Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dyslexia - An English Language Problem

The English language is an irrational language that makes it difficult for all of us to learn and especially difficult for dyslexic children.
In my earlier articles I have talked about the struggles associated with learning to read. I have also reported several great success stories of dyslexic children as adults. The main reason for the success of these people is the fact that they were finally able to realize why they had been unsuccessful. Many of the dyslexics who made it big as an adult must have suddenly realised that they had tried to be logical in making sense of grapheme and phonemes when in actual fact most of the words have to be simply learnt as sight words. 

Girard Sagmiller had expressed his feelings thus: “… being dyslexic is like running a 100-meter race. In your lane you have hurdles, but no one else does. You feel that it’s unfair but you try running like the other competitors anyway. Then you hit a hurdle and fall flat on your face. Your parents and teachers are yelling at you to try harder, so you run faster and faster and fall even harder. Then someone takes the time to show you how to run hurdles and, like an Olympic runner, you outrun the others. The key, though, is that you have to do it differently, the way that works best for you.”

If you have been reading my column you will know that I have lessons specially prepared for parents of dyslexic children to teach their kids. You will find the lessons commencing from the month of March. I have written these lessons, which are free of charge, in a way suitable for a dyslexic to learn to read and also to spell.  I have prepared the lessons like Girard has put it above – the way that works best for a dyslexic child. 

In my last article I talked about dyslexics and their problem with spelling. This is a continuation of that article.

The activity that causes the most difficulty for dyslexic children is spelling. To quote George Burns, “The most difficult part of dyslexia is spelling it”.

One aspect of reading is called decoding – the ability to sound out words. Another aspect is called encoding – the ability to spell the words we hear.

 Examples of words which cause particular difficulty are: which, many, where, island, said, they, because, chronic, enough, friend and hundreds of other words.

Other words will sometimes be spelled in the way they would be expected to be spelled if the spelling system were rational, for example: does/dus, please/pleeze, knock/nock, search/serch, journey/jerney, Chronic/ cronic, Sponge/spunge

The following are actual sentences written by dyslexics in a dyslexic forum.

All my childhood I thot I was dull

I was until I mat the love of my life wan I was 22

I do not want any kid to go throw that.

When you are trying to spell a word you usually sound it out as you are spelling it and then check it over once you've written it down. That process is encoding. When you come upon a word you don't know you usually try to sound it out. That is decoding. Herein lies the problem with the English language as a majority of words are impossible to be encoded nor decoded by sounding out. This is basically the problem with all of us and a headache for dyslexics.

I have written about this in my earlier articles and given many examples. Just to name a few, how does one encode or decode words such as – cough, dough, bough, witch, which, quay, island, debtor, Wednesday and hundreds of such words?

Let me just write some words from the dictionary commencing with the letters com and con to illustrate further why a dyslexic will have problem spelling words if pronounced the way they should be pronounced.

Word             Pronounced
Comb             kom
Come             kum
Comfort         kum fert
Command      ke mand (e is written as an inverted e)
Commence    ke mens  (    ,, )

Con                 kon
Conceal          ken sel 
Content          ken tent    meaning happy enough with what one has
Content          kon tent    meaning all that is contained in something

As you can see the beginning co can be pronounced ko, ku or ke. The grapheme and phoneme are irrational. I know many people who are not dyslexic who pronounce all con and com words as kon and kom.

To repeat, unless the English speaking countries accept that dyslexics do not have a phonological awareness deficit, and that the problem faced by a dyslexic is the irrational English language, they will continue barking up the wrong tree. The statement that dyslexics have a phonological awareness deficit should be eradicated.

If you follow the lessons in my blog (from March articles) your dyslexic child will be able to spell well. After he has completed the lessons encourage him to read on a daily basis and see him progress at a fantastic pace in both reading and spelling in English.

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