Monday, February 22, 2010

Accent marks,Solution for a dyslexic child

Read the following and if you would like to help dyslexic children, ask your politicians or minister of education to incorporate accent marks in the books for the kindergarten and first 2 years of primary education. With millions being spent on grants to study dyslexic you should be able to get your politicians to get these books published.


One solution that I can think of to make it easy for dyslexics to learn the English language is to have additional letters to represent the different sounds of vowels and some of the consonants. After all the Tamil language has 247 alphabets and Hindi has 58.
Read the following and if you would like to help dyslexic children, ask your politicians or minister of education to incorporate accent marks in the books for the kindergarten and first 2 years of primary education.With millions being spent on grants to study dyslexic you should be able to get your politicians to get these books published.

Another solution that I can think of to make it easy for dyslexics to learn the English language is to have accent marks like they have in French for all letters that have different sounds. For instance retain the current letter “A” for one of the sounds it represents and have an accent for the other sounds that 'A' represent. Have special books using this accent marks for dyslexic kids. This is only as a crutch during the initial year or two. I am very sure dyslexic kids will have no problem learning the English language once this is incorporated. With these accent marks the dyslexic kids will know why 'a' sounds the way it does. They will not be puzzled and will be able to read well.

The US government and UK government are spending millions of dollars on grants. If some of that money is channelled into producing books with accent, for dyslexic children to use during their first two years of school, literacy level will increase. This accent will only be necessary during the initial years as a crutch. My son, Hakim (who studied Arabic for three years in high school and learned to read and write Arabic from young) will write below on how the Arabic language is written without vowels:

In Arabic, there are long and short vowels. To briefly explain long and short vowels: Long vowels are vowels whose sound is pronounced for a longer time when spoken as compared to short vowels. Vowel length is not distinctive in English, but it is an important feature in many other languages.

The terms long and short vowels are also used in English, for example to differentiate between the word moon (which has a long vowel sound) and book (which has a short vowel sound).

Alright, now that we have that clear, it’s worth noting that in written Arabic [link to Wikipedia article] usually only the long vowels are written, but the short ones are omitted. This means that the reader must be familiar with the language to understand the missing vowels.

Since it would be difficult to read text which has no vowels, the Arabic education system, especially Arabic language classes, use diacritic marks to mark the vowels, since they are crucial to the grammar. An Arabic sentence can have a completely different meaning by a subtle change in vowels, for example:

qlb (قلب) can be read as qalb (which means “heart”) or qalab (which means “he turned around”)

This is why in important texts, such as the Qur’an, the vowels are mandated.

Important texts aside, it is true that in daily life, short vowels are omitted from written Arabic. If you find this difficult to imagine, let’s go off on a short tangent and take a look at text speak, or, if you will, txtspk. Take for example, the following sentence:
Ystrdy he gv me a dctnry fr my bday. I wntd a kybrd! He rly doesn’t knw me vry well. He shld aplgze.
I’m pretty sure that any of you who are accustomed to sending SMSes or who chat online will have no problem reading that sentence, even though a lot of the vowels are missing. In fact, even those of you who don’t use abbreviations in text messaging should be able to understand it easily enough. (Ok, maybe “aplgze” is pushing it a bit far, but you still get my point)

Of course, though we can make do without the vowels, it would be difficult to learn English that way. Similarly, when learning Arabic, vowels are written using diacritic marks.

Now that it’s been demonstrated that we can still read words even when we take out the vowels, let’s continue with Arabic.

In the Arabic writing of everyday use, in general publications, and on street signs, short vowels are typically not written. On the other hand, children's books, elementary-school texts, and Arabic language grammar books in general will include diacritics to some degree. These are known as "vocalized" texts.

When I was taught Arabic for three years in school, the diacritic marks were used the whole time. They never taught us to read texts which did not have the vowel markings, yet when I see an Arabic word-without accent marks- which consisted of familiar consonants, I know at once how to pronounce it, with the correct vowels for each syllable.

For example when I see the letters ALHMAM (الحمام) I know it’s pronounced al-hamaam and not al-humaam or al-himaam. (there’s the letter alif for ‘A’ in the word al-hamaam because it’s a long vowel – hence the doubled ‘a’ in the transliteration) Al-hamaam means toilet by the way. (Which is also why I won’t make a mistake when I see the word, because there’s a sign for toilets right next to it)

Referring to the simple example I’d given above about the issue of ambiguity, this is how the word qlb would be written using full vocalization to avoid ambiguity:

For the word qalb which means “heart”: قَلْبْ

For the word qalab which means “he turned around”: قَلَبْ

And that is how I learned to read Arabic, with the vowel marks to guide me initially, which I eventually no longer needed.

Examples of accent marks or diacriticals:

é – Acute
ç – Cedilla
â – Circumflex
è – Grave
ñ – Tilde
ü – Umlaut/Diaeresis

Parents could possibly add these accents on the books that their children are using. This is all the dyslexic child needs. He won't be baffled with the different sounds of 'A'. The same should be done for all the other vowels and consonants that have more than one sound. We could incorporate the French letter ’Ç’ for the 's' sound represented by the letter 'c' as in 'city'.

Another idea is for a computer expert to design a programme which could convert existing story books for children on the computer into letters with accent marks as described above. Let us hope that someone from Microsoft will read this and get this programme done.

