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French Phonics and Pronunciation

Rebeca Arndt

Saint Marys University of Minnesota

Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs

Independent Study EDUW 699 French Phonics and Pronunciation

Lynda Sullivan, Instructor

May 1, 2016

Phonics and pronunciation training has been generally perceived as of limited importance

in a communicatively oriented foreign language curriculum according to Pennington & Richards,

1986, p 209. Various foreign language teachers conspicuously refute the usefulness of phonetic

and pronunciation training and rely on a listen-and-repeat method with the use technology.

As I began my teaching career as a foreign language instructor of French, I have continuously

struggled to discover best ways to aid my students face the challenge of comprehending and

acquire the complex sound and grapheme-phoneme correlation system, as phonics instruction

was not clearly identified as a critical area of concern within the curriculum used in my district.

In the process of trying to avoid the tendency among my students of pronouncing French words

words according to English decoding conventions from print to sound, rather than assuming that

pupils will improve by practice alone (Pillette & Clarke, 2000, p. 34), I have worked on

developing and adjusting according to my students need phonics and pronunciation lessons

specifically designed for my novice low students.

My goal was not only to support my students in decoding, word reading, text comprehension,

and spelling but also measure the effects of systematic phonics instruction compared to no-

phonics instruction. For this purpose, I have elaborated a study in order to investigate the

effectiveness of basic phonetic/phonics instruction on reading pronunciation accuracy in a

French beginner language course.

The sample consisted of two groups of French Novice Low students from Marshall Middle

School, who received the same instruction in French language and culture during the first and

second quarter of school year 2015-2016. Only the experimental group received additional

phonics and pronunciation training.

Participants in the study completed a pre- and post-tests of French decoding consisting of

three reading tasks: phoneme identity in isolated graphemes, phoneme blending in isolated

familiar words and phoneme segmentation in isolated unfamiliar words and short sentences. The

intervention group made significantly more progress than the comparison group in terms of the

number of graphemes pronounced correctly.

These findings imply that explicit instruction can improve novice low learners proficiency

in French in order to master the French phoneme-grapheme (sound-spelling) system. Additional

research is required to assess the ramification of a presumed improvement in decoding

proficiency on other French language-learning results and to design a curriculum of instruction

accordingly to these conclusions.

Research Questions of the Literature Review

The literature review will address the following questions:

1. What is the most effective way to teach Modern Standard French phonics for novice low


2. How do I integrate French phonics into the curriculum?

Literature Review

In order to answer the daunting question that many educators struggle with, in regard to

most effective ways to teach Modern Standard French phonics for novice low students, I will

attempt to explain what Modern Standard French is and what exactly is phonics.

Modern Standard French

All languages differ along geographic, social, or temporal proportions. With degree of

resistance to change (such as the spelling revisions of over 2400 words that had been suggested

by the Acadmie Franaise- French Academy, and unanimously accepted by its members in
1990, which was implemented more than 25 years after) French language contains a

conglomeration of backlash to local and social fluctuation and diversity. Regional and social

dialects are manifest both within France as well as internationally and surely modification within

the very core of French language, even Standard French had been constantly made since

Molires era.

Modern Standard French, the formal French language, developed from the diversity of

French spoken in the area around Paris and the Loire valley area. As the essential dialect among

the northern group of French dialects, recognized as the langues doil, Modern Standard

French it is not singular. Actually, mostly in the rural areas of south of France, some dialects

recognized as regional languages known as langues doc or Occitanian French are used

increasingly. Dialect such as Provenal, Occitan, and Catalan are intrinsically part of France's

cultural heritage and consecrated in the French constitution.

French is the official language or one of the official languages of 29 sovereign states and

territories also spoken in many other countries other than France, while it ranked the sixth most

widely spoken language after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic.

There are currently over 220 million French speakers worldwide, including 72 million so-

called partial French speakers, however only French speakers from Switzerland, Belgium are

speaking Modern Standard French, while the vast majority of the French speakers worldwide

employ distinctive dialects.


Phonics can be described as a system employed for encoding speech sounds phonemes,

into graphemes, the written symbols. Phonics involves the association of speech sounds with

letters and the blending of sounds into syllables and words according to Harris & Hodges, 1995
definition. Individual phoneme patterns are studied by learners of a language using segmenting,

blending, decoding, and manipulating individual words in order to recognize words, pronounce

words and make connections between words and their meanings. Certainly, at the very core of

phonics lies the alphabet. The French alphabet has the same 26 letters as the English alphabet,

pronounced differently and an addition of five accents, four for vowels and one for a consonant,

however French Phonetic Alphabet consists of 37 total sounds.

