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December 12, 2009

English – sucks.

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 12:41

My family takes tuition for our maid servant’s six year old son. I say family because it is not always me, I sometimes get delayed from work or am too tired/incapable of taking a class. The following interaction took place recently between me and Yonna (My maid-servants’ son).

Me: Spell Boxes

Yonna: B – O – X – E – S

Me: Good, now Spell Ball

Yonna: B – O – L – L

Me (thinking: Hrishikesh Mukherjee was right in his movie Bawarchee… English does have stupid pronunciation. My meager knowledge  of Natural Language Processing had also reaffirmed this. I should tell him to learn another Indian language, and give up on this filthy English. Oh bother, if this dude has to grow up and write a blog, his best bet would be to learn the damn Queens language. Anyhow, how can I explain the current discrepancy in spelling; I dislike teaching anything by rote. Should I give him the logical reasoning of how pronunciation and spelling of English varies based on the following and preceding alphabets? That could be too heavy at this tender age, certain “realizations” like the imperfection of English lingo should be reached much later. Rote learning has to do for now.)

Me: Yonna, You have to concentrate on the spelling – “Ball” is written as B-A-L-L and pronounced as “boll”. It is a rule in English. Now write B-A-L-L five times.

(Yonna writes the spelling five times)

Me: Spell “Son”

Yonna: S – U- N

I and Yonna are now looking at each other. Me – wondering what to say since we finished “days of the week” just yesterday, where I had taught him the spelling for “Sunday, Monday et. al.”. He is looking at me with a mix of trepidation and indignation – I haven’t yet said good, and he knows that could mean there is a mistake; he wants to remind me of yesterday’s lesson but is too scared to correct the teacher. I just shrug.

Me: English chaala kashtamaina language (Telugu for English is a very difficult language). Son is spelled as S-O-N, but when it comes with day, it becomes S-U-N. Remember this, and now write S-O-N five times.

Yonna: Ok. saar.

BTW, Yonna is in Nursery and has to learn English and Kannada at school. He speaks a sprinkle of Telugu and Tamil.

For those of the more academic bend of mind, the phenomena of a disconnect between pronunciation and spelling is formally known as “deep orthography” and has quite a bit of interest in pedagogical and academic circles [1, 2, 3]. There have been arguments to support this spelling [1], oppose this spelling, and commercial solutions are available to learn deep orthographies [1].

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