Phonemes are a languages smallest unit of sound, which we blend together to form words.
The English Language has 44 phonemes, 24 consonants and 20 vowels, represented by the unique symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Vowels can be further split into ‘short’, ‘long’ and ‘long ‘R’ controlled’ vowels . Consonant sounds are produced by restricting the airflow, whilst vowel sounds allow the air to flow freely causing the chin to drop noticeably.
As every word and syllable in a word has to have a vowel, being able to distinguish vowel sounds from consonant sounds is a key skill in understanding word structure.
The 44 phonemes of English are represented by more than 280 letter or letter combinations. Most letters therefore never make just one sound and that sound can be made by more than one letter or letter combination.
We have created over 1,000 videos that split words into their individual phonemes, showing which letters are making which sound in each word. You can access these videos in two ways:
When teaching phonics it is really important to pronounce words normally and not to overemphasize a sound to ‘help’ the spelling.
Children’s knowledge of the sounds that make words is based on how you speak to them naturally and this is how a Synthetic Phonics Scheme teaches them.
You don’t need to change how you speak, as a comprehensive phonics scheme will cater for this. In fact if you do change your normal speech pattern you will most probably only confuse your child.
Across England we spell words the same, but we certainly do not say them the same, even though we all use the same 44 phonemes. Accents have arisen from regions applying different phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters).
We have based our sound to letter combinations on a standardized view of this association known as ‘Received Pronounced’ (RP) English, as used in comprehensive English dictionaries.