Friday, October 30, 2009

putting myself in their shoes

There's nothing like getting into my literacy students' heads and experiences by way of trying it myself - learning a new writing system in a second (or third) language. Learning Arabic definitely puts me in their shoes. After trying to make my way through a short article in Arabic, I notice that the words I read in Arabic break into three categories of non/comprehension:

1) the 98% I sound out and don't understand
2) the 1% I sound out and do understand
3) the other 1% that I can recognize without sounding out, like السلام عليكم (salam alekum) and such

For some time I have stressed phonics on my ESL students, I now believe, at the expense of word-recognition strategies. That is until I realized how much we really read by recognition of words.

Do we really have a library of thousands of words in our heads so that we don't really read letters so much as word shapes? According to the National Institute for Literacy website:

Rapid and effortless Word Recognition is the main component of fluent reading. Words that beginning readers initially sound out through Word Analysis or phonics come to be recognized as whole units after readers encounter them repeatedly in connected text.

At least I can say that I figured it out on my own before checking with other sources (like I probably ought to have done...). In any case, I think regardless of how much formal training teachers go through, that is, more than any other way, how we learn to teach.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Everybody has a car...

... but my grandpa has a donkey...
- Children's Arabic song (supposedly)

Unemployment reading project #2 (after Foucault's History of Sexuality Vol. 1) is finish my Teach Yourself Arabic book. Even though I teach ESL, I underestimate how mind numbing trying to learn a new language can be. (Sorry, students! May I have more mercy on your lesson plans!)

In the interest of trying to mitigate the pain of rote learning, I tried out this Arabic song lyrics blog. While it can be very helpful, I found it is only really good if you a) already know the sound of the song's lyrics or b) are willing to learn them. Let's say I am not huge Arabic-pop music fan, and appreciating the better music is more likely to come with learning more Arabic...

Let's not hurt ourselves, I say. I found this humble gem of a Lebanese children's tune. Indirect objects, old words, new verbs, all in less than 6 lines, and put into a sing-along-able mp3.

kelloun andoun siyyarat wou jeddi 3andou hmar
bi rakkebna khalfou wou byakhedna mechwar
woul bolice bi safferlou
bi idou bi acherlou
siyyarat bit zammerlou: pap pap pap!


Everybody has a car but my grandpa has a donkey
He lets us ride behind him and takes us for a walk
And the policeman blows his whistle at him
With his hand he makes signs to him
All the cars honk at him : Pap Pap Pap.