gutentag1 (gutentag1) wrote in linguaphiles,
gutentag1
gutentag1
linguaphiles

 For a moment, I would like to actually semi-complain, or at least get the input of others on here,  about something that has bothered me for quite a while now, and pertains to English and how it the language is taught in the U.S., and probably may or may not have already been thought about by a few other parents reading this.  It does seem very fitting for a community entitled "linguaphiles" as it is very relevant to the community and will hopefully spark a very meaningful and intelligent discussion on the issue.

To begin with, when I was in school, a long, long time ago, throughout elementary to high school, we were taught how to pronounce words as well as what those words meant.  In Reading class, it was done through reading out loud and our teachers explaining any difficult words we ran across at a younger age.  In English class, it was done through vocabulary word assignments at an older age.  Vocabulary words do still exist in the classroom setting today, but it's not the same, or at least not with my children's classes (I have three teenagers; 18, 17, and 14).  

Fast forward to today, my children had been taught to read in school by learning "sight" words.  They weren't taught to sound words out, only to recognize the words when they saw them.  Eventually, all words became "sight" words.  The phonetics aspect was completely disregarded.   Even more shocking, at a parent-teacher conference, I asked about my oldest daughter's horrible spelling and was told that spelling no longer matters because once a child graduates, they won't spend their lives spelling words in the real world.  (I beg to differ on that opinion!)

Side note/background:  In a society where "everyone is a winner," no child is asked to read out loud so they won't be embarrassed over not being able to read quite as well as another child.  This is a big issue to me because I had a lot of problems reading when I was child, but not because I couldn't read.  I had to take six years of speech therapy and had a lot of problems speaking that slowed down my reading aloud, and I was constantly bounced back and forth between the advanced reading class and the low level reading class (completely skipping the middle and high levels).  I did make 100% on almost every assignment, but aloud, I read well below my grade level due to the speech issues.  (My brain and eyes work much faster than my mouth.)  They finally left me in the advanced classes after my speech therapist had a few harsh words for them about the practice, and just skipped me when it was my turn to read.  That infuriated me.  I wanted to read out loud just like everyone else because I wanted to prove that I wasn't stupid, which was what I felt the other kids who could read out loud without any problems thought.  I wasn't stupid; I made higher grades than most of them.  I was so angry that I made my mother find me some chapter books so that I could teach myself to read faster out loud over my 5th grade summer vacation, and someone was kind enough to give me a whole set of "Happy Hollister" books when my mother had inquired about some books.  I spent the whole summer, sitting in the woods by myself, and forced myself to read faster just so I would be allowed to read out loud in 6th grade (and of course they dropped reading class in the 6th grade, which I didn't know, but by George, I can read out loud now!).  With that history, one would think I would agree with students not reading aloud in schools today, but I don't.

Back to the topic, in middle school, the reading classes are dropped, and students in their English classes are given vocabulary lists and told, "Okay, go learn the definitions."  No emphasis is put on how to pronounce those words.  It continues in this pattern into high school, and my children's tests are in the form of worksheets instead of any type of quiz that is done orally; either to write the word that corresponds to the definition the teacher states or to write a shortt definition to the vocabulary word the teacher states.  Many probably do not see a problem with this because the children are still "learning" new words and are able to function.

However, there is a problem.  Our kids are graduating from schools and are not able to pronounce words correctly, and have a very difficult time reading anything out loud.  At times, I would like to pull my hair out when I hear my own children talking, and one of my children is a straight A student!   For instance, the pronunciation of the word "deviant" by my children makes my skin crawl.  They pronounce this particular word as "de-VI-int" instead of "DEE-vee-ent".   When I correct them, they get angry and claim that it doesn't matter because they know what it means when they see it, and they do.  BUT... if they were TALKING to someone who had been taught to correctly pronounce the word, or any other words that are totally butchered in pronunciation, the person they were speaking to would not have any clue what they were talking about.  It makes them sound very uneducated.  Pronunciation is key to being able to communicate with others in spoken word because we do not speak to others by constantly writing down what we are trying to say to them.  Leaving phonetics out of the method of teaching children to read, not allowing them to read aloud so their pronunciation can be corrected from the very beginning, and just handing lists of vocabulary words to students without letting them know how to pronounce those words (because students generally do not look at the pronunciation in the dictionary and haven't been taught how to use them) is doing them a big disservice over the long run.

I do know that not all schools are created or operated equally, but how wide-spread is this? 

Is it only me that has an issue with this?  Or are others out there just as concerned?  

Has anyone that does not have English as a native language ran across this problem when speaking to a native English speaker, particularly an American English speaker?  If so, did it cause you to doubt your own ability with the English language? 
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  • EUROPA, etymology

    "... Agenor, king of the Phoenician city of Sidon, had a beautiful daughter Europa, literally (in Greek) the "wide-eyed". In fact, of course, not…

  • Word 'Climax'. A note for aspiring etymologists.

    The English word climax has two seemingly incompatible meanings of "climax" and "orgasm". Yet, we should not forget that the word has not only a…

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    The Oxford Etymologic Dictionary (OED) considers Ego / I as if it were a self-standing word developed within the Germanic and 'Indo-European'…