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Phonics - 1st language interference 
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Post Phonics - 1st language interference
We have a course for children aged 5-7 years old. The students are all Chinese. The parents desperately don't want us to teach them phonics as they say it will interfere with their children learning Chinese phonics. So should we dump phonics and delay reading until 7? Or is there any research out there on this subject?


Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:47 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
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Well, I'm a bit surprised or maybe they're talking about something else.

I thought Chinese was a pure phonetic character language. They learn the readings of each character and its fixed reading with other characters. I'm not sure about the Roman alphabet they use. That may be what they are talking about, but at what age do they learn to use the Roman version?

In Japan it's 4th grade in elementary school. And the reverse is true. I wish they didn't teaching the Japanese Roman alphabet, because it messes up everything I taught them :) Not really, I just have to stress to the students that what they learn at school (the Japanese Roman alphabet) is Japanese. Although it looks the same as English, it's still Japanese. What we learned is English. A few weeks later, they don't seem to have a problem with it. It's just that initial introduction of the Roman alphabet used in a different way that causes transient confusion.

Is it that they don't want you to teach reading at all? or are they just upset with the phonics method?

I'm sure there is research out there about the benefits of phonics with Chinese children, but research about the negative effects on Chinese learning (assume there are negative effects) most likely would be in Chinese.

I have heard of French schools and Spanish schools asking the English teachers not to teach phonics because they feel it messes up the students reading ability in their L1. You might be more likely to find some research on that.

There is a lot of research out there that reports on how strong reading ability in L1 transfers to a better reading ability in L2. There is also negative transfer (problems in one lead to problems in the other.) So, there's also nothing wrong with building the students oral competence for now and just waiting until they are 7 to start a phonics program.

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Sun Aug 30, 2009 7:23 am
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Ben, are you in China? I assumed you were. However, if you are in an English or other language country, I'd give different advice.

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Sun Aug 30, 2009 7:26 am
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Post Chinese phonics
Chinese children all learn a system called pinyin. Its a romanticism of the Chinese language. They learn this at around 5 years old so the parents are scared that our phonics will interfere.

Wikipedia to the rescue:)

The situation is a bit bizarre really. We have a book for 3-5 year old children with no reading or writing. So there are almost no words in the book. Just the title headings which the children never read anyway. However, when the parents of 5-7 years of age see this book they think it is too easy. My guess is because there are no words in the book and this is confirmed by a much better reaction when I show them "Primary colors" a Cambridge book we used to use. However, when the kids go to class and start to learn Phonics the parents get very unhappy. Because of this I'm not really sure what to do. It seems they want to learn to read but don't want any phonics which for me seems difficult. Really I'd like to do whatever is best for the kids so some reasearch would be good but i've been unable to find any.


Tue Sep 01, 2009 3:54 pm
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