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The University of Southampton
Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research

Phonics in a foreign language: The key to success Seminar

17:00 - 18:30
17 February 2021

Event details

Invited speaker: Alison Porter, University of Southampton


Learning to read in a foreign language (FL) is challenging.  School-aged learners can find FL literacy activities uninspiring and make slow progress (Erler & Macaro, 2012; Woore, 2014).  Yet solid foundation FL literacy skills are important as they are likely to support progress and ultimately language learning motivation (Graham, Courtney, Tonkyn & Marinis, 2016).  We know that FL learning in Anglophone contexts can be a particularly “hard sell”, so boosting learner progression, confidence and motivation could encourage uptake (Porter, Myles, Tellier & Holmes, 2020, p. 218). This talk will explore the teaching of reading in a foreign language (French), arguing that, from both pedagogic and research perspectives, this is a relatively under-explored phenomenon.   Two recent studies will be presented.  The first involved an action research project conducted with learners aged 9-11 years in 2 English primary schools (n=45).  The second study was a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) experiment with learners aged 11-13 in 36 English secondary schools (n=878).   Findings presented will discuss the effects of phonics instruction on FL outcomes and the process of learning French sound/spelling links, as well as the complexity of classroom research.



Erler, L. & Macaro, E. (2012). ‘Decoding ability in French as a foreign language and language learning motivation’.  The Modern Language Journal, 95(4), pp.496-518.

Graham, S., Courtney, L., Tonkyn, A. & Marinis, T. (2016).  ‘Motivational trajectories for early language learning across the primary-secondary school transition’.  British Educational Research Journal, 42(4), pp.682-702.

Porter, A., Myles, F., Tellier, A. & Holmes, B. (2020).  ‘Supporting foreign languages in an Anglophone world: Implementation challenges in English primary schools’. Language Teaching for Young Learners, 2(2), pp.213.239.

Woore, R. (2014). ‘Developing reading and decoding in the MLF classroom’, in P. Driscoll, E. Macaro & A. Swarbrick (eds.) Debates in Modern Languages Education.  London: Routledge, pp.81-95.

Speaker information

Alison Porter,University of Southampton

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