Alphabet Headaches - Literacy challenges for non-alphabetic English learners

1. Publications about English Language Teaching

"Typhoon English" - the 2001 article that started it all
This article appeared on the front page of a University of Hong Kong magazine called SPACE Shuttle in mid-2001. It represents my earliest observations of my Hong Kong students' difficulties in reading English. The odd-sounding title, "Typhoon Signal Number English", is what many of my students wrote in their notebooks - instead of Typhoon Signal Number Eight ('lucky number eight': when schools have to be closed because of an approaching storm).

More SCMP articles on Hong Kong Education
Several of my articles in The South China Morning Post on aspects of Hong Kong education are available here:

ACTA - Australian Council of TESOL Associations
2012 Conference, held in Cairns, Australia
  • My PowerPoint presentation (and speaker's notes), entitled Alphabet Headaches: the bi-literacy challenge for Chinese students, is available here:
  • The paper was published in the ACTA journal, TESOL in Context, Special Edition S3, November 2012, and is available here:

"English Language as Hydra"
English Language as Hydra: Its Impacts on Non-English Cultures, co-edited with Vaughan Rapatahana, was published by Multilingual Matters (UK) in 2012. This book is a collection of case-studies that show the power of the 'English-language teaching business' in overriding indigenous, local and national languages. English teaching should occur alongside established languages, and not be set up in competition with them. We advocate a multilingual approach to language education. The book has chapters from linguists, literary figures and teaching professionals. My own chapter is about the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Reviews and a description can be found here:

A follow-up to the "Hydra"
Our new book, entitled Why English? Confronting the Hydra, will be published by Multilingual Matters (UK) in 2016. It will include a chapter from me on the alphabetic bias in ELT publications and methodologies, entitled "The English Alphabet: Alpha-best or Alpha-beast?". A second chapter of mine looks at the questionable role of English teaching in 'voluntourism', entitled "Voluntary overseas English language teaching: a myopic altruistic Hydra". The book is a provocative collection of short papers, with some well-known contributors and a wide range of perspectives and writing styles. It spans over 20 countries. My two chapters are available for download here:
Further details of the book are available here:

My Phonics Chart (2016)
Here is a Sounds Chart that I've developed (with 44 phonemes and key words). Feel free to use it - and please let me know if it has any 'bugs'.

A model of biscriptal reading-development skills
A model of Biscriptal Reading that I have developed.

A Handbook (2016) for teaching young adult biscriptal learners of English:

According to the Script: a handbook for biscriptal learners of English.

Description: a handbook for young adult learners of English who come from a different, or a non-alphabetic, scriptal background - who are at an Intermediate-level of competence in English.

It has both student pages and instructors' support pages.

Audience: Intermediate-level secondary and university students ( and their English language teachers) - in home countries and in overseas universities and colleges.

Aim: this book aims to fill the gap in "phonics-type" teaching and learning resources for older learners of English as an additional language.

Approach: 60 daily lessons/workouts, each with an element of Sound, Handwriting and Meaning/Vocabulary-building.

Rationale: Older learners not only need a mature approach to working with the English sound-spelling system, they also need practice activities in handwriting, numerical and diagrammatic work, as well as a basic knowledge of etymology and word building.

All three aspects of English are covered in every lesson.

The Handbook also has an extensive Introduction to the world of biscriptal learners, plus a range of useful Appendices with sound charts and tables, assessment suggestions and word lists.

This book can be purchased here on this website.

2. Publications about the Cocos (Keeling) Islands

My books on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 1987 - 1993
Cocos Malay Culture, 1987, Commonwealth Department of Territories, Canberra, Australia
- a bilingual, multicultural teaching resource book. This book makes use of dozens of photographs and a simple bilingual text, to assist in the territory’s adult education programmes.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands - Australian Atolls in the Indian Ocean, 1988, Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, Australia
- a Bicentennial publication, sponsored by a grant from the Australian Government, the proceeds from which are used for community development work in the Australian Indian Ocean Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Kepulauan Cocos, 1993, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- a translation of my Bicentennial publication by the Malaysian Language and Literature Bureau.  This book was awarded the “Translation of the Year” at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair in 1994.

A recent article
"The Riddle of the Islands: Australia's oft forgotten indigenous island community", in Arena Magazine (No. 128, Feb. - Mar. 2014, pp. 36 - 38) available at:

Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint