Monday, January 22, 2007

Phonics, or The Study of How I Learned to Mispronounce Words

I learned to read using a new-at-the-time system called phonics. In theory it was a great advantage to the "see and say" method previously used because it taught readers to evaluate diphthongs, navigate usage rules, and ultimately provide a far superior store of readable words because one was not confined to only the words previously memorized - you could read whatever you could "sound out". At least that was the theory. Now, before I go further, let me assure my adoring public *that's a big wink to my mom, husband, and few militant friends that read my babbling on this thing* that I do use phonics in teaching my own children how to read. It IS a superior method to "see and say", where whole words are memorized and then read in the future by remembering the letter order for that particular word. And there are a myriad of rules for how phonics must work (like the "e" at the end of a word changing the vowel from short to long so we don't pronounce "like" as "lick" or "ate" as "at"). But I don't remember a lot of my pronunciation rules (the 150 that there are - that is only a mild jest) so I am forced to bungle my way through and it is only a matter of time before I come up with some real doozies.

While reading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia to my children I kept pronouncing the name of a certain constellation in the Narnian sky as Lee-oh-pard (pard rhymes with lard). For instance, "The children gazed upward, remember the Lee-oh-pard from their other adventures and finding vast amounts of comfort in its friendly twinkling." My husband finally said to me, "What is the name of that star again? How do you spell it?" So I spelled it -

l - e - o - p - a - r - d

"Huh, you know Trisha most people pronounce that leh-perd."
Smart alec.

My husband and I read out of the Bible most nights. I read out loud while Christopher listens. We were recently in the book of Numbers which can be very aggravating because of the long lists of names which have NO respect for our phonics rules. For example Numbers chapter 1 verses 5-15 reads, "These are the names of the men who are to assist you: from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur; from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai; from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab; from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar; from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon; from the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur; from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni; from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai; from Asher, Pagiel son of Ocran; from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel; from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan." Can you imagine being told you had to ask these men to help YOU? Whatever project you needed help with would be done before you ever got their names pronounced. Well, after tackling this fine passage I was feeling rather proud of myself, and my phonetic prowess when I began to read in 2 Chronicles 21:16 about a group of people at war with the Israelites. This is what I said, "...and of the Air-a-bee-inz who are near the Ethiopians." Once again my smarty husband, who is not even looking at the passage, says to me, "You mean Arabians?"

I could continue, but why humiliate myself even more? Suffice it to say, I am Hooct ahn fonicks!

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