Friday, April 9, 2010

Simplifying English

Quick reminder of three giveaways here, here, and here.


Little Miss is in the process of learning to read. Sort of. She really really wants to read, mostly because she sees everyone around her reading. This is the girl who insists she can do everything anyone else can - and do it better.

Reading? Not so much her forte right now.

And I can understand why. Fortunately, I don't remember the painful process I went through in learning to read, but watching Little Miss struggle and try to figure it out, I'm really realizing how difficult the English language is to read.

I am grateful that we don't speak Mandarin or Japanese or another language where the characters add a whole different level of complexity to reading and writing, but English doesn't exactly make it easy. French, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward. If you see an "e" with an accent aigu, you know exactly how to say it each and every time. It just doesn't change.

English? Pronounce "lead" for me - nope, I mean the other one, "lead." How about "project" - or is it "project?" Maybe it's for, four, or fore? To, too, or two? Flower or flour? Where or wear? You get my point.

When I read historical fiction, there are some authors that go with more "genuine" spelling for the era in correspondance, and you can see how words were more often spelled exactly as they sound. Letters were more consistent in how they were pronounced.

But we have lost our way somehow. We've made English into a complex and confusing langauge (I won't even get into grammar - just sticking with reading, since that's our issue right now; I'll revisit grammar when Mister Man is struggling in Language Arts in second grade).

I propose that we make some changes.

First of all, there will be a new letter for the "oo" sound. And by "oo" sound, I mean the one for "boo" and not for "brook." Brook may continue to use the "oo" combination.

G will only be pronounced like the "g" in grandma. There is no more "j" sound allowed with G - all those move to be spelled with a J.

And for those who need to spell Hebrew words, there will be a new letter for the "ch" sound in Challah and Chanukah. I haven't decided yet what it looks like, but there is definitely a need for a new letter, potentially a c with a fun accent.

Then we have the "ght" sound. That will be replaced on a go-forward basis with simply a T. Right, might, thought, bought, and so forth become easier to read and to write. Ta-da!

Little Miss is also struggling with the "th" sound. Is it "the" or "with?" We will bring in a new form for the hard sounding "th" - an accent over the h perhaps? The standard soft sounding "th" can remain as is.

Oh, and the "sh" sound in sure and other words? Yep, it goes back to being spelled shure, just like I (and about four other people) spelled in in the fifth grade spelling bee. In case you're wondering, I'm a visual not an auditory learner.

The letter S will be corrected in many words to have only the ssss sound like snake. Z will replace the Ss currently in words like busy.

Oddly, I'm ok with double letters and silent Es. I'm not quite sure why I have this double standard, but it's there.

In thee end, are language will look like this. If wee are to bizy riting, or thout we were, to consentrate on how to brake apart the correct spellingz, we will still bee able to rite and not fite our teecherz.

Or maybe not. Just writing that paragraph hurt my brain. Apparently Little Miss is just going to have to figure it out, slowly but surely. Perhaps it's a good life lesson in dealing with frustration and failure, learning to persevere and finally succeed.


Hyacynth April 9, 2010 at 8:48 PM  

My brain hurt just trying to read that paragraph!
And you're right, she will learn. It just might be slow going. Thank goodness she's so determined.

Christina April 9, 2010 at 11:12 PM  

When my little cousin Annie (wow now 16!) was learning to read I remember my aunt having such a hard time with it too. The main problem being that my aunt is from England so her pronunciation of words (thus, what my cousin heard at home) were much different than what she was learning at school. For example, "been" we say like the name Ben, but in proper English (as spoken in England) they pronounce it as it is written, like "bean." Just one of many examples where pronunciation was an issue. Which of course was all the more upsetting b/c this particular teacher insisted on giving oral tests non-stop so what my cousin practiced at home w/ her mom was NOT what she was hearing at school from her teacher!

WeaselMomma April 10, 2010 at 6:20 AM  

This is exactly why phonics is a hard way to learn to read & even harder to learn how to spell proficiently.

Melisa Wells April 10, 2010 at 10:12 AM  

THIS is one of my favorite posts of yours, ever. LOVED IT.

It made total sense to me too, which is sorta scary...

Michelle April 10, 2010 at 10:40 PM  

Hyacynth - I know. It was horrible, wasn't it? And I'm a purist. I have a hard time reading things like "dreamed."

Christina - Ohhh that's just wrong! How sad that the teacher wouldn't accomodate the student for what she really knew. I am always disappointed by things like that.

WeaselMomma - No kidding! Fortunately, I think I figured it out ok. Mostly. At least in my head!

Melisa - Awww, thank you! And of course it made sense to you. Duh!

septembermom April 12, 2010 at 7:58 AM  

My 1st grader is doing the Fundations program for reading. It seems to be working. I'm not too sure about how some of the teaching strategies work. He has to explain it to me often.

Pat April 12, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

English is one of the hardest languages for non-English speakers to learn, definitely!

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered that they pronounced "cook" and "book" with the same oo sound as in "loose."

And of course, they pronounced "again" to rhyme with "rain."

Karen April 13, 2010 at 9:08 PM  

I read once that the English language got hosed up at it's official start when the man who wrote the dictionary chose each spelling based on what he loved best. I think that man should have been horsewhipped.

Michelle April 25, 2010 at 10:15 PM  

Kelly - I haven't heard of the Fundations program. We did luckily get at least Set 1 of the Bob books, and Little Miss is on book 11 (yay!), but Set 2 is wayyy down the list on the hold requests :(

Pat - Absolutely. All the dialects and accents make such a difference, too. Fortunately we do all somehow do it!

Karen - Horsewhipped or forced to live with small children learning to read for the rest of his life ;) I hadn't heard that theory before.

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