The Symbols of an Alphabetic Writing System
Graphemes are the symbols of an alphabetic writing system
(Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003). To learn to read in all
languages is to learn how the writing system represents language;
the writing system is the basic tool for literacy. However,
writing systems vary from one language to another.
Romance languages such as Portuguese or Spanish, have alphabetic
systems characterized by a high degree of correspondence between
graphemes and phonemes thus indicating that these languages
are very predictable at the phonics level.
The Portuguese Alphabet
Name in Portuguese (From English Perspective)
Sound in Portuguese
||/o/ dog |
|| / /
Note: The letters K (kuppa),
W (double vih) and Y (ípsilon) are
used only when using words borrowed from another language
such as foreign names (Wilson, Katherine)
or terms (kilometer, watt).
* - Additional letters
used in English and Brazilian Portuguese alphabets.
The Portuguese alphabet has 23 letters and does not generally
include the letters “K”, “W” and “Y”.
This impacts the student’s performance in alphabetizing
words in English, which include these three extra letters
within the sequence. It is important to analyze this area
from a European Portuguese-language perspective, when assessing
alphabetic sequence of recent immigrants from this language
background. For example: What letter comes after “J”?
A Portuguese-speaking student from Portugal, Azores or Madeira
may say “L” instead of ”K”. From a
Portuguese alphabetical sequence this response is correct
because the Portuguese alphabet does not have K and, therefore,
the student jumps to L. It is important to keep in mind, however,
that Brazilian Portuguese does include K, W & Y, but not
in the alphabet. These three letters are generally used in
Letter Names Versus
Research, carried out by Serpa (1983) in Portugal, shows
that children learning to read in Portuguese, identify the
letters of the alphabet by its sound [C=/kih/] not the technical
letter name [C= /sih/ ]. It is only after the completion of the process
of alfabetização or alfabetizacion
(proficiency in translating print to language or ‘fluent
decoding’), that letter names are then added to the
student’s repertoire of academic skills. The distinction between a letter name v. a letter sound needs to be highlighted for these students.
Brazilian and Portuguese children learn cursive writing from
the early grades. Generally, they are not taught directly
how to print. US teachers may need to show Portuguese
speaking students how to print the 'American Way'. When asked
to print, many of these students will print whole words
in capital letters