Mastering French phonics begins with mastering the alphabet and the relation between

graphemes and the phonemes, because in French various phonemes has similar pronunciation as

well as many letters can represent a number of different sounds and as research has demonstrated

success in decoding is associated with having a grasp of the alphabetic principle as Stahl, Duffy-

Hester, & Doughtery, 1998 conclude.

Phonics instruction given accordingly to the developmental levels of the learners relies

heavily on the learners phonemic awareness which can be engaged through listening, speaking

and reading simultaneously. Through this approach, learners will quickly determine the sounds in

unfamiliar written words. In the plan laid out here, I have employed the synthetic phonics

approach were learners associate letters to their corresponding phonemes and then to blend them

to create a word.

Phonics and Second Language Acquisition

Phonics is one of the pillars that help students build the foundational skills students need

to be successful in their language acquisition as it enables students to deepen their knowledge of

effective decoding instruction, enhances their understanding and gain strategies to learn the

sounds of a written language, break words into syllables, and identifying morphemes, while

emphasizing word meaning. Phonics can be described as teaching a language and reading a
language explicitly and sequentially, through the relationship of letter-sound correspondence in

words. Individual phoneme patterns are studied by segmenting, blending, decoding, and

manipulating individual words.

There is an urgency to implement phonics instruction a s a prerequisite in second

language acquisition as several researchers have demonstrated that phonology (phonemic

awareness, phonics, decoding, word analysis, etc.) dictates the student progress with word

recognition, reading comprehension, and fluency will suffer (Chall, 1996). Direct phonics

instruction enables students to master reading in an organized way as Cromwell, 1997 supports,

however this technique has not necessarily proven to be entirely effective and fail-safe as Brooks

& Brooks, 2005 implies however according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human

Development, 2000, there is enough evidence to say that explicit phonics instruction helps

students improve their reading comprehension, spelling, and overall literacy skills in their first

language. Based on the positive effects that explicit phonics instruction has on first language

learners, explicit phonics instruction can be successfully used in second language acquisition, to

learners who already have literacy skills in their native language.

Phonics methods to be used with learners of French

As I researched phonics teaching techniques and approaches, I decided to implement the

synthetic phonic method due to emergency I felt for rapid progress. Although synthetic phonics

approach had not been greatly researched, I have been inspired and influenced by studies such as

Johnston and Watson (2004) which concluded that synthetic phonics led to better decoding skills

than either an analytic phonics approach or an analytic phonics approach that embody

phonological awareness training.

Synthetic phonics is an accelerated phonics approach that teaches letter sounds very

rapidly and students are explicitly guided in how to blend the sounds together to pronounce and

co-articulate unfamiliar words, to spell words and reinforce blending for reading. The strategy to

implement the synthetic phonic method in classroom is quite straightforward: few letter sounds

are taught and afterwards students are shown how these sounds can be blended together to build

up words (Feitelson, 1988). Generally, in a synthetic phonics lessons which takes about half

hour, time is divided in six segments: first students work orally on an activity, second students

revise the previous lesson, followed by the introduction of a new letter and its corresponding

sound, next students blend, segment and create new words and write the new letter, and finally

students consolidate the lesson with reading and writing activities.

Action Research Plan

Background Information and Purposes of the Action Research Project

I am teaching French I and French II to 91 students, ages 12 to 14 with 53 girls and 38

boys (7th and 8th graders). Most of my students heritage was Caucasian American, however

within my classes I welcomed African-American and Hispanic students (mostly from Mexico),

students with Asian ancestry (Filipino and Indian) as well as students with Barkanic background

(Albanian). My classes are ethnically, culturally diverse due to the varied array of ethnicities and

cultures presented as well linguistically diverse, as I have students in my classes that already

spoke two different languages and two different dialects while enrolled in a language class.

The classes I teach unfolded on a length of 47 minutes, on an every-other day basis

following A and B days. My students have a various range of competences, yet it is a group with

quite of a unique set of special needs and skills, as I have in my class speakers of other

languages, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) as well as students with Emotional Behavioral
Difficulties (EBD), therefore I am determined to seek out information about new instructional

practices and strategies to implement in my instruction to enhance my students language

learning skills, especially made use of phonics lessons in addition to my current practices. I am

currently employing a synthetic phonics which is an accelerated phonics approach adjusted to the

needs of my students, -however I am researching ways of incorporating in my instruction new

techniques which will complement the curriculum in place.

