As we get ready for our daughter’s phonics lessons , it is time for us to experience the English phonics lessons ourselves which we have never studied as students back in our native country. Coming from a non-English speaking country(India) pronouncing English according to Phonics as taught in the American schools is a new a different experience. Even though many of us learn in convent English medium schools back in our home country, the way English is pronounced is influenced by the native language phonetics. So we grow up learning to pronounce English the way we would do in our native languages. That results in an accent way different from native English speaker’s English, which though not obvious to non-English speaker’s ears, sounds unusual to the native English speakers. Often ridiculed to be wacky and subject of satire in some English movies and stand up comedy shows (If you have seen Russel Peters stand-up comedy you can recall Indian English accent getting tormented…. “Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad” ?? ). On the other side, non native speakers wonder why English speakers speak the way they do.
The same goes with writing English words following phonics. Non-Native English speakers who are used to writing as they hear and pronounce words find it difficult and confusing when certain words are not written the way they are pronounced per phonetics. It is challenging at the same time to explain why many words are not written the same way as they are pronounced to a kid who has just started learning phonics.” Cow”, “Cat”, “Cap” makes sense but “CYCLE” which sounds as “S” does not make sense, why not write “Sycle” instead?. Why are many words which sound like “S” written starting with “C” , like “Cinema”, “City” , “Circus” etc. It is difficult to explain these subtle differences to the curious little minds for which we struggle to seek an answer ourselves. When I ask my daughter which letter does “cereal”, that she is fond of eating daily for her breakfast, starts with, She replies with ease , “S”. When I say, “No” , it starts with “C” she questions me why? I do not have an answer why it should start with “C” rather than “S”. Many times it is confusing to make a difference between words that start with “K” and “C” the same way. And all those silent killers? Knee, Know, Knob, Knight.. Why use them when they don’t sound in the first place?. But off course , there must have been some reason the word structure is made the way it is. Back in the days as a student, we did not have much choice when learning in English medium in our native country. If the teacher said “Cereal” starts with “C”, it had to start with “C”, no questions asked. It would had been so much fun, if we were exposed to this area of learning English with phonics. Learning wouldn’t have seemed a liability but a joy. With all the complexities in phonics , writing and several exceptions to the stated rule however, English language remains “exceptional” indeed.