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Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Phonics is the method of teaching beginning readers to connect the sounds of spoken language with letters. Children are taught the letters and the sounds the letters “stand for.” This is NOT the same thing as phonemic or phonological awareness. The terms are not interchangeable. 

To be clear, phonological and phonemic awareness are not the same. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words. It is the understanding that spoken words are made up of a sequence of speech sounds. It involves hearing language at the phoneme level. Phonological awareness, on the other hand, is a more encompassing term that involves working with the sounds of language at the word and syllable, as well as the phoneme level. Phonemic awareness is a sub-set of phonological awareness.
Phonemic awareness (PA) is the awareness of sounds only! Print is not essential. No letters are introduced, no sound to symbol correspondence is taught. In fact, native speakers of all languages begin PA with the language-general to language-specific perceptive shift that occurs, with all children, at around their first birthday (See my earlier posts).

Phonics involves the eyes and ears. PA involves just the ears. You can have PA without phonics but you cannot have phonics without PA. PA is a prerequisite for phonics and can be taught concurrently. It is important to L1 reading, and some children have difficulties recognizing the phonemes of their native language. L2 children have obvious obstacles.

In my last post, I said I would explain why my blog in titled b4. It is because the focus of these posts is on phonemic awareness, on the acquisition of the sound system, which natives of any language acquire well before any attempt to read or write is made

Recent research into reading suggests that learning to read with fluency requires PA. This ability is not only requisite for fluent reading, but also bootstraps other aspects of language learning, from pronunciation to acquisition of vocabulary and grammar. Most of this research has been carried out with L1 readers, but there is no obvious reason why such training would not benefit L2 students as well. In fact, the limited research on L2 learners confirms this assumption.

This is what b4, this blog and the materials produced by Aka-Kara English, focuses on.

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics Phonics is the method of teaching beginning readers to connect the sounds of spoken language with letters. Children are taught the letters and the sounds the letters “stand for.” This is NOT the same thing as phonemic or phonological awareness. The terms are not interchangeable.  To be clear, phonological and phonemic awareness are not […]

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I presented at a recent ETJ Expo on phoneme acquisition, which is what I’ve been posting about in this blog. One of the questions that arose was about the Native Language Magnet Theory (NLM). I have already written on the topic, and in this post I will say a bit more. I will briefly place […]

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The Best Technique for Phonemic Training  The last two posts pointed out that before children speak their native language, they create a sound map which requires a perceptive shift from distinguishing all sounds to only distinguishing the sounds of their native language.  This is not to say that children cannot learn L2 sounds. On the […]

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The Native Language Magnet Theory In the last post, I discussed the research showing that children lose the ability to hear non-native sounds at 1-year of age. And as I said in the post, a video demonstrating this can be found in the Theory section at aka-kara.com. In this post, I will discuss one of […]

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At One-year of Age People, a lot of them anyway, do not want to believe what I am about to say: Children lose the ability to hear L2 phonemes at around 1-year of age. (Werker & Tees, 1983).  This is fact, but when I point it out, reactions range from skepticism to outright denial. People […]

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My name is Jim Jensen. I am the President, CEO, and only employee of Aka-Kara English. This is my first blog post and, as stated in the title, this blog will focus on the sounds of English. My hope is to provide readers with valuable information and a place to share ideas. That said, while […]

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