this aspect of their teaching. In the downloads and weblinks below find evidence to support this contention and some online resources relating to alphabets and phonics that may help to remedy the deficiency.

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Please see note on copyright

ee Lynn Erler's article: 'Near-beginner learners of French are reading at a disability level' in the ALL Journal Francophonie (No. 30, Autumn 2004, pp9-15). Reproduced here with permission. And look out for Sounds and Words - Supporting language learning through phonics by Julie Prince and Lynn Erler, to be published by CILT autumn 2010 (ISBN 978 1 904243 92 2)

Download article

to ALL and Llewelin Siddons for permission to make available here some extracts from the author's article 'Practical reflections on the sound/spelling link'. The complete article was published in Francophonie, Spring 2001, No 23, pages 10-14. Reproduced here with permission.

Download article


Gaelic phonics Download worksheets


[Links last checked on 15.2.11 unless otherwise indicated.]


In August 2010, Lynn Erler (see above) took part in an online session on the Glow intranet for teachers in Scotland. To see her PowerPoint presentation and French support sheet, go to:

This is an abstract from a doctoral thesis done at the university of Turku in Finland about learning English as a foreign language, but it's quite short and very interesting:

Another short piece on Using Phonemic Awareness with ESL Students which concludes that by failing to teach phonics we're condemning all but the brightest learners to reading AS IF they were dyslexic...

A book published in2006 by CILT deals with phonics, vocabulary learning and grammatical awareness. See 'Patterns and Procedures: focus on phonics and grammar' by Heather Rendall. Heather maintains that current practice often leaves learners with no option but to struggle with the foreign language in ways similar to the difficulties that dyslexic students experience in learning and using English. She offers practical advice on how to present and practise new vocabulary and grammar in the early stages so that that learners become competent and self-sufficient and above all literate in their new language. Find further details here:

[5.9.11] Phonétique
French website with links to sites worldwide.

A Guide to German pronunciation

Looking for phonetic fonts for your Mac or PC? The International Phonetic Association can provide information and links. You'll find a link to the relevant pages here:

If you are teaching English as a foreign language to children whose dyslexia requires a stronger focus on phonics, this BBC site may be of interest:

Online pronunciation guide to nine varieties of the English language, plus varieties of French and German. Also Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, Mandarin and Thai. Includes pages on voiced and voiceless sounds, stress and tone, suggestions for teachers and learners.

See John Bald's weblog for his comments on French Spelling Unpacked (in 3 parts)

Facilealire and Facilecture Websites to help young French readers and their teachers with sound-spelling correspondance.

Look, in particular at the sample page for phonics before committing to the subscription.

Fun with phonics An article from CILT's primary Languages website. A webpage with recordings of each letter being pronounced and links to other alphabet-related article., again. An interactive page in which each letter takes you to a page with colourful graphics of each letter to attract your learners' attention while you play sound files of that letter's pronunciation as well as several words that begin with that letter.

A Wikipedia article about the French alphabet is available at

A short article, French Alphabet and Pronunciation, is available from the Learn French website.

On the British Council's Learn English Kids website, find a wide range of activities and materials for teaching and practising the English alphabet. Go to and enter 'alphabet' in the search facility. For ideas for using and exploiting the available alphabet materials at

A webpage, Evolution of Alphabets, is part of the course material for "History of the Alphabets" taught by Prof. Robert Fradkin at University of Maryland. See animate demonstrations of the evolution of cuneiform, the Phoenician character set, the Greek alphabet, the Arabic alphabet, the Aramaic/Hebrew character set, the Cyrillic alphabet, and the Latin alphabet at

Hear the alphabet pronounced in English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German at

Omniglot is a guide to the writing systems and languages of the world. It also contains tips on learning languages, language-related articles, quite a large collection of useful phrases in many languages, multilingual texts, a multilingual book store and an ever-growing collection of links to language-related resources. You can find a list of all the writing systems and languages featured on the site in the A-Z index at

French phonics resources to download from the TES website, contributed by a practising teacher:

Phonology. CILT reports that the new specification for upskilling primary teachers will include a short pronunciation module. It will be supported by sound files and a guide to pronunciation, which will be made available on the Primary Languages site. There will be a facility for learners to record their own attempts at accurate pronunciation including syllable stress and intonation and for them to assess their efforts against an on-screen graphic evaluation.

Phonetics Flash Animation Project from the University of Iowa contains animated libraries of the phonetic sounds of German, Spanish and American English, including animated diagrams of articulatory anatomy.

The need for overt teaching of phonics in French
See Suzi Bewell's PowerPoint presentation on the subject here, (plus links to a number of related presentations):

[12.2.12] Lots more of phonics from Suzi Bewell

Accelerating language learning using phonics
Sign on to the Links into Languages website and download this 10-minute Guide.

Thinking aloud about L2 decoding: an exploration of the strategies used by beginner learners when pronouncing unfamiliar French words
An article in the Language Learning Journal 38(1): 3-17. See the abstract here:

[19.2.11] Teaching languages: Language awareness
This free study unit from the Open University explores phonic and historical connections between languages and suggests how such knowledge might be used when teaching modern foreign languages

[11.4.11] French resources: La phonétique
Part of a wiki maintained by a French teacher for her students.étique+-+phonetics

[29.4.11] Pronunciation – the poor relation?
Entries from the BBC's Teaching English blog.

[1.5.11] Phonics
A page on phonics from Hampshire Languages, with resources to download, and links to other sites.

[14.7.11] Rachel Hawkes' page on phonics

[19.12.11] English is soup!
A phonics resource for ESL adults. The sounds of American English.

[15.4.12] Phonology
A wikispace set up to share resources from the CILT Primary Languages Show 2009 presentation.

[7.12.12] Sounds and Words
Lynn Erler's new book on teaching phonics. More information here:

[4.9.15] Using technology to support the teaching of phonics



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