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Should we teach the kids phonectic symbols?
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happyboy5061_1



Joined: 03 Jan 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 12:54 pm    Post subject: Should we teach the kids phonectic symbols? Reply with quote

I have a nephew, four years old. I plan to teach him English this year. But I am not sure whether I should teach him phentic symbols just as what I was taught in school. I need your advice and experience.
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Carol Keeney



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 6:20 pm    Post subject: Phonics Reply with quote

Hi!

I would definitely suggest that you expose him to phonics. Think of phonics as a tool to crack the code of language. It cannot hurt. I know there has been a debate for years about teaching whole language without emphasis on phonics but in reality it is a combination of reading, writing, speaking listening and phonics that works best. Good Luck! You may want to check out my new book which would give you a clearer idea of just how to progress with your lessons. It is called Brand New Teacher and you can check it out at www.BrandNewTeacher.com
Sincerely,
Carol Keeney
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Superhal



Joined: 20 Feb 2005
Posts: 131

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it may be faster to teach him in whole chunks rather than discrete parts, for several reasons:

1. He may be too young at this point to understand how to put them together.

2. Children naturally learn language in big pieces rather than small parts.

3. He may not need to learn language for spelling or writing yet (as it sounds like you are in a non-English speaking country.) So, teaching him English conversationally may make it less painful for both of you.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1368
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both my kids learned to read before they were three. With the first one, I didn't think I did anything special to help him, but when the second one came along I paid a lot more attention, and sure enough, I had done a lot.
Aside from reading books to them, and having a lot of reading material in the house so they saw the adults reading as well, here are some other things I remember doing:

While walking around the neighborhood, my kids would ask me "What's that say?" and I would tell them. They could recognize some words, even if they didn't really know what the sounds were. (Open, closed, No parking, etc.)

We must have had at least 6 different kinds of alphabet toys. They learned the letters by playing with the toys.

We had an alphabet puzzle, where the letters came out. I did phonics with them (I thought at the time I was playing a game, until I reflected on it later). I would take out a letter, for example the letter "b" and say bbbbb while moving it around. I put "a" and "t" together, and said it was "at". Then the "bbb" came to the "at" and made "bat". We did that with other letters too.

I cut out words from magazines and put them on cards. Then I had them read the words, and make silly sentences.

You can also get words and letters that can go on the refrigerator, although I didn't think about that.

As it turned out, I don't really know when they were actually reading. I know they recognized some words when they were younger than 3, but I always thought it was just recognition and not reading. I didn't realize they could read until they read their birthday cards at their third birthday. It was a surprise with the first one, but I was more prepared with the second.

Oh yeah, and they didn't get toilet trained until they were 4. You win some, and you lose some Wink.
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would say kids are the ultimate holistic language learners so not necessary. I might add most teachers don't know how to use phonemic or phonetic spellings anyway (though more about this further down).

The single best way to work on pronunciation with them would be whole words and phrases, provided you can work with them face-to-face.

If we mean spelling by 'phonics' then I'm all for that too when literacy comes along. Phonics for oral approaches would be a total waste of time.

The reason why phonetic or phonemic spellings come in handy is that they present a chance to see English written in a much more consistent form, such that if you have learned sufficient language and learned the phonetic conventions, you can re-constitute a pronunciation from the 'phonetic' spelling of the dictionary. A lot of EFL materials stick with an adaptation of the IPA for EFL learners, but American dictionaries have a different set of symbols (though the results are comparable--that is, give enough info. that a speaker of the language, having learned the conventions, can by analogy say a new word, even if the spelling is misleading).
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

American dictionaries should switch to adapted IPA instead of using their various crummy respelling systems; they could also do with investing bigtime in computerized corpora. I don't own any for these two reasons (sometimes make use of online versions, though).
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="fluffyhamster"]American dictionaries should switch to adapted IPA instead of using their various crummy respelling systems; they could also do with investing bigtime in computerized corpora. I don't own any for these two reasons (sometimes make use of online versions, though).[/quote]

Either system works fine for what it was intended in native speaker L1/L1 dictionaries: a user looks at a list of words illustrating the symbol, and then by analogy and application of complete native phonology, figures out how to say a word from its spelling (which wasn't going to yield enough information on its own). The Brown corpora used for AHD has been around a long time.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem with respelling systems is that they vary (even if only slightly) from each other in a way that the IPA generally doesn't...but hey (like you say CEJ), like this matters much to the native consumer, who often only invests in the one dictionary for decades on end (and who therefore will get used to their dictionary's particular respelling system, on the rare occassion that they do actually need to make use of it).

