Literacy tools for planet earth

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The vision

The human brain is the most powerful pattern detector in the universe. Within a few short years it manages to master two very complex systems: verbal communication and the visual domain. Most children learn to speak any language they are exposed to and they learn to identify objects in their surroundings with ease. Literacy combines the verbal and visual skills. Writing is spoken language made visible. Literacy could very well be the most powerful tool mankind has ever invented.

SynPhony makes the acquisition of literacy skills as easy as possible by finding and displaying the patterns used for written language. But instead of exposing children to the full range of symbols used to represent their language, SynPhony introduces one symbol at a time and finds the words that match their reading ability. It finds the signal (the letter that is being taught) and removes the noise (all of the letters the student doesn't know yet).

The vision behind SynPhony is to provide both print and computer-based resources for everyone involved in teaching others to read. It is a platform for producing powerful applications to teach reading skills in any alphabetically written language on earth.

SynPhony is a search engine for literacy that can
match the words and texts of any language
to the reading ability of any student.


Want to try out SynPhony? Here are several instances of SynPhony in different languages. They contain the core functionality of creating word lists and checking texts, not all of the features available in the full program. Please read the description on how the word lists page and story checking page work before you try them out. Each link opens in a new tab.

  1. Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya)
  2. Wolof (Senegal)
  3. Urdu (Pakistan)

What can the SynPhony demos do?

Create word lists

SynPhony loves to create word lists. But not just any old word lists. Each word in the list is selected based on the range of letters you control. (Read the description on how this feature works. You must choose either search mode 2 or 3 for this to work correctly!) SynPhony ensures that each selected word contains only those letters that have been taught already and the letter for the current lesson. At the same time it rejects any words which contain letters that have not been selected. This gives the teacher material that is suited to the reading level for each lesson. Each successive word list increases the range of letters one at a time. So the student needs to learn only one new symbol at a time.

The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed,
is to attempt but little at a time.
— Samuel Johnson, 1751.

Want to try a different sequence? Easy as … a few clicks. This can save you hours of time trying to find an optimal sequence for teaching the letters. The computer does the hard work of finding suitable words. This allows you to focus on the things only humans can do: design a curriculum. That's the way it should work. Now it does.

Restrict your word lists by syllable length at any time. Find the easiest words to read first—the short ones. Add, remove or mix shorter and longer words at will. The great thing is, the longer words are always composed of the same group of letters as the shorter words. Sort the list in a variety of ways: frequency of occurence in text, alphabetically, number of letters, randomly, alphabetically from the end of the word, or by the syllable shape of each word.

Help compose readable stories

SynPhony lets you check a sentence or a story to see how much of it is readable for each lesson. Readable words are coloured differently from those that are not readable. Edit the text until it is suitable for use in the current lesson.

You can also get detailed statistics on a sentence, paragraph or entire story. You can get charts of letter, syllable, and word frequencies, as well as average word and sentence length among many other metrics.

Contact Us

Please  to inquire about creating a version of SynPhony for your language.

If you are working in a minority language you may qualify for a free version of SynPhony. If that applies to you please provide details about your project. I am also available to provide training workshops for situations where it is needed.

Current Limitations

The program that imports your language data processes text as if it has a completely consistent orthography. Some languages, however, have varying degrees of inconsistencies between the symbols they use and the sounds they represent. If such inconsistencies exist in the language you wish to process it will take more time and work to analyze the data until it reflects actual pronunciation and spelling usage. If this applies to you, contact us for more information on what is involved in this process.

Guidelines for collecting data for SynPhony