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English Phoneme-Grapheme Connections with Spanish

Two Interacting Phonics Systems: BiPhonics

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 Spanish or Portuguese.

Decoding and encoding (reading and spelling) miscues in English by Spanish-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 Spanish to English. Biphonics has the following implications for both oral reading and spelling.

Implication for Understanding Oral Reading in English

Similar Phoneme, Same Grapheme

Phoneme is similar (or close) in both English and Spanish, 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, a Spanish word for ball.)

Implications for Understanding Reading and Spelling In English

Different Phoneme, Same Grapheme

1. New phoneme in English, though same grapheme exists in both English and Spanish. (Different sound, same letter; for example, the sound of /j/ in jet may be read as het by Spanish-speaking children.) Additionally, the sound of /y/ as in yes and yet is often read as /j/ or as jes and jet by Spanish-speakers.

Same/Similar Phoneme, Different Grapheme

2. Phoneme exists in both English and Spanish, but it 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 Spanish by the letters ei (leik).

Phoneme or Grapheme in English does not Exist in Portuguese

3. English phoneme/grapheme does not exist in Spanish, so substitutions naturally take place. (For example, the English /h/ sound as represented by the letter h does not exist in Spanish, so it is silent when read aloud by Spanish-speakers; e.g., the English word hat may be read as at.)

Click on letter categories to learn about the interaction of Spanish 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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