As I have mentioned earlier dyslexic kids will not have much of a problem with consonant blends. So, teach them consonant blends as they arise.

See you tomorrow.

5 comments:

bit said...

Interesting approch. I hope some pwople try it out and let us know how it worked for them.

karey said...

Hello Mr. Michael

My name is Howie deGraaf, I live in Duncan, British Columbia. Canada. You recently contacted
Vancouver Island Dyslexia Association
and asked for some response to your comments about Dyslexia and your personal findings while teaching. I am a member of the board of directors of that association and your letters where referred to me. I am also a business partner in a business where we give Dyslexia Awareness workshops and we have a website, blog and we sell our own self-published books about dyslexia. My business partner is Dyslexic and has been teaching appropriate methods to her three grown Dyslexic children and hundreds of other children and Dyslexic adults since 1986.

Many of your findings are very similar to what we have discovered. The written English language is absolutely torturous to learn for Dyslexics. As you say, it is just too illogical and the number of exceptions to the rules are too many to learn. To add even more difficulty to this is the fact that Dyslexics do not associate the sound of a letter to the letter itself. That makes teaching Phonics completely inappropriate. We feel that the only way to teach them words is use the words in context. Learn the entire word without breaking it up into pieces.

Your comments about your children having no difficulty with the other languages you have taught them is interesting as well. My partner says that the Spanish language is also easier to learn because all the letters are pronounced with little or no exceptions.

What I am saying is you may have discovered a connection between Dyslexia and difficult languages like English. It would be interesting to see if any research has been done on other languages too.

Now, putting the study of the written English language aside we have discovered other facets of Dyslexia that are equally difficult. We have found, consistently, with all the Dyslexics we have helped that they find all abstract concepts difficult to master. By abstract concepts we are talking about: the alphabet, measurements, mathematic word problems, telling time, understanding directional terms, tying shoes; and the list goes on and on.

One of the problems you are experiencing in trying to get anybody to accept your findings is something we are very familiar with. We have approached many school officials, teachers and superintendents who all have difficulty accepting findings like ours and yours. It seems the big concern is about money. Most school districts here in Canada as well as in America, are stretched to the limit for funds. The regular lessons and ways of teaching work perfectly well for the majority of the students in the classrooms. For teachers to change the lessons or teaching style to accommodate a particular student takes time and extra money. Most schools just don't have the extra time or money to accommodate these students.

We have found that the most success in having new ideas accepted are with parents and tutors and individual teachers.

I invite you to visit our website
DYSLEXIA VICTORIA ONLINE and read about our experiences as well. We also have a Weblog attached to it.
Another very progressive association is in New Zealand. Go on your computer and search the term 4D. It stands for
FOR DYSLEXIA. They are trying to make an impact at a government level to get Dyslexia accepted in the school system.

Good luck and thanks for taking the time to read this.

Howie deGraaf
DYSLEXIA VICTORIA ONLINE.

Luqman Michel said...

Dear Howie,
I greatly appreciate your comment. I am glad to hear that many of your findings are similar to what I have discovered.You wrote, "To add even more difficulty to this is the fact that Dyslexics do not associate the sound of a letter to the letter itself. "
My response: I believe this is because dyslexic children are very logical. I have explained that they shut off their mind when something they learn is illogical. Initially when I taught them phonics I could see that they were confused and see their mind shut off. They could easily understand and accept " ke air te" for cat. But they were confused when I taught them "A cat".
Then it dawned on me that this was simply because "A" (er) and "air" in cat were different. Then I explained that the letter "A" represented many sounds.When they understood this I had no problem with teaching them phonic. I at the same time started teaching them sight words and told them to not to try and make sense of the letters and the sound they made and the rest was easy to teach them. Once they began to grasp the fact that the English language was not the same as Malay and Han Yu Pin Yin and that they should not try to make sense of the letters and the sound it represents it was easy to teach them.
I chanced upon the article on the Australian boy in Japan which I posted in my post on :18.2.2010
Then I started to look for articles on dyslexia in other countries and posted my findings on :20.2.2010
Most of these research was done more than 10 years ago and some as early as twenty years ago. I am sure that what your partner said on "Spanish" must be true.

You wrote :" It would be interesting to see if any research has been done on other languages too."

Response : Refer to my post on :Research report dated 20.2.2010

If you were to approach the school officials with the above research reports they may be more receptive.

I too have found that the dyslexic children find it difficult to learn abstract things. I will be writing on this in the next few posts. Parents can easily help in this matter if they teach these abstract things on a on going basis. (my post later will make this clear.)

You wrote: "The regular lessons and ways of teaching work perfectly well for the majority of the students in the classrooms. For teachers to change the lessons or teaching style to accommodate a particular student takes time and extra money. "

Response: I believe teaching should continue the way it is being taught. However,parents (like Einstein's and Edison's mother) should teach their children at home (after school) the way that the dyslexic children should be taught. Soon the dyslexic children will be able to follow the teacher in school.
Schools should identify dyslexic children as early as possible and recommend their parents to find a one on one tutor to teach the dyslexic kids if the parents do not have the time to do this themselves.

You are right again about parents being the best teachers for the dyslexic children and the parents are who I am trying to get to read my blog.

I wish you success in your endeavour. Thank you for your invitation to read your web site. I had written to 4D Dyslexia in NZ sometime ago and I have written to them again today.

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Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your comments. Wish you well.