Monday, April 20, 2009

English

Some of you may be surprised (at least I would hope so!) to hear that I don't always consider English to be my first language.

It is my first spoken language, and the only spoken language we used at home. My father is from a French speaking family. He didn't learn to speak English until he was five when the English public school kicked him out of Kindergarten so that he could play with kids in the neighbourhood and learn English that way. My mom comes from an English speaking family, but did take some French in high school.

My parents decided that my being bilingual would greatly benefit me in life, so I went to a French school. Not French Immersion, but an actual French school. Not a word of English was spoken from my first day until my first English class in grade five. I was so far behind in English Grammar that I ended up taking ESL (English as a Second Language) during summer school one year.

Right now Liam is struggling with learning to read. We've tried a bunch of different strategies (including homework in the bathtub) and are currently starting down the path of a new teaching strategy that we got from the psychologist, who just so happens to specialize in teaching people to read.

So while the psychologist was going over the reading program with Hilary and I, a huge light bulb must have started flashing over my head! For the first time EVER I understood how to read English. Sounds a bit odd doesn't it? Especially since I seem to be able to read all the blogs and forums and Facebook pages that take up so much of my time. I've been reading in English since I was 6 and taught myself to read Nancy Drew books. I've just never understood how reading works. For the most part I sight read- I see the word, I recognize the word therefore I "read" the word. Present me with a new, never seen before word and chances are that I'm going to "read" it using French pronunciation rules.

The only English "rule" I've ever known is "I before E except after C but not in some other words like....." Okay, I guess I don't even know that one very well.

Dr. Psych guy gave us 3 rules of reading to teach Liam. And to my non-English thinking brain they are genius!

  1. When a vowel is by itself it has it's short sound.
  2. When 2 vowels walk together, the first introduces itself and the second just listens.
  3. When 2 vowels talk over a fence (consonant), the first introduces itself and the second just listens
BRILLIANT! I spent all day looking at words and realizing that these 3 little rules really work. I understand why CAN and CANE are pronounced the way they are. I never understood before, I just knew.

Of course I'm struggling with remembering how a short A sounds versus a long A. But if I can figure that out I'll be well on my way to teaching Liam to read. Until then, we are passing the program off to his teachers!
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