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Advice about phonetics v others reading systems for confused expat..

(14 Posts)
StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 08:41:56

Hello, really need some advice please

There is currently a strong debate going on between teachers and parents in my dd's primary school (we live abroad - mainland Europe) about which system of reading to use .. ie "a phonetic system" or an "analytical system" (I'm not sure if these are the same/correct terms as used in UK).

Anyway, having followed the debate in the UK (somewhat cursorily I have to admit) I think I favour the phonetic system (which I believe is particularly appropriate in a multi-lingual environment) and I am trying to put my case to the parents/teachers association but would really appreciate knowing:

(a) if the phonetic system HAS, as I have read, actually been proven to be more effective in the UK

(b) if it has, please can some kind person direct me some research studies or literature supporting the case for phonetics?

In fact, any advice on this subject (about which I am massively ignorant) would be greatly appreciated!

This will probably be useful.

StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 09:15:32

Thank you very much ProfessorLayton - there are some really good resources to be found in that link - much appreciated

StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 10:05:28

Mmmm, having read a few of those useful reports it is hard to doubt the benefits of synthetic phonics over the analystic system in the long and short term.

However, there is a worrying emphasis on "early learning" which doesn't really apply to education here where children only start to read formally at 6 yrs.

As usual, the subject is not as black and white as I had presumed.

Any other advice/experience gratefully received.

Scattercat Mon 09-Nov-09 10:31:45

For lots of info, debate and research on this you should look at and

DiamondHead Mon 09-Nov-09 10:36:09

I'm feeling very disillusioned with phonics at the moment.
My ds (6) clearly doesn't have a head that's wired for phonics. He's learning to read fine but it's wrong apparently because he can't do his phonics. It seems to be a one size fits all system. I don't see why they can't work with the way his head works.

StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 11:15:21

Thank you very much Scattercat for those interesting links - I'm at work now but will read later with interest

And thanks for that personal insight DiamondHead - sorry your ds is experiencing problems with phonics - one of the (anti-phonics) reports I've read critised the "one size fits all" nature of the phonics system and advocated adopting individually adapted learning systems in its place ...a some people are wired much more "visually" apparently ...

Still learning about all of this !!! The arguments are obviously much less clear cut than I had assumed ...

frakkinaround Mon 09-Nov-09 11:28:25

Am assuming the children are learning to read in English?

Is it an international school? If so, is it following a specific curriculum where children are given targets to read at a specific age such as the British or American curriculum?

I think phonics work in the UK partly because children learn them so young and there's so much emphasis on reading - a LOT of time is spent on reading/pre-reading activities here. In other languages children don't read until much later, don't use phonics and (IME) progress much quicker because the approach the language holistically. Also if they learned to read, say, French in phonics they would miss some subtle grammatical distinctions.

StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 14:35:11


thanks so much for your post - am fascinated -

dd is not being taught in English but in French and Flemish

(her school is in Belgium: bi-lingual French & Flemish through immersion)

She is in the first year of primary and at the moment it is 70% Flemish/30% French

but as she works her way through to the middle year of primary it will be 50% /50%French/Flemish it then advances until end of primary until final year = French 70%/Flemish 30% (if that makes sense!)

I'm sorry - I know so little about this subject - the debate they are having at the school (to use their words) is "phonetique v analytique" so perhaps "phonetique" in this sense is something different to how we understand it in the UK...

Perhaps I should have posted under the living abroad topic ...

Oh dear ... I am confused now ...but very much appreciate your comments/help. Just dashing from work now to pick up dd from school but back later and thanks again.

frakkinaround Mon 09-Nov-09 16:42:50

Ah. Yes.

As far as I know the 'phonetique' is not quite the same as synthetic phonics. It's still phoneme based but as you probably know ai/ais/ait/aient suffixes sound exactly the same in French but they would have to teach each of those sounds phonetically so to speed up they make a grammatical distinction as well, which means it's not purely synthetic phonics.

I have a double sheet of French phonics somewhere and the way they use them as building blocks is very different to the way the English system builds up.

Will your DD start reading in French?

If she's going to start reading bilingually, especially two phonetically different languages as French and Flemish I would want French/Flemish research on the issue. I probably have some French links somewhere - will see if I can find them for you.

mrz Mon 09-Nov-09 17:41:23

Phonetics is spoken language while phonics is the relationship between the sounds and the written form.

There are a number of different versions of phonics - the system currently in favour in the UK is Synthetic phonics - Analytical Phonics is the system that was often used in the past - Linguistic phonics takes into account regional accents


Importance of each sound in the word Emphasis on the initial sound in the word, e.g. the ‘s’ of ‘sun’. This rule works for short words but is problematic for longer words and encourages guessing as an initial reading strategy. Emphasis on initial sounds, onset, rhyme and word families.


Emphasis on hearing and identifying the phonemes in all positions.


Research in Ireland have shown good results using this method which is obviously closely linked to speech.

maverick Mon 09-Nov-09 18:45:38

More than you ever wanted to know about analytic/synthetic phonics and the reading debate:

Mixed methods inc. analytic phonics

Synthetic phonics


frakkinaround Mon 09-Nov-09 19:51:33

Linguistic phonics! Thank you mrz - that sounds like what the French child I worked with used. I knew it wasn't synthetic (the 'new' version) or analytical phonics both of which I've worked with in the UK.

Worth getting a clarification of exactly what they mean and what systems they're planning to use.

StillCounting Mon 09-Nov-09 20:41:26

Apologies for returning to this thread only now ... bit of a packed day ...

Frakkinaround - thank you again - I was wondering about the suffix 'problem' in French but as dd is - at the moment - only learning to write in Flemish, we haven't encountered it in a practical sense yet.

(To avoid confusion, written French starts three years hence although some of the activities they currently do in French (singing, crafts, gym, choir) involve a bit of "reading" ....)

I think you are right. We do need to seek out French & Flemish-based research but I think some (definitely not all) of the issues involved in the debate are the same ....I just have to establish which ones ...!

Thank you for that clarification MrsZ - very useful indeed - I will tackle them tomorrow when my brain is a bit sharper!

A friend's son has just switched from a "phonetique" to an "analytique" system in the last year (both in French) and his mother is complaining bitterly to me that he is "guessing" wildly and she is very unhappy ....only one child's experience I know but the school he has switched to is meant to be the best in the country. Hwr, as we have established, the French 'phonic' system is not truly 'synthetic' so I am perhaps reading too much in to this ...

Maverick - thank you also for those very interesting links. I will now be able to refine my understanding further of what these terms mean in the UK, before starting my research here ....

Frakkinaround - yes - indeed - I do need to seek clarification on this but ....

THANK YOU again everyone ... this thread has been a very good starting point!

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