Monday, April 30, 2007

picking up the words off the page

Lately I've been discussing a certain problem with the Arabic speakers of my AE2 class. That is, they can look at a name like Jin and say "John". I say that this is proof that their fundamental problem is one of transfer of style of reading from Arabic to English. In Arabic, you grab at the consonants, and ignore the vowels (if they are there at all), as the vowels don't change the meaning of the word, but just give it grammatical nuance. All words related to book, for example, are produced with ktb, with some words being kitaab, kiitab, kitabbi, katab, katib, etc. If you have enough information, you wouldn't need the vowels at all, because you'd already know that the speaker meant bookseller instead of library or book.

This pattern has been ingrained in many of my AE2 students for a long time, and I often can't figure out if they can read English, with its vowels changing meaning, its left-to-right pattern, but just don't, because old habits die hard, or they forget momentarily. They'll read "Hollywood" as "Halloween", "probably" as "problem," etc. This happens especially when the word is in isolation, or as in the case of Jin and John, it's a name, and either would work.

It slows down one's reading considerably, when one is at war with one's own habits. It also brings up the question of those who never got the vowel correspondences right- those who, in other words, need a good phonics program. I am working on finding one. My five-year-old has a great one, but it's directed at five-year-olds, and might be an insult to our adults.

More on this later.



Post a Comment

<< Home