Learning to read English as another language with Fonetti
by Cat Roberts Young on July 1st 2020
Cast your mind back to when you first learnt to read. Can you remember the words you just couldn’t grasp? The ones that you found tricky to say? Are they the ones that still catch you out or can you spell them with ease because of years of practice? English is a difficult language to learn. How do we tell the difference between read and read? Why do we pronounce choose like lose and not like loose? It can be complicated enough for native speakers to grasp. So, when English is your second language or maybe not the first language of your household it can make reading even harder.
For families who speak English as Another Language (EAL), even the most advanced apps and technical resources can still add an additional layer of complication to literacy. If English isn’t your first language, can you still support your children with their reading? Of course, you can. But can you help them tell the difference between those tricky words and give them examples to help them remember as easily as you can in your mother tongue? Can you pronounce the words they’re stuck on or are some of them new to you too? If they are, that’s normal. The human brain only uses 800* different words on a daily basis, so we only retain the words we use the most frequently. So regardless of whether your children speak English as a first language or additional language – there will always be vocabulary that they learn and never use. But what if there was a way you could help your children build their vocabulary, practice their pronunciation and grow in confidence reading aloud, without needing any help from you?
It’s an iPad app that’s started a reading revolution and is taking the world by storm. It’s the reading assistant available to every home and is the technology behind interactive reading. Approved by the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign as a platform for children to practise their reading, Fonetti is the world’s first listening bookshop. You could say it’s a bit like karaoke, except it’s more about speech than song. Children choose a story and start reading aloud. When they get the words right, they turn green. If they get stuck, they double tap for help and can hear how the word should sound. So, they can practise again and again, with confidence – as there’s no one else listening to them but themselves. When they finish a book, they win rewards, stars and fanfares…as well as a growing love of reading.
We know right now your children are your focus more than ever. Their world has changed overnight and they’re looking to you for answers. And you don’t have them all. You’re probably playing several roles in a 24-hour period – parent, teacher, playmate, chef, cleaner and co-pilot of a purple space rocket ready to launch on mission to discover a hidden planet. Finding the time to be a reading-assistant too can be a challenge – especially on a 121 basis with multiple readers.
Give yourself the break you deserve and let Fonetti take care of fiction. Our app can have up to four users – ideal for larger families or grandchildren using Fonetti when they visit their grandparents. Not only will it help build your child’s confidence reading aloud, it will improve their independence as well as their literacy.
Designed by linguistic professors at the University of Edinburgh, Fonetti can recognise readers speaking English as a second language, those with dyslexia and SEN. So, it can support every reader individually and allow them to read at their own pace. And as a parent it keeps in touch too. You’ll receive regular weekly updates that tell you:
- how long your child has read for
- which stories they’ve read
- the number of times a book has been chosen
- and what words they’ve struggled with.
It will also keep you up to date with their progress and tell you if they’ve reached a new reading level so you can give them praise for their hard work.
What age is Fonetti suitable for?
Our technology is so easy-to-use, children aged 4 upwards can use it independently. From ABC books to early readers and beyond, there’s stories in our library for every age and ability. Mum of two, Neha Sharma explains:
‘My daughter started using Fonetti as soon as she started reception class. With two busy parents who work full-time, her grandparents regularly help with Maths homework…but English isn’t as easy. It’s not their first language. But with Fonetti, she doesn’t miss out. The app tells her when she’s doing well and helps her to choose the books that are right for her based on her reading level. It provides self-guided reading practise that helps her with her pronunciation, as she’s just reading to herself. Although her Grandma can’t help her read, my daughter reads the Fonetti stories in English then translates them into Hindi for her Grandma to enjoy too. So, she’s not just practicing reading, it’s helping her learn Hindi and improves her comprehension. It’s also helping us as parents learn phonics – as she blends and segments her words so that she pronounces them correctly – differently to how we were taught. Fonetti has definitely nurtured her love of reading – it’s something she can do independently and at home. It’s become a listening ear that’s part of her learning routine’
Every child should find reading fun – regardless of age or ability. And we believe with Fonetti, EAL readers get twice the enjoyment. Firstly, for the language they think in and secondly for the one they read aloud. Fonetti is an adventure that never ends – give your children the gift of reading that will inspire their imaginations for a lifetime.