Quote:
Regarding pronunciation, attention is drawn to the general (but
not exclusive) use of IPA in British lexicography versus a
''respelling'' system in American dictionaries, with a useful
contrastive table on page 103. Inasmuch as ''any transcription system
will constitute a learning task for the user'' (p. 103), the British
use of IPA seems a clear advantage over the idiosyncratic dots,
digraphs, underlining, circumflexes and other conventions found in
American dictionaries.


(From LINGUIST List's review of Howard Jackson's Lexicography: An Introduction (Routledge 2002))

The Brown corpus' utility has always been limited by its small size: there simply aren't enough (if any) occurences of many words for it to be of much use to lexicographers, especially nowadays (it is a sample, not monitor, corpus); smaller or more dedicated corpora have however always been useful e.g. for studying the behaviour of the "closed" sets of "grammar" words, and the Brown is obviously of great historical value and interest, and a (the?) textbook example of how to compile an initial, reasonably balanced corpus.

I can't recall to what extent the AHD4 makes use of more up-to-date and extensive corpora (presumably it doesn't, as it isn't exactly bursting with example sentences), but it isn't a bad reference dictionary for native speakers at least.
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not so keen on corpora anyway. The Brown is only small if you like large corpora (which is what specialist corpora researchers like). I don't like the misleading picture they give, for example, about word frequency (a common activity with the data is to figure out word frequency). After the first several thousand most common words, it means absolutely nothing. And if a language learner isn't going to get exposed to lots and lots of spoken and written language, it doesn't even mean much past the first 800 words or so.

Another thing is what this or that corpora is supposed to show. I remember being told several times by corpora experts at a British one that this or that phrasal verb was, ahem, clearly an Americanism. And then when I went out on a yahooUK bulletin board, I found all sorts of UK use of the very same , ahem, Americanism. Clearly, their data were insufficient, which doesn't surprise me, as I've always questioned just how much and how broad a coverage of colloquial and spoken language they get.

As for phonemic transcriptions, they don't really make that much sense if you don't speak the language, and even then, if the transcription gets very narrow and phonetic, it tends to be understood only by the person doing the transcription.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's misleading about word frequency? I think people tend to get the wrong idea about it, like it is just to do with learning discrete items from a list, and forget it's more a reflection of underlying combinatorial complexities. That is...

Admittedly, just because an item is frequent may not always mean it is the best choice for a given context, but that frequency surely is a strong indication of the "complexities" (phraseologically speaking) into which the item enters: there are many more useful functions (functional phrases) and "idiomatic" language generally hidden away in the first few thousand words than many "slot and filler" teachers realize (not saying you are one of them, CEJ!); and if the student is ONLY exposed to just the first 800 words, they won't be getting enough exposure full-stop to do more than the most elementary of things.

A blast from the past: the following thread has a discussion about frequency, that kinda picked up when lolwhites entered it (BTW I'm the 'Duncan Powrie' there!):
http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=9705#9705

BTW, have you read Renouf and Sinclair's paper in Carter and McCarthy's Vocabulary and Language Teaching, CEJ? That's kind of where I'm coming from here (except they express things better than I have).

With Corpus Linguistics everybody seems to be an expert, but therein lies its appeal and great worth: if a statement by somebody seems suspect, we can always go and check for ourselves (using larger and/or more representative corpora, although usually this translates as 'whatever is most easily available to us'), if we feel the point needs to be refuted at all conclusively (if finite corpora can ever be considered conclusive; I myself think they are generally more useful than not, especially - as I've kind of said - when researching the more frequent words).

It'd be interesting to know who this "expert" is, CEJ, and what the point of contention was exactly (maybe you can give us a few hints LOL)! But I'll take your word for it that the guy was talking out of his you-know-what.

Quote:
As for phonemic transcriptions, they don't really make that much sense if you don't speak the language, and even then, if the transcription gets very narrow and phonetic, it tends to be understood only by the person doing the transcription.


