Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Logic of Language

The British playwright George Bernard Shaw, in an attempt to reveal the inconsistencies of English spelling, once pointed out that under the “rules“ of English spelling, it would be perfectly sensible to spell the word fish as ghoti.
His reasoning went something like this: if you took the “gh“ from cough, the “o“ in women, and the “ti“ in nation, then “gh-o-ti“ would have the same sound equivalence as “f-i-sh.“ His point is well taken........and a good thing our daily reading doesnt involve such decoding drama!
Whereas other languages such as Italian and the Japanese kana script have much simpler and direct correspondences of sound to symbol, English, it seems, is all over the place. There are more than 1,100 ways that letters in English can be used to symbolize the 44 sounds in the spoken language. This diversity gives rise to sentences that would baffle just about anyone trying to learn the code. Some examples: “The bandage was wound around the wound.“ “The farm was used to produce produce.“ “The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.“

Fortunately for us the very structured way in which our learning program is laid out, allows us to build upon our strenghts and quickly solve what may seem as linguistic puzzles.
Regardless whether its working with children with various learning disabilities and learning challenges or just the 3 year old who is trying to put the new sounds together to make sense to her, its amazing and extremely rewarding to watch when it all begins to come together and the student in the Junior Kumon cannot wait to carry her worksheet to me and show off now that the struggles of the decoding drama have paid off and finally she can read now!
Like one child who painted at my last award ceremony "I can read". How empowering. How powerful. How blessed we are to be able to part with this gift of learning and be allowed to share the opportunity. How humbling too.

No comments:

Post a Comment