THE SPEECH OF THE CHILD 31S
Alphabetic signs, as a matter of fact, are few in number; in
the Italian language only 24 are distinguished. With the 24 letters
all the words are formed; those which even a big dictionary is not
enough to include.
Every word, whatever it may be, is always composed of one
or more of these 24 sound-families.
If these are learnt by associating them with the 24 letters of
the alphabet which represent them, then the whole language can
be translated graphically, and the children, taking the letters relating
to the sounds, are able to compose all possible words in a phonetic
language like Italian.
A word demands the same effort, whether it be long or short.
The supposed syllabic difficulties which are taught commonly, as
in a systematic progression are always reduced to translating
sounds into signs, to recognizing the signs relating to the sounds.
To compose a simple word like "pipa," and to compose
a difficult word like " stra-da " is really the same thing, because
the two words already exist formed in the mother tongue. The
key is that the child has succeeded in recognizing the sounds com-
posing the words, so that he has made an analysis of the sounds
which compose the words. If the child has succeeded in recog-
nizing the sounds contained in the syllable " stra," and bears these
sounds separately—" s-t-r-a," he will be able to compose the
Hence there exists only one real difficulty, one single thing to
do, one which is wholly internal—the mental analysis of sounds.
As for reproducing with the hand the design of the letters of"
the alphabet, even in this, our method cancels all those artificial
difficulties which are taught in a supposed necessity for a progres-
sive system. For example, i, e, o, are considered much easier than
others, but the child who has exercised in a general manner his
hand, which has been employed in all his sense exercises, and which
has then specifically been exercised in tracing the letters and making
so many geometrical drawing (of which, hereafter) has no difficulty
either with the single letters or with combinations of them in the