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English Phoneme-Grapheme Connections with Portuguese

BiPhonics: Two Interacting Phonics Systems

Letter Sound Relationships in Two Interacting Languages  The concept of letter-sound relationships between two interacting languages has been named biphonics in this project, and is distinct from the term phonics, which defines letter-sound relationships in one language only. The interaction between two language phonic systems may occur from L1 to L2 (from a student’s first language to a second/additional language, usually English in the USA) or from L2 to L1 (from English to a student’s first language).

Expanding educators’ understanding of the relationship between phonemes (the sounds of spoken language) and graphemes (the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language) from one language to two or more interacting languages is essential information for teachers so that they can appropriately evaluate miscues in reading and spelling in English as a new language. This understanding is especially important for teachers of CLD students (at the beginning stages of second/new language acquisition) who come to English having already acquired reading skills in alphabetic languages such as Portuguese or Spanish.

Decoding and encoding (reading and spelling) miscues in English by Portuguese-speaking children are very predictable when educators are knowledgeable about the specific phoneme and grapheme characteristics of the student’s native language and how these may influence his or her reading and spelling in English. These linguistically influenced miscues are developmental and as such, they are “normal.” They are addressed in this section mainly from Portuguese to English. Biphonics has the following implications for both oral reading and spelling.

Implication for Oral Reading and Written Spelling in English

Similar Phoneme, Same Grapheme

1. Phoneme is similar (or close) in both English and Portuguese, and is represented by the same grapheme. (Similar sound, same letter; for example the /b/ sound in ball is similar to the /b/ sound in bola, the Portuguese word for ball.)

Different Phoneme, Same Grapheme

2. New phoneme in English, though same grapheme exists in both English and Portuguese. (Different sound, same letter; for example, the sound of /j/ in jet is read as meaSUre by Portuguese-speaking children.)

Same/Similar Phoneme. Different Grapheme

3. Phoneme exists in both English and Portuguese, but is represented by a different grapheme in English. (Similar sound, different letter(s); for example, the long /a/ sound in the English word lake is represented in Portuguese by the letters ei.

Phoneme or Grapheme in English does not Exist in Portuguese

4. English phoneme or grapheme does not exist in Portuguese, so substitutions naturally take place. (For example, the English /h/ sound does not exist in Portuguese, so it is substituted by an R or it is silent; e.g., the English word hat may be read as at.)

NOTE: For ELL students at the beginning to intermediate level of English who haven't received formal reading instruction in their first language, Categories 1 and 2 still apply, because there are natural carry-overs of sounds from the first language as students begin ‘decoding’ English text. It is vitally important not to see these as permanent errors. Rather, these oral "miscues" are a natural part of the student's progression into English. Category 4 has implications for both reading and writing in English by beginning ELL students.

Click on letter categories to learn about the interaction of Portuguese with English (biphonics):

Click hereInitial Consonants

Click hereConsonant Digraphs

Click hereConsonant Clusters

Click hereFinal Consonants

Click hereShort Vowels and Long Vowels

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