Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just got one of those email forwards on how funny the English language is... you know the ones, with the silly sentences like "If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth?"

It is funny when you think about it, but having lived with someone learning English for the past year, I also see the frustrating side. Words with multiple meanings can just be cruel. And reading...written English can be even worse! It's amazing how many sounds the letter "a" can make when you stop to think about it. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the phrase "this is a stupid language!" and how many times I have replied "I know...it is stupid." And I am amazed that after just a little over a year, Philippe speaks so well. Most people we meet are amazed that he has been here such a short time.

Philippe also has the disadvantage of not having been to school before he got here. So he is not simply learning to read in a new language... he is learning to read from scratch. It is very frustrating to him, but he is doing an admirable job, and learning in leaps and bounds.

But recently we came upon some "illiteracy discrimination". We were told he could not make his First Communion until he learned to read. I had no idea that reading was a pre-requisite. Turns out it isn't, and Philippe is in a new class now, doing wonderfully and will make his First Communion this Spring right along with all the other kids who can read.

This whole experience made me sit back and think. We are lucky here in America with our free public education. I spent a good long time discussing this one day with a friend from Namibia. He has only been in the US for a short while, and was amazed at the fact that anyone here can go to school... that in fact it is a law that kids go to school. We take this for granted here. Throughout the world, education is a priveledge, usually for the priveledged. If you want to learn, you need money. This just seems wrong, but again... as an American I have taken this for granted all my life. Because of our ignorance, many Americans have the ignorant viewpoint that an illiterate person must not be an intelligent person. How can you possibly get to adulthood and not learn to read? I look at my son, and I see exactly how. He is one of the most intelligent kids I have met. And yet he can't read. Yet. It's very hard to be 10 years old in America and not reading yet. It's hard not to feel "dumb". It makes me think about adults here who can't read, and how they must feel. And it's wrong.

Our world is so geared around media these days... newspapers, books, computers. It makes it difficult to be illiterate, and it makes it easy for the ingnorant attitudes to persist. One more thing to think about. One more thing to fight.


KelseyChristine said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Your family seems very cool :)

I can't imagine learning English as a second language...every "rule" has exceptions. It sounds like Phillipe is very smart and has a great support system though, so I'm sure he will do great!

Life in Fitzville said...

Hi Kelsey! I really enjoyed your blog! I have read through a bit more, and I love hearing about your Dad cooking Ethiopian, and you visiting the store. My kids all learned a bit of Creole with their new brother and we experiment with Haitian cooking when we can.

I really have been trying to read up on every aspect of adoption that I can find, and there are some great blogs out there, but you are the only 'sibling' persective I have found...thanks for that!