Written by Andrea Peterson, author of Funēmics.

I've spent the past five years obsessed with the creation of Funēmics, and I've talked about it quite a bit with my family members, who collectively speak five languages and have lived in six different countries on four continents.

I grew up as an American in Saudi Arabia, and my family was part of a global community called ex-patriots—whatever that means. For us, it meant that when my sister Erica graduated from college, she moved to Florence, Italy; when my brother Patrick fell in love, it was with a Swedish girl in Rome; and when my Dad remarried, it was to a beautiful woman from Ecuador. More conventionally, I found a hockey player from northern Minnesota, but he happened to live in Aschaffenburg, Germany.

Funemics

My Dad and Josephine live in Ecuador, but they spent fifteen years in Portland, Oregon, surrounded by her adult children and their growing families. Josephine's family emigrated from South America, and some still struggle with English. I was surprised by their reaction to Funēmics, because THEY wanted to work through the program. They made me aware that the most complicated part of learning English is learning all of the unfamiliar sounds. They said it would be so helpful to systematically work through separating out individual words to get down to those difficult sounds. When I told my stepsister Vanessa, “Funēmics is meant for kids. It’s based on nursery rhymes and children’s songs. It’s not really written for adults,” she immediately retorted, “I would LOVE to learn all of the nursery rhymes! It would be so great to know that part of the American culture to enjoy with my kids!”

I shared the reaction of Josephine's family with my sister, who shared it with a friend (a teacher of English in Italy), who was adamant that the entire Italian school system should adopt Funēmics! The teacher mentioned that every school in Italy teaches English as a second language and that learning English is incredibly difficult since Italian is a pure language. She confirmed the value of breaking sentences into individual words and words into individual sounds, and she agreed that students could learn more about English culture through children’s songs and nursery rhymes. She even had an additional insight: the scripted lessons would also benefit the teachers, who often struggle with their own English acquisition.

When my brother Patrick died unexpectedly from heart failure, my husband and I welcomed his two little boys into our home and expanded to a family of eight overnight. Somehow, during that chaotic and grief-filled year, I found time to teach Funēmics to my littlest Swedish boy, who had not so long ago learned English. I’ll never forget the feeling when his kindergarten teacher called me the following year to tell me that his phonemic awareness was “off the charts.”

All of these experiences showed me how well Funēmics works for English Language Learners. What do you think of these ideas? Could Funēmics work with students in your school who are learning English? Click here for the research about how Funēmics supports English Language Learners. This article gives more information about Funēmics and how I developed it. And if you have additional questions or comments, I would love to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to email me at apeterson@readnaturally.com, or leave a comment below.