Phonics is a teaching method, primarily used to teach the English language, that makes use of sounds and associating them with words so that it is easier to learn new words. Although phonics can be an effective way to teach some students how to read and speak the English language correctly, it cannot be effective on its own.
An example of phonics is shown on many teachers’ walls. The alphabet may be accompanied by a picture or word which begins with that particular letter. For example, the letter A may be illustrated with apple, and the particular sound that that a makes in the word apple demonstrates one sound that the letter a can make in a word.
Although that example may make sense, it won’t once children realize that the letter a can make different sounds, and that learning how to pronounce words by saying individualized sounds may not help in the long run. It is easy to say that “a” can make a short “a” sound in the word apple, but “a” can make a long vowel sound in another word, such as “alien.” Would the a in “alien” sound like the a in apple? How would one differentiate between those two words and sounds? If phonics could be a stand-alone teaching method, it would provide a simple solution to this problem.
Phonics should be complemented by other language teaching methods. Rosetta Stone is one language program that demonstrates phonics alongside other language teaching methods (such as immersion). The program usually starts off with vocabulary, and tests the speaker through the use of a microphone. The vocabulary is generally taught with pictures.
However, for most people who cannot learn through immersion alone and by imitating native speakers, phonics is not a viable option. In fact, phonics can further complicate the learning process by introducing varying concepts that may or may not be important in the learning process later on. For example, why not just teach students how to read by encouraging them to read out loud? Why not correct the words that they say incorrectly, and drill them on the words that they don’t know how to pronounce?
Although phonics may work for some people, the unfortunate fact is that phonics cannot stand alone as a teaching method. In order for phonics to be successful in its purpose, it must be accompanied by other teaching methods that actually encourage reading and writing and learning words through traditional learning techniques.