Research Question of the Action Research Project

1. What is the most effective way to teach Modern Standard French phonics for novice low


2. How do I integrate French phonics into the curriculum?


My declarative statement refers to my endeavor towards my students learning of an

articulatory features of speech production and ways in which to correct and enhance their oral

production. They will gradually be introduced to the basic linguistic terminology of articulatory


Definition of Terms

Phonics refers to instructional practices that emphasize how spellings are related to

speech sounds in systematic ways (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998)

Phonics instruction as defined by Stahl (2001) is any approach utilized by the teacher,

usually a bottom-up model, to help children learn how to decode words.

Whole language instruction implies child centered reading instruction using the top-

down model and focuses on pronunciation, meaning and vocabulary.

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken

words in a distinctive manner from their meaning.

Decoding is the ability to analyze graphic symbols of a familiar language to ascertain the

intended meaning (Harris & Hodges, 1995).

Phonemes are according to the National Reading Panel (2000 the smallest units

constituting spoken language. Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) define phonemes as the speech

phonological units that make a difference to meaning.

Research Design

I envision this study to meet all the requirements of a a quantitative, non-experimental

comparative study.


The sample of the study embodies 91 students, ages 12 to 14 with 53 girls and 38 boys

(7th and 8th graders). Most of my students heritage was Caucasian American, however within my

classes I welcomed African-American and Hispanic students (mostly from Mexico), students

with Asian ancestry (Filipino and Indian) as well as students with Barkanic background

(Albanian). My classes are ethnically, culturally diverse due to the varied array of ethnicities and

cultures presented as well linguistically diverse, as I have students in my classes that already

spoke two different languages and two different dialects while enrolled in a language class.

Socio-economically, most of my students from coming from low socioeconomic statuses as one

can see from the percentage of students that benefit of free lunch.


This course designed to meet the needs of learners in first year of French, can be used with

novice intermediate learners who are continuing instruction in a new classroom setting or with a
new instructor and even for adult learners. The objective of this particular scheme of work is to

enable students to acquire the invaluable skill of pronunciation by enabling pupils to make

sound-spelling links in the target language and therefore be able to read anything they see as well

as help them to predict spellings of words they hear.

The scheme of work presented here encompasses 25 lessons, containing an area of study, a key

sound of the lesson to be progressively introduced, key vocabulary enclosing carefully chosen

words such as cognates or high frequency words, phonetics transcription of the vocabulary list of

the lesson as well as a teaching strategy section. Data will be to collected daily though mini

formative assessments given at the end of each lesson.


My study will be conducted following the implementation of my 25 phonic lessons to

provide to all my students, with various learning styles and needs, easily disengaged, active and

often stressed, a platform where they can successfully be involved in the learning process,

actively involved in the education curriculum and embedding this new knowledge in their long-

term memory. The intended outcome is for my learners to correctly and self-confidently

pronounce the new language they learn.


I envision that my teaching practice will be enriched through the implementation of the synthetic

phonics method which is an accelerated phonics approach strategy composed of 25,ten minutes

mini-lessons aiming to unfold during regular class period, at the beginning of each class,

following a specific instructional target. Through this novel strategy, my students will gradually

be exposed to In general, the pronunciation problems that English students face can be

summarized as French language rhythm problems, correctly accented syllable, skills which if are

incorrectly acquired can results in an imbalance in the rhythmic and melodic pattern of the

statement plus neutralization of unstressed syllables, causing the disappearance or transformation

of the stamp of the unaccented vowel. I envision that following the implementation of my

instructional program, my students will be able to understand more text containing unfamiliar

language, be more confident in speaking and reading out loud in the foreign language, and

become more autonomous learners who are able to make links between words and apply


Piguet E.2001, Effects of phonetic/phonics instruction on reading pronunciation (French level I).

ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3006863.

Adams, M.J. 1990. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print

Anderson, N.1990. Exploring second language reading: issues and strategies. Heinle & Heinle

Publishers, Toronto, Canada

Koda, K. 1992. The effects of lower-level processing skills in FL reading performance:

Implications for instruction. The Modern Language Journal, 76, 502-12.

Kondo, K. 1999. Motivating bilingual and semi bilingual university students of Japanese: An

analysis of language learning persistence and intensity among students from immigrant

backgrounds. Foreign Language Annals, 32, 77-88.

Yopp, H.K. 1988.The validity and reliability of phonemic awareness tests. Reading Research

Quarterly, 23, 159-177.

Examples of Artifacts

Artifacts A 1: Scheme of work: Introducing Phonics

Artifact A1 enclosed a comprehensive yet detailed lesson work scheme plan that will unfold

throughout 12 weeks of instruction. This learning segment encompasses for each lesson a central

area of the lesson, a key sound spelling link, key vocabulary, phonics, teaching strategies and

resources and a section for other comments which can be used to adjust instruction according to

the needs of the child. Each lesson unfolds over a period of 10 minutes.

