Teaching our children the right way with words

by Joyce Sinclair
Guyana Chronicle
April 26, 1999

I THOUGHT I would change the focus of this Viewpoint today and deal with an entirely different subject - resting values and standards for a while. Though, after I started thinking about today's topic, it occurred to me that it is related to our standards, but in a different way.

Many have already repeatedly commented on the number of children graduating from primary school who cannot read and have extreme difficulty with their syntax, pronunciation and spelling. Did I say primary school? This is so even for several graduating from our secondary schools.

Sad to say and this is the most distressing of all, many of the graduates of our University of Guyana fall in this category as well. Those of us who are or have been employers in the public and or private sectors know only too well, how agonising this is and what it augurs for this our beloved land.

I support wholeheartedly the many calls for us to return to the regular reading aloud as part of the curriculum, an emphasis on the many practice grammar sessions, the correction of our children's spelling and pronunciation. I say this at the risk of being deemed old-fashioned and not `with it'. I know that it is felt to be inhibiting and stifling the initiative and creativity of children to correct grammar spelling and pronunciation. But what do we have as a result of our turning a blind eye to their mistakes? As employers, we know the answer to that question.

Teachers at schools, tutors at University must see themselves as full time coaches as they seek to promote growth in those in their charge. It pays great dividends and our students and young employees will be grateful that we performed these roles.

The idea is that they would learn from their mistakes and so be wiser the next time, and not be scoffed at by their friends who know better.

Over time, I have been compiling a list of words frequently mispronounced, which list I shall read as a crash course in pronunciation. This is not meant to take the place of the programme "Caught in the Slips" which is beautifully done by a colleague of mine, Dr Joyce Jonas, - a programme that is more measured and long term.

We are vulnerable not only in the slips, but at mid-wicket, long-on, the boundary, behind the wicket, in the pavilion, everywhere. We need several long and short programmes, crash and in-depth to help to restore us to the place we once held as one of the more literate nations in the Caribbean.

Today we need very badly to be just functionally literate.

Now for the first lost of 20 words for a two minute course in pronunciation:

Etiquette pronounced Etikette

Wardrobe " War drobe and not Wall drobe

Architect " Ark ee tect and not Arch ee tec

Student " Stu d ent and not stu di ent

Photographer " with an O before grapher not an A So it is Photographer and not Photagrapher

Violence " V i o l e n c e and not

V o i l e n c e

Frustrate " Frustrate and not Frostrate

Black-Out " Black out and not Block out

X-Ray " X-Ray and not X-Tray

Debt " D e t like Pet or Bet

In the word Debt the b is silent

Film " F i l m and not Flim

Courteous " like the boy's name Kurt Kurt ee us

Asterisk " As ter isk and not asteriks

Catholic " Catholic and not Cartolick

Award - war - warning - reward

We need to pay some attention to what our children are saying at a very early age and tell them the correct thing so that it is not a nightmare for us later.