Sounds the same


When you teach small children how to read it’s very important that they learn the phonetic sound that a letter makes even more so than the actual letter name. Once they’ve mastered recognising the letter sounds you can move onto letter blends (two or more letters combined together into one sound), along with recognising some basic sight words (words that just have to memorised as-is because they don’t sound anything like they’re written) and before you know it they’re able to read small sentences. Although admittedly most of these early sentences normally involves cats sitting on mats in some shape or form.

One day I was introducing the word ‘at‘ to my class. I wrote it on the board and then made an elongated ‘ā‘ sound swiftly followed up with an over emphasised and abrupt ‘t!’

One of the enthused kids jumped up from his seat “Teacher! Nine ten!”

“Uh!” I said.

“Teacher, teacher! Nine Ten!”

“Erm, yes. Eh, very good well done, ok now sit down.”

“Teacher, at, nine, ten!”

“Ahh!” as it dawned on me what he was actually trying to tell me. “No, ‘eight’ is a different word but very well done for trying.”

Mā shā’ Allāh!



Filed under School

7 responses to “Sounds the same

  1. I first saw ur hat over vowels blog then I got to this one.
    I am also interested in teaching English (the proper way), although I wouldn’t like to leave the house to the maid.
    Looks like you live in U.A.E?
    I live in Saudi and the teachers here have horrable spelling, pronounciation, and writing.
    My kids now tell me to come and teach at their school because the teacher tells them to close the “windu” and my kids tell me she should say “windowooww” with exagerated difthongs.
    The system introduces phonics in HIGH SCHOOL!
    Can you believe that??!!
    I also read your story of coming to Islam…May Allah bless you and guide you…

  2. I’m actually also in Saudi, I just recently visited UAE and that’s why I made a post regarding it.

    I totally agree that the English taught in Saudi schools is terrible.

    A colleague asked me to assist him by reading through an English exam paper his son had been given in an Arabic (not an international) school.

    One of the questions was to fill in the missing letters in an alphabet they’d prepared. Now when I added the letters and the blanks they expected an answer for it came to a total of 27 letters! Work that one out if you can.

  3. My name isn't Zainab

    I teach EFL in Saudi, in afternoon/evening classes and I have kids, teens and adults classes. Sometimes students bring me school work and school books to show them. I’ve seen worksheets that are supposed to teach English that are FULL of very basic mistakes and even a textbook with such dreadful English that I took it home to show my husband and we spent a whole hour laughing at it together. (I’d love to get hold of it again and post the highlights on my blog lol.) And it’s quite common for me to correct a student’s mistake in basic English only to be told that their teacher taught it to them like that. Or they get “corrected” by the teacher at school when they speak correct English, because the teacher speaks some weird version of English. And students who’ve studied English at school for six years yet can’t say anything. They can conjugate the perfect tenses but have no idea what they mean or when to use them, and if they can speak a little they conjugate every verb as “I am go” “I am speak” “I am eat” etc. (I correct that like this: “you are not “go Bahrain”, you are Khadijah”)

    Also the reason teachers in Saudi don’t teach phonics is because they don’t know phonics. The teachers can’t pronounce most of the vowels in English themselves so how can they teach them? I regularly ask my students how many vowels sounds there are in English, and they all answer 5. When I say there are 18 vowel sounds in English they look astounded. No-one has ever taught them the difference between vowel sounds and vowel letters. Imagine learning Arabic if no-one taught you the sounds… that’s what my students have been trying to do for years and no wonder they struggle with pronunciation, reading and spelling.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see you’re teaching them phonics 🙂

    LOL @ 27 letters though… those poor kids 😦

  4. Yes, everything you said sounds very familiar.

    There was a story I heard about a brother in one of the Universities here. He is a native speaker of English but in the part of the syllabus that related to English he scored poorly.

    When someone asked him how is this possible, he explained that the teacher has many mistakes and in order to do well you have to memorise his mistakes to replicate them in the exam. He, however, lost track of the mistakes and just wrote what he knew to be correct and unfortunately faired poorly.

  5. My name isn't Zainab

    Poor strudent! Unfortunately that doesn’t surprise me in the least. I taught a high school student who had very good English, and she’d come to me on an almost daily basis with a “which is correct…?” question with two options for a phrase or sentence, one of which was correct. I’d ask her which she thought was correct and she’d get it right every time, then tell me that her teacher at school told her the other one was correct. The saddest thing was that this student was losing confidence in her own ability because of this. One of her questions was “is it okay to write capital letters in the middle of words?” – apparently her teacher always capitalised the letter R and would write stuff like “veRy good” on students’ work! In the end I think the student learned to take her school teacher’s “correction” of her English with a pinch of salt and trust her own judgement.

  6. My name isn't Zainab

    Lol – my typo of student!!

  7. Wow! Capitals in the middle of a word. I might have burst a blood vessel over that one.

    I get stressed enough trying to remind people that Muslim, as a proper noun, deserves a capital letter.

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