A1: Scheme of work: Introducing Phonics

Area Key Key Phonetics Teaching strategies Supplementary

sound vocabulary
1 [ah] a Lac - lake [lack] Choral rptition Introduce the
Sac - bag [sack] Dictassions la concept of
ANNA ne - [ann] ma sa ta va masculine and
donkey [ann-ann- Search a word in feminine for
Ananas - ass] the dictionary nouns
pineapple [bal] which has the [a]
Balle - ball [pat] sound
Patte paw [ban-ann] Cahier de sons
Banane - [pah-pah] page for each
banana [mah- sound
Papa - dad dam] Display board
Madame - display words
Mrs with the [a]
Une patate -
Counting Song

2 [eu] e eu Je - I [juh] Dictassions le Introduce que

oeu feu - fire [fuh] me se ce te, in as an exception
FLEUR Bleu - blue [bluh] addition to all
Neuf- nine [nurf] words from
Docteur - [dock- previest lesson
doctor turr] Tongue twisters
Beurre - [burr] Il pleut, il
butter [curr] mouille (Song)
Coeur - [urf] Petit escargot
heart [sal duh (Song)
Oeuf - egg class] Un et un
salle de (Counting
classe- rhyme)
classroom A la queue leu
leu - song,

3 [oh] au eau Auto - car [oh-toh] Odd 1 out activity

o Note - note [noh-t] Dictation Introduce the
Laura Cne - cone [coh-n] Petit escargot concept of
jaune - [joh-n] Les petits poissons - silent silent
yellow [toh-p] song letters
taupe - mole [oh] Bateau sur leau - song
eau - water [bah-toh] Dodo l'enfant do -
Bateau - [cah-doh] lullaby
boat [tah-bloh]
Cadeau -
board /
Silent d,p,s,t,x Daccord! - Practise words
letters okay with and without
Drap - sheet silent letters at
Dos - back the end
Pas - not (dictation)
Mot - word Fingers on lips!
Plat dish / Matching sounds
flat (find a partner)
Feu - fire Rhyming games
Yeux - eyes
Faux false

4 [sh] ch Chat - cat [shah] Tongue twister

Chocolat - [shoh- Cache-cache
CHARLES chocolate koh-lah] cochon (book)
Cheval - [shuh-val] Chouette et chou
horse [shah-
Chapeau - poh] (rhyme)
hat [shah-
Chameau - moh]
camel [shah-toh]
Chateau - [cash-
castle cash]
Cache-cache [closh]
hide and [vash]
Cloche - bell
Vache cow
5 [r] R rr Rat- rat [rah]
Robot - [roh-boh] Tongue twister
ROBERT robot [roh-b] Am stram gram -
Robe - dress [roh-z] tongue twister
Rose rose , [brah] (ipads rap app)
pink [groh]
Bras - arm [droh-l]
Gros - fat [drah-
drle - poh]
funny [cah-rah-
Drapeau - van]
Caravane -
6I i ie y Lit - bed [lee] La semaine des
Gris - grey canards song
MARIE Pie Pic a pic (tongue
magpie twister)
Nid - nest Arc-en-ciel
Midi - (song)
midday La fte la
Demi - half souris (song)
Tapis - rug Au pays du lundi
stylo - pen (song)
piano -
7 ui ui oui Oui - yes Tongue twister
Nuit - night Oui-oui - book,
Oui-oui Bruit - noise TV (theme tune)
Le chien Puit - well Pluie pluie pluie
Huile - oil et parapluie
huit - 8 (rhyme)
Pluie - rain [i] [ui] on quizlet
Fruits - fruit
to drive
8 et er Fe - fairy Commands : Exception - er
ey D - dice classroom one syllable =
Amlie Bb - baby language ; vous
ez Vlo - bike Allez , Rangez , Ver
Canap - coutez . vert
ais ait sofa Rptez etc
aient Bret La danse des
french hat lgumes (song)
Djeuner - Une patate qui
lunch aime danser
Papier - (song)
paper Tongue twister
Hockey - Cest interdit
hockey (rhyme)
Barnab (rhyme)

9t T th Tl - TV
Titre - title Tiger who came
THIERRY Terrible - to tea story book
dreadful Alouette (song)
Th - tea
Thtre -
Cathdrale -
Carotte -
Batterie -
Maths -
10 ou ou Loup - wolf
Chou - Coucou hibou
LILOU cabbage song (youtube)
Douche - Loup y es-tu?
shower (song)
Coucou Savez-vous
hibou planter les
cuckoo owl choux? (song)
Kangourou -
Souris -
Couteau -
Poubelle -
11 u Pull -
U ue jumper Au Clair de la
LUCIE Rue - road lune (song)
Jus - juice Une poule sur un
Lune - moon mur (song)
Plume -
but* - goal
Sucre -
Bulle -
salut hi
12 Frre pre
mre La gupe rhyme
ADELE Er (last brother dad Tongue twister
syllable) mum Pomme, poire,
Rgle - ruler pche, abricot
ai Flche - [e] [] [] quizlet
Fte - party
Crpe -
Vrai - true
Lait - milk
Balai - brush
13 on On Ballon - ball
om Lion - lion Le lion est mort
MANON Pont - ce soir (song)
bridge Une histoire
Cochon - sombre (song)
pig Lon le
Bonbon - camlon (song)
sweet Sur le pont
Savon - soap d'Avignon (song)
Compas -
Trompette -
Pompiers -
14 an An en France
Am Franais Jean Petit qui
LAURENT em France danse (song)
French Vive le vent
Blanc - (song)
Gant - glove
Maman -
Champion -
Trente - 30
Vent - wind
Dent - tooth
enfant -
15 in In ain Vin - wine Dictation
Ein Singe - Knowmia je ne
ALAIN Im aim monkey suis pas un saint
Insecte -
insect Poem
Pain - bread Carnaval, cest
Main - hand demain
Train - train Mon cousin
Important valentin rhyme
important Un petit
faim - bonhomme au
hungry bout du chemin
ceinture (song)
belt Le petit lapin
Dans la ferme de
Mathurin (song)
16 Un Un um Brun -
M Un one / a Dans le jungle
LEBRUN Lundi - (le lion est mort
Monday ce soir) (song)
Chacun -
Aucun -
Parfum -
17 oi oi Oie - goose
Roi - king Tongue twister
ANTOINE Trois - 3 Voici mon chat
Poire - pear story book
Etoile - star Ours brun dis-
Toilettes - moi story book
toilet Il tait une fois
Voiture - car tongue twister
Boisson - Tourne tourne
drink petit moulin -
Balanoire finger rhyme
swing Poisson un,
poisson deux -
18 Qu Que Chque -
qu cheque Frre Jacques -
QUENTIN K Banque - song
c bank
Quai -
Paquet -
Quatre - 4
- romantic
Raquette -
- library
Coca - coke
19 Ss S at Brosse
start brush Un lphant qui
SUZIE Ss Poisson - se balanait
fish (song)
Ce Saucisson - Les poissons
ci sausage sont assis
Franais - (rhyme)
Garon -
Citron -
Facile - easy
Glace ice
20 s z S Gaz - gas
z Zro - 0 Mariage princier
ZELIE Onze - 11 - rhyme
Poison - Chre Elise -
poison song
Valise -
Musique -
Oiseau -
Bisou - kiss
21 g j G Genou - Le bonhomme
J knee de neige - rhyme
JACQUES girafe - Il tait un petit
giraffe navire - song
gant - giant
plage -
nuage -
Jambe - leg
Jongle -
Jeu game
22 gn gn Agneau - Laraigne -
lamb rhyme
AGNES Souligner - Elle descend de
underline la montagne -
Gagner to song
win Sur le pont
Champagne d'Avignon - song
- mushroom
Campagne -
Montagne -
Espagne -
23 ille ill ille Fille - girl Hungry
Famille - caterpillar story
CAMILLE family book
Gorille - La chenille qui
gorilla fait des trous -
Billet - book
ticket Les papillons -
Papillon - colour rhyme
butterfly A lcole rhyme
24 eille eille Abeille - bee Tongue twister
eil Soleil - sun Mon ami
MIREILLE Oreille - ear l'abeille - rhyme,
Marseille tongue twister
Bouteille -
Sommeil -
25 ail ail ail - garlic Au chant de
aille taille - size l'alouette - song
MADAME paille -
travail -

Artifact A2 enclosed a sample of a daily lesson plan that will unfold throughout 12 weeks of

instruction. Each lesson unfolds over a period of 10 minutes and employs a Power Point

presentation that has sound embedded into the presentation for an accurate pronunciation. The

multimedia file can be emailed to all the students in the group, so they can refer back to anytime

they wish to. The sample lesson plan contains 20 slides which are not entirely presented.
Slide 1:

Slide 2

[ah] Anna
Slide 3 :