Phonics & Phonetics, Which is Better?

Is it possible to learn phonetics without having learned phonics first? My son has problem with pronouncing English words. I wanna teach him English pronunciation from scratch. Is teaching him phonetics useful?


Yes, it is possible to learn phonetics (the study of the sounds of English) without learning phonics (a learn-to-read method).

Phonics is for reading—it helps native speaker children associate written letters with the sounds they can represent, so that the children can learn to read English. There are many, many resources on the internet that use a phonics approach. Just type into your url: teach English sounds to children.

Phonetics, however, is the linguistic study of a language’s sounds. It is a science that describes how each sound is articulated. If you want to work on the sounds of English and how they are articulated in the mouth, you might find this free website useful:

When a native English speaking child has trouble pronouncing certain words in English and it interferes with their communication, they are sometimes sent to speech-language therapist to help them learn how to form the sounds inside their mouth.

If you decide to take this path, the ideal speech-language therapist would also have experience working with children and a TESOL degree—so they would understand all sides of the challenge your child is facing.

You ask if teaching your son phonetics will be useful —children are language learning “machines” when they are young, their brains are designed to hear and repeat and, in this way, learn the sounds of language. You haven’t said his age so it’s hard to know if he is developmentally ready for using an abstract website, however if you use the sounds of speech website and explore the sounds often with your son, (and if he is old enough to attend to the sounds and repeat them), then yes, I think it cannot hurt him and definitely could help him learn to articulate the sounds better. There is no harm in trying!