Broad phonemic transcriptions aren't that problematic for foreign learners (more like helpful!), and would surely help standardize things for users of native-speaker dictionaries too. Confused Question Cool Laughing Wink

Anyway, enough threadjacking! Embarassed
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Superhal



Joined: 20 Feb 2005
Posts: 131

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the original poster is talking about phonics, aka as in the reading system "hooked on phonics." I don't think they are talking about phonetics, such as the schwa or alternate alphabets.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realize that, hence my use of the word 'threadjacking'! Wink
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
What's misleading about word frequency? I think people tend to get the wrong idea about it, like it is just to do with learning discrete items from a list, and forget it's more a reflection of underlying combinatorial complexities. That is...


Broad phonemic transcriptions aren't that problematic for foreign learners (more like helpful!), and would surely help standardize things for users of native-speaker dictionaries too. :? :?: 8) :lol: :wink:

Anyway, enough threadjacking! :oops:


Oh, I don't think it's threadjacking. How many would follow if we started a new thread? This doesn't seem to be that active a board anyway.

I'll address a few of your points:

1. The 'person' whom I won't name works at one of the academic sites that maintains a gateway to the BC, and lists corpus linguistics as his academic speciality, at a PhD level, which is often taken as 'unassailable' in the ELT world (when it shouldn't be).

2. My point about WF not meaning anything is that I live and teach in the EFL world and know that when you are talking about miniscule (even if statistically significant by academic definitions of the term) differences in WF, I know that my students, not being in an English-rich environment, are no more likely to be meaningfully and usefully 'exposed' to this word as opposed to that word. It doesn't add up to anything except for those who have been exposed to huge amounts of input in a meaningful, comprehendible way, which usually means native speakers and fluent bilinguals in ESL societies (where English is either a majority language or a national lingua franca).

3. About phonemic transcriptions. My point again (or should have been). No one talks phonemically, so they are not at all useful for EFL beginners. They can help people who have acquired sufficient English to figure out acceptable pronunciations.

Thanks for the exchange.
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superhal wrote:
I think the original poster is talking about phonics, aka as in the reading system "hooked on phonics." I don't think they are talking about phonetics, such as the schwa or alternate alphabets.


(In counterpoint to pro-phonics stances for EFL beginners, but not in counterpoint to superhal)

And I highly doubt that phonics approaches are useful at all in most EFL situations. They have been designed to help certain styles of learners who already speak English (native speakers, bilinguals, etc.) to learn to read English. And the problems with English spelling/writing system are well documented, so let me say in a boiled down statement: it's what you get when you take a Germanic language phonologically and phonetically speaking, re-lexicalize it on a dialect of old French, suplement it with Latin and romanized Greek, and preserve morphological relationships over pronunciation in a narrow sense.


Last edited by CEJ on Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:16 am; edited 1 time in total
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

CEJ, I know it's not what you meant, but your starting phrase in your last post ('And I highly doubt that phonics approaches are useful at all in most EFL situations') does make one wonder at first glance whether you are countering someone's previous opinion or simply introducing your own (new and "unrelated") point (that is, you've kind of made it sound like Superhal said phonics is useful for EFL, even though he - and I! - are aware that the thread was originally about phonics in native education). (I won't charge you this time for the tip on style Wink Very Happy ).

As for your post before that, glad to have the exchanges! As you say, the board is a bit dead at the moment, so any discussion is better than none. I just hope I don't bore or irritate everyone as much as I seem to do with metal56! Very Happy

Hmm, a PhD in Corpus Linguistics, eh? He took the easy option, then. Laughing

I'd imagine that frequency statistics are useful to learners precisely because they don't have native-speaker intuitions about the usefulness of a term (note how every learner dictionary has gradually adopted frequency symbols for headwords over the past decade, until now even the OALD7 has included them), but I'll grant you that this is on a strictly item-by-item basis and of little help in the thick of communication (though I think we would agree that such communication will probably use the more frequent items more frequently LOL).

Learners who aren't so "immersed" in their study and/or "practise" may not get very far with limited texts and dictionaries, but this just means that it will help all the more if the texts have been compiled and/or (re)written in a way to reflect the contexts which the learner cannot yet directly fully experience (and materials developers increasingly make use of and thank their lucky stars for dependable frequency data - I know I wouldn't want to write a course without such data, because I am aware of how tiring it is to rely on just my limited intutions...but poring over data too much can also get tiring too! Need to strike a happy balance that allows maximal creativity).

Hmm, OK, we don't talk phonemically, but a narrow phonetic transcription would be of "limited" use to most; and having no phonemic transcription at all would obviously be of no help to anybody. Twisted Evil What exactly do you use to help your EFL students? Nothing (no indications of pronunciation), ever? Surprised
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