Spanish Syllable Segmentation in Bilingual Reading

Spanish syllable segmentation is a vital part of learning to read a text, just as crucial as learning to read English. While preschoolers might enjoy reading nursery rhymes with fun clapping and songs, Spanish-speaking students develop language differently.

Many experts found that bilingual students tend to learn syllable segmentation first to learn to read.

In contrast, English-speaking students learn to read with multiple methods like sight words and syllable segmentation. One approach or the other might not necessarily be the ultimate solution for your students.

Supporting bilingual students with various strategies can help them with more than language skills. 

Spanish Syllable Segmentation for Beginning Reading

Undoubtedly, nursery rhymes help students of both languages in multiple ways. Besides reading support, learning nursery rhymes boost memorization skills, sequencing, and social time.

For example, nursery rhymes like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, or Mary Had a Little Lamb encourages your students to recognize letters, numbers, and words. Consider that rhyming plays an essential role in learning words that your students will encounter repeatedly.

Experts believe that this rhyming of words and letter sounds enhances the phonological awareness needed to read. As many studies show, learning nursery rhymes is a predictor of success in reading for monolinguals in English.

However, bilingual students might not necessarily succeed in learning to read English from nursery rhymes.

On the other hand, Spanish-speaking students will find the Spanish syllable segmentation in nursery rhymes first. After dissecting each syllable, bilingual students will digest the text in separate chunks.

This approach to learning to read was evident in the study by L. B. Raynolds and her colleagues

Spanish syllable segmentation

Spanish Nursery Rhymes as Starter Texts

In the latest 2017 article by Raynolds and her colleagues determined the significance between learning nursery rhymes and Spanish syllable segmentation.

Would it be possible that your bilingual students learn to read differently from monolingual classmates?

  • Of course, nursery rhymes are the first type of text your students might encounter.
  • With so many variations, young children will engage with nursery rhymes even in Spanish.
  • What’s not to love? Spanish nursery rhymes are fun to read.
  • Aside from literacy integration, nursery rhymes develop new ways to learn words and phrases.
  • Similarly, using nursery rhymes with other activities boost language skills and memorization in young children.
  • Some activities can include hands-on learning experiences with crafts, painting, singing, and movement.

More interesting, bilingual students apply phonological awareness first using Spanish syllable segmentation, especially beginning sounds of words.  

Variations of English and Spanish Syllable Segmentation

In the literature review by Raynolds and her colleagues, the experts report that English and Spanish syllable segmentation and phonological arrangements are different.

  • For instance, the Spanish language mostly does not contain monosyllable words.
  • Spanish syllables have definite patterns and separation.
  • Spanish syllables have particular cues that follow specific rules for inflection and segmentation.
  • Lastly, Spanish syllables follow a simple CV (consonant-vowel) formation with common endings of -o and -a and gender in most nouns.

On the other hand, English syllables are stressed with many variations and flexibility. English syllables follow a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) formation.

As Spanish-speaking students learn to read, they encounter syllable segmentation at the beginning rather than later. 

In conclusion, Spanish syllable segmentation is only part of learning how to read. While one method is not better than another, knowing how to support bilingual students learning another language might require different approaches.

Can you use more than one form with your students? Perhaps, the best way to answer that is knowing how to support your bilingual students.

Could a combination of Spanish nursery rhymes, sight words, and syllable segmentation help?

By understanding the various approaches to learning one language can lead to helping bilingual students in another language. 

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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