Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I'm a little confused, was Shakespeare taught phonics?



In Shakespeare's day, words didn't even have consistent spellings. Of course he wrote and read phonetically.


But English is phonetic (but is it, compared to German or Japanese?) which is conflation with phonics.

The article did not clearly explain what cognitive science has to do with phonics, which AFAIT is a heuristic system for Western languages. So when I studied Chinese as a child, how did I learn to write Chinese, nonphonetically, without confusing horses and ponies? A heuristic is an optimization but not fundamental but the article clearly asserts that phonics is fundamental to language in that if you don't use phonics you get illiterate students... I think there's some conceptual conflation or some middle case being ignored by the author: A) Is [formal instruction in] phonics necessary? v.s. B) Is 3-Cue harmful? These are not proper opposites.

Here's a provocative claim made in a more sciencey article I just found:

"The linguist David Crystal (2003) estimates that the phonics can explain only about 50 percent of English spellings."

[https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/03/27/case-why...]

And further down:

"As the linguists Venezky (1967) and Carol Chomsky (1970) explained, English prioritizes the consistent spelling of morphemes over the consistent spellings of phonemes."


English's primary strength over other European languages is its use of logography. It's sad to see how most English speakers see that as "BuT iT IsN't PHoNeTicALlY rEgUlaR!". This is despite the fact that phonetic shifts across time and space mean that no writing systen will ever be completely phonetically regular. Phonics can be useful but they can't be fundamental because the impossibility of phonetic regularity means that phonics will always be somewhat misleading.


There's 350 year old books that more or less use phonics - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/06/phonics-taught-3...

Before that ... who knows? I think English was mostly phonetic at the time, with modern inconsistencies being a more modern innovation. Sight-reading was almost unheard of, everyone read by sounding words out aloud (presumably subconsciously sight-reading as they got better at it). Presumably teachers used phonics of some kind since it never even occurred to anyone that people did anything other than read phonetically.


What do you think literacy rates were in 1550 - 1600?


Was Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman taught phonics? Obviously we don't have to be restricted to a specific era as long as it is pre-phonics.


I'm not sure why pointing to literally geniuses helps us understand how to teach a population how to read. For some people it doesn't matter what method you use. They'll have been taught at home and they will have self-taught the rest.

But, again, what were literacy rates like in 1890 or 1960?


The point is that people before phonics were capable of becoming literate without phonics. The article is saying that phonics is necessary, which is stronger than saying phonics improves literacy rates. If phonics were necessary then people pre-phonics would not have written English literature of all sorts. That is the argument.

In other words:

> For some people it doesn't matter what method you use

This is a theory cop-out. If people figured out how to read and write well without phonics, that's worth investigating too. And it's unlikely that they also succeeded just because they were geniuses or had some secret unknowable method.

Also, replying to someone asking a genuine question with totally different question is bad manners, and I'm going ask that not be done here.


The point of the article is not that teaching phonics is necessary but that the three-cueing system is detrimental to children learning to read. Phonics is a better system.

The article makes the explicit point that significant percentages of children can learn to read despite being sabotaged by a bad learning system. (In part because some students figured out how to spell words out phonetically in their own.)

The formal phonics system might be recent, but the phonetic nature of our writing system is ancient.



What is pre-phonics? My grandparents were to taught to read by sounding out the words more than a century ago. I was also taught that way decades ago. Then it became controversial.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: