The Core of Language Abstract ECER 2012 The European Conference on Educational Research, Cadiz

“The assessment between children’s capacity to pronounce isolated phonemes and, children’s capacity to say words aloud”

Patricia Mongard Collette Tyrer
PhD student
Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

This paper explains a trial study conducted with children from a clinic in the metropolitan area of Brisbane, using the tools tested in my thesis. It was conducted to find out the usefulness of the test designed for the research, by testing children from schools in the same area, the metropolitan area of Brisbane.

For the research of my Thesis (PhD) I have used the International Phonemic Alphabet (IPA) as a preliminary but comprehensive screening test of English phonemes. The phonemes have been examined first in isolation and could be used in constructing the more complex test of functionally grouped phonemes in articulated speech. I used this screening test to put the isolable phonemes of the IPA in order of difficulty for children of the Brisbane metropolitan area. This test, as well as being a valuable test in its own right, helped to arrange the Basic English language phonemes in order of difficulty and standardised based on children of various age groups for the later test construction. Also the data from the IPA test provided information for the correlation of the children’s capacity to pronounce isolated single phonemes with the capacity to pronounce these phonemes in the functional groups used in articulating speech.

I included children who spoke a language other than English at home; this allowed comparison of these children’s performance with those of children where only English was spoken at home. The cooperation of the Queensland Department of Education was sought and a list of all schools was made, public and private, in the Brisbane metropolitan area. I chose a random sample of the Brisbane schools to be tested.

The results of the research allowed a short version of the IPA test to be constructed, which any teacher can use to discover if a child has difficulties in producing isolated phonemes in the classroom. It is crucial for children to have the capacity to pronounce isolated phonemes and to have the capacity to read or say words aloud. The final common pathway in all oral communication involves acquisition of phonemic knowledge and the ability to articulate whole words. It is important for teachers to have such a test, as noted above, to use in their everyday work with children.

In the future I plan to construct a systematic test of phonemes in the principal functional groups used in articulated speech (words, phrases, etc.), and put these test items also in order of predicted difficulty, before standardisation. I propose in the future to apply this screening test, as well as the more complex test still to be constructed and standardised, to speakers learning English as a second language, comparing the results with those obtained from variously aged Brisbane children learning English as a first language.