Why we built Phonetic English ESL


All over the world, children are failing to learn to read whilst at school. Illiterate adults too, exist in alarming numbers within our communities. And foreign students of English echo the objections of first millennium spelling critics. The cry still goes out continually.

“How do you pronounce this word?”

The 30 year reign of whole language literacy teaching methods and materials for the teaching reading and spelling in schools has now failed on a truly massive scale throughout the English speaking world. En masse, education systems around the world are abandoning such materials and returning to the traditional and systematic teaching of English phonics skills for school students of all ages.

In Australia, the UK, the USA and elsewhere however, the 30 year reign of whole language teaching methods has left some billions of dollars’ worth of now dubiously useful books on school shelves. It is increasingly recognized that these books simply cannot be read accurately by too many students until after they have been taught to systematically crack the alphabetic code.

The so called ‘natural’ language style of the sentences and words in what must now be billions of whole language story books, still require students to learn far too much and too soon about the complex alphabetic rule system that underpins the reading and spelling of English words.

Technically speaking, there are near 400 different spellings for the 44 sounds that exist in spoken English. With the marks of Virtual Phonetics, this rule system is reduced down to around to 60 main rules.

By contrast, our traditional phonically based school readers (of the cat sat on the mat type) get children started consistently in their reading and spelling after the teaching of usually less than 15 of the simplest rules. This type of early reader then, will forever remain as the easiest way of getting children consistently successful in early literacy skills. The global empirical evidence to support this statement has been unassailable for over half a century.

Nevertheless, most whole language reading books will remain as fun reading once the children have been taught sufficient skill to crack the alphabetic code. The simpler the code, the easier it is to crack. Virtual Phonetics reduces the complexity of the English ‘sounding-out’ or ‘spelling’ code to around one sixth of its normal size.


The marking signs that indicate the changes in the sounds of the letters, are all in a faint graphics so that there is a minimum of visual distraction for students. In general, more marks mean not only more rules for the student to learn, but also more visual distraction for readers to cope with.

The golden rule for any system that marks the pronunciation of English letters and letter combinations is:

There must be the minimum of visual and intellectual clutter.

Each rule must be sufficient to enable the student to correctly pronounce the word. This is the main rule of convenience to the effect that if the response is right then the rule is right too.

Hence, the precision of viewpoints from the university based science of ‘phonetics’ is quite irrelevant if the basic teaching rule has enabled the student to get the right answers. The main exceptions which lie outside of a reasonable reach of these rules must, of course, be accounted for in the explanatory manual to the system.