If English is our mother tongue, does that mean that we are proficient in the English language? Well of course we must define “proficient”. It could be that we are able to verbally communicate with those whom we interact with and we are understood. But isn’t that just the minimum entry level of Learning English? Verbal communication may make up 80% of our social intercourse, but understanding the written word and then communicating in writing proficiently, may escape more that 35% of our population in English speaking countries. So what are the fundamentals of learning English? Well no surprise, it all starts with the basics.
1. Phonics instruction in the single sounds of the alphabet.
2. The Sound Blending of the letters of the alphabet.
The object of these two approaches to phonics awareness is to give the student the ability to decode unknown words and thereby understand the written word.
1. As a student develops the ability to decode unknown words, the obvious next step is to start instruction of the spelling rules that apply to the English language.
2. Some of this instruction relies on the introduction of “sight Words”. These are words that have crept into the English language and have come from what we call Etymology. Word Etymology will often explain why a particular word appears to break a spelling rule, for example, the rule governing plurals of words ending in “-o” (goes, potatoes, vetoes). These are non-phonetic words. There are many groups of words in English that are related through their origin (Old English, Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Spanish).
As the student has now learnt phonics awareness and has gained the knowledge of sound blending which has established the ability to decode unknown words, the student moves forward to achieve the necessary skills to spell words correctly. At this stage of Learning English, the student must acquire the ultimate skills of communication, the ability to use syntax in the written form! Syntax is the term used to refer directly to the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure of English.
So in other words, the student will know that the following sentence is incorrect.
The person THAT can eat the most will win the trophy.
And that the following sentence is correct!
The person WHO can eat the most will win the trophy.
The reason is that WHO, is a personal pronoun.
There is not much difference really. The emphasis is that Literacy has been described as the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word. Literacy can also include the ability to understand ALL forms of communication, be it body language, pictures, video & sound (reading, speaking, listening and viewing). The very basics of good communication skills lead to enhanced personal relationships in later life. Students must be given lifelong opportunities to move along a continuous sequence that includes reading, writing, critical understanding and decision-making abilities that they need in their personal life.
Learning English is just not learning the Mother Tongue!