If we fail to teach phonics, we are condemning many of our pupils to be quasi-dyslexic in the foreign language - Dr Lynn Erler

Using phonics to create a structured reading/writing scheme is a logical progression from the experiences of both teachers of KS1 in British schools and of native teachers, combining what we know about how children learn to READ in any language.

For too long we have presumed that students will just 'pick up' how to pronounce words and read the target language through repetition and PPPmethods, when actually research has shown that these skills are NOT absorbed, they need to be taught explicitly.

While in KS2 schemes of work, phonics is a focus of the new Languages Framework, this is not statutory until 2011, until then and for some considerable time after, the gaps will need to be filled by secondary practitioners. Moreover in KS3 and 4 we need to build upon this rudimentary knowledge with gradually more sophisticated rules including liaison, silent letters and what happens in songs (!) if we are to empower our students to decode the spelling and pronounciation of the languages they learn.

The good news is that French, Spanish and German are pretty regular in pronounciation and phoneme (sound) / grapheme (letter string) correspondance, unlike English, which students find very reassuring and logical. In fact, Spanish is so regular it is usually possible to skip the phoneme level and go straight to syllables.

While we suggest beginning with the alphabet - remember to stress to students that theses are the names of the letters and not necessarily the sounds the letters make - just as in English. However one of the first things they will ever do in any sort of business/holiday transaction in a foreign country is be asked to spell something, often their own name.

There are many books on the market which breakdown the main phonemes for French, Spanish and German, and even more free resources appearing daily on the Internet created by teachers and links will appear here as we find useful sites. The key is not to teach these sounds entirely in the target language but to compare and contrast with Englsih as you go along. Moreover, get the students to make the links, spot the patterns, make phoneme collections and do the work!

You can download resources from the following sites - free:

*And have some fun with Spanish