Using the English ‘synthetic phonics’ technique to teach a foreign language.

Between 2006 and 2008 Wendy volunteered to teach French at her children’s primary school, Stocks Lane Primary in West Yorkshire, to every age group from age 4 to 11. She saw first-hand how children were taught to read and write in English using the ‘Jolly Phonics’ methodology and thought that it could work to teach French.

Wanting to make it as engaging and motivating as possible, using ‘Outer Space’ as a theme, she developed each French phoneme into a ‘pretend planet’ and began teaching French using the synthetic phonics methodology, focusing initially on micro-listening skills. She discovered that not only did it help speaking and listening skills but it also helped their reading and writing skills. Her pupils were able to make the sound-spelling (or ‘phoneme-grapheme’) link.

So remarkable was their progress, Wendy decided to build out the resources and employed a graphic designer to professionally develop the set of imaginary planets and native speakers who recorded the sounds. Wendy, who also speaks Spanish and German, extended the resources to enable the same teaching practices in these two languages.

By this time Wendy was a well-known author of language teaching resources, developing resources for the BBC languages website and Heinemann publishers. Teachers and students loved the resources and they have been sold to over 2,500 schools on CD-ROM since 2010. However, to ensure ongoing alignment to curriculums and keep the content relevant, Wendy has now decided to offer the resources as a subscription service through this website.

This exciting development will also enable new content, new and engaging exercises for students, the ability to gamify progress through class and school leader-boards, and eventually enable the incorporation of speech recognition software to assess pronunciation.  With the new Department of Education’s focus on phonics to teach MFL, 2022 is the perfect time to relaunch this important teaching methodology and associated resources on a brand new virtual platform.

Wendy Adeniji

Since qualifying as a teacher in 1996, Wendy has taught Modern Foreign Languages. She has taught in a variety of different schools and phases children and students aged 4-18. From 2002 to 2004 she trained new MFL teachers at Leeds University and went on to run the CILT graduate teacher MFL programme in the north of England. Even as her career progressed to become Principal at Bradford Forster Academy and later Executive Principal at Trinity Academy, Doncaster, Wendy made time to actively teach MFL.

Wendy regularly speaks at MFL conferences, such as the Language Show. She is one of the National College experts with a focus on MFL and an active member of the Association for Language Learning. Most recently in 2022, Wendy co-authored a book on teaching primary languages with Juliet Park, Tried & Tested: The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Primary Languages which of course includes a chapter on the effective teaching of phonics.