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A TLT Article


The May / June 2018 edition of The Language Teacher (TLT) had an interesting feature article by Wendy Tada of Hyogo University of Teacher Education. Titled “Understanding Pre-Service Teachers’ Familiarity and Interest in Phonics and Potential Implications,” the article, discusses future English language teachers’ familiarity with phonics, and relates this to the English education aims set out by MEXT. The article touches on topics relevant to this blog, and this is particularly true when it discusses the reasons for including phonics in English education. Specifically, Ms. Tada points out that literacy development is linked to phonological awareness – particularly phonemic awareness – and that is the point I would like to discuss – because that is what this blog is all about.


In the conclusion to her article, Ms. Tada links oral language skills and literacy, which I did in earlier blog posts: Fine Tuning Phonics 1 and 2. The point being that if you say to a native English-speaking child: “The girl wearing lace won the race.” She will understand perfectly. She can distinguish each phoneme, so if you then say the /l/ in lace looks like this “l” and the /r/ in race looks like this “r”, she will get it. That will not work with an L2 learner. Japanese children, for example, cannot hear that distinction. They lost that ability at around their first birthday. If you doubt that see:  




Phonemic awareness is not phonics. Phonemic awareness is hearing the sounds, phonics is connecting them to letters. This is a distinction that cannot be ignored. It is essential educators understand that L2 learners cannot hear the sounds. That needs to be the starting point of L2 phonics instruction. Of course, children can learn that the combination of symbols race is the competition and the combination lace is cloth, but their speaking and listening abilities will suffer along with their confidence. Fuzzy listening ability effects many aspects of language learning.


What to do? High Variability Phonemic Training (HVPT). This is the proven method for enhancing phonemic acquisition. The sounds have to be exaggerated so the students can hear them. They have to be contrasted so the students can distinguish them, and they should be presented by a number of different speakers.


Which is exactly what b4 does.



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