English phonics in Spanish primary schools

Does English phonics work just as effectively when children are learning it as a foreign language?

… too good to be true?

Everyone knows that English is not spoken the way it is written. Whereas Spanish is phonetic, English is not… although, as I read somewhere in a blog recently, Spanish is phonetic according to its own pronunciation rules, not the pronunciation rules of English (!). It is universally acknowledged that the most effective way to learn English is by following a phonics method, where children are taught how to think about how words sound rather than to memorize chains of letters, but does English phonics work just as effectively when children are learning it as a foreign language?
Spanish parents are aware of the fact that their children are learning English with the help of phonics, although few know that there is a difference between synthetic, analytical or systematic phonics. As I mentioned in the Spanish version of this article, Jolly Phonics and Yo Yo Phonics are synthetic methods, Floppy’s phonics are systematic whilst most apps I have found on the App store are based on analytical phonics. Spanish children are spending a considerable amount of their time at school learning phonics, with one method or another, but why?

1) To help Spanish children learn how to read English correctly

If you have 15 minutes to spare, I recommend you watch this video (in English) where phonics expert Coral George explains the importance of teaching Spanish children how to read English rather than recognize English: Coral George

2) To make writing English an easier task

Josef Esseberger, owner of the English Club reminds us that English isn’t difficult to pronounce, it is difficult to spell.
If English is learnt orally, Spanish children have little difficulty pronouncing the words correctly. The problem is when these children are then shown written English and they use their Spanish reading skills to try to read what is in front of them. Therefore phonics is a necessary to de-code the written text so that children learn word sounds and pick up the skill of blending, thus making writing an easier task.

3) To make sure Spanish children are familiar with all 44 principal sounds in English

English has many more principal sounds than Spanish and sometimes EFL young learners don’t quite catch the small differences between various sounds. With phonics methods every parent can be sure that their child has learnt all the principal sounds in English, even if they only hear some of those pronunciations and sounds in a classroom setting during their English class.
If I were to choose one phonics method to teach English as a foreign language in a Spanish classroom I would opt for Yo-yo phonics by Inés Delgado-Echagüe Sell as it has been developed by a Spanish publisher to help Spanish mother tongue children learn English naturally. This synthetic method pays special attention to the sounds which may be unfamiliar to a Spanish ear and also helps deal with false friends (“e” sounding like “i” etc). Inés has created an “enfoque mini-nativo” – mini-native focus – where Spanish children learn how to group words together according to their sound and then use these words as if they were native speakers with a “mini” vocabulary range.

Take a look at the Education section of our blog to find information on different courses and activities for kids.