Some kids are still struggling with basic reading skills even as they enter P1.  At this stage, we suggest that parents should not underestimate teaching the Malay phonics (Fonik Bahasa Melayu) to their kids.

Malay phonics is relatively easier to pick up than English. There are 26 alphabets and 27 letter sounds in Malay as compared to 44 letter sounds in English. Almost all Malay words can be phonetically sound out unlike English which has sight words – words that do not follow pronunciation convention. The only letter with two sounds in Malay is the letter ‘e’.

How to start learning Malay phonics?
1. Start with vowel sounds or bunyi vokal. Just 3 first – /a/, /i/ and /u/

2. Start with several consonants-vowels such as ba, bi, bu, ca, ci, cu all the way to z. You can remove consonants that are hard to pronounce such as q and x.

3. Create combination of sounds eventhough it does not make sense. Eg. aba, abi, abu, iba, ibi, ibu. The aim is to see if your child is able to decode the sounds. Play games to match the sounds, or pick two cards, and say the two sounds combined always from left to right. We recommend parents play ‘matching’ or ‘snap’ games. Play for 10 minutes or less sporadically throughout the day or once a day. Stop before your kids want to stop and keep the word cards away when not in use. Do not test them.

4. Read a basic Malay book (eg, with two words, or a sentence, or longer). Again, do not test your kids. However, you can occasionally point to words you have ‘played’ before. Example, if you have match the word “ibu”, point to the word in the book and say, “I remember this word when we played earlier together. Ibu. Ibu means mother.” [“Mama ingat perkataan ini. Tadi kita main bersama kan? Ibu. Ibu maknanya mama.”]

5. Sooner or later, your child may be able to point to a familiar word or two from the book. Encourage him/ her to say the word out loud. It’s okay if he/she is still not able to. It takes time and practice.

6. This is only the stage of decoding. Once your child is able to decode, you can try any combinations and they will be able to decode two-syllable word.

7. Later on, this will lead to reading fluency but it may not lead to reading comprehension yet.

That will be a topic in itself.

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