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Books for adult absolute beginners new to the Latin alphabet

 
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neilpollick



Joined: 30 Oct 2008
Posts: 3
Location: India

PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 7:40 am    Post subject: Books for adult absolute beginners new to the Latin alphabet Reply with quote

I am a English volunteer EFL teacher working at Tibet Charity in McLeod Ganj (Dharamsala) in North India.
www.tibetcharity.in/

I am looking for a course book to use with the Absolute Beginners here.
They are all adults and none of them are familiar with the Latin alphabet.

Our students are Tibetan refugees who were not born in this country. The majority have no formal education even in their own language. Many of them are too old to take advantage of the free education programs available to new arrivals from Tibet. Coming to our school is the only way they have to advance their education and improve their prospects, since we offer our teaching without charge

I have tried to adapt nursery materials designed for children but they are not really appropriate for 2 basic reasons.

1. The content is aimed at children and does not engage adults.
2. The books assume that the learners are acquiring vocabulary aurally outside of the classroom. They assume that the learners are in an English speaking environment and that therefore they will be familiar with the sound of vocabulary and structures before they actually learn how they are written. Consequently grammatical structures (simple verb forms in particular) are not presented in an explanatory, graded and systematic way that would allow new students to understand and absorb them.

The students are not exposed to English outside of the classroom. The teachers here are native English speaking volunteers who are not able to stay for more than a month on average. We have introduced the New English File (NEF) series of course books from Elementary to Upper Intermediate so that the students are assured of continuous progress in the face of the high turnover of teachers (one teacher takes over exactly where the other teacher left off).

It is proving very successful, not only do the books ensure continuity but they are so rich in teacher support materials that we can take on less experienced teachers if we are short staffed. Consequently the classes keep going and students are making progress as never before. We need to set up a similarly structured program for the Absolute Beginners. Since we cannot rely on the experience and ability of any single teacher, we must establish a self-sustaining system as we have done with NEF.

However the NEF series does not cater for absolute beginners, so we need to develop a new syllabus for them. We are thinking of using the Cutting Edge Starters book for the second part of the Absolute Beginners course because it would prepare students appropriately for the NEF Elementary course, but even that book doesn't teach students the alphabet or how to read.

I am wondering if there are any books aimed specifically at adult beginners. These would be books for people who are new to the Latin/Roman alphabet, people who are not living in an English speaking culture.

It occurs to me that there are millions of English students in the world (those using Chinese, Cyrillic, Arabic, Japanese writing systems etc) who fall into this category so there must be resources for our school. However my research on the Internet has produced nothing so far.

I would appreciate advice on this matter. If you are not able to recommend any particular resources perhaps you would be so kind as to direct me to an agency.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3008
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Neil. I am not sure how useful my reply will be, but here goes!

As you say, there seem to be very few mainstream monolingual (English-English) materials for seriously developing adult literacy (to the point where students could proceed onto e.g. the second half of your proposed absolute beginners' course using the Cutting Edge Starter book), and what there is online is often unappealing and/or impenetrable (not exactly visual) and can soon make one's eyes glaze over (it would help if the adult education organizations in the UK at least weren't so obsessed with functional descriptors of and box-ticking for every conceivable micro-skill!). All that I can really suggest then is that you invent at least a few illustrative mnemoics of the sort that will appeal and make sense to your Tibetan learners; for example, when I was learning Japanese, I decided (for myself) that the hiragana symbol for the sound (in romaji) 'to' looks a bit like a right big to(e) viewed from the left and with a nail sticking out of the top of it (> http://www.kanachart.com/cgi-bin/index.pl?hiragana&t&1 ), or that the hiragana for romaji 'tsu' looks like a tsunami (this seems to have occured to quite a few people), or that the katakana for 'mu' looks like a vet with his arm up a cow's... (if only published materials were as imaginative LOL) etc etc (I won't bore you with further examples from my fevered mind!).

Books for English learners of Japanese are often full of such mnemonic images (some of which can be a bit too far-fetched and/or just plain ineffective - sometimes the student just has to come up with their own associations when others have failed to do the trick!). Here are a few examples:
http://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Kana-Hiragana-James-Heisig/dp/4889960724/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product (Heisig uses simple images as well as more complex phrases and puns to "tell the story" and forge the mnemonic links)
http://www.amazon.com/Kana-Pict-o-Graphix-Mnemonics-Japanese-Hiragana/dp/1880656183/ref=pd_sim_b_4

I developed a system myself for helping Japanese students learn the English alphabet on the basis of not only potential sound but also shape similarities that I had perceived between English letters and Japanese kana (admittedly your students don't have this pre-existing literacy in their first language - or second or more, other that is than English, obviously! - but I just thought it would be interesting to mention this. The details of my system can be found within the first post of the following thread on learning kana generally):
http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=56882

Don't know if this sort of thing would be of any use to you (I don't speak Tibetan LOL):
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ADN-MSoCOCc

Once you've got them used to the sound-meaning correspondences you've hopefully been able to establish and forge between the languages and "map" onto the alphabet, you can start sounding out letters and short vowels in short words, then short sentences (the sort of "readers" that Nabokov learnt English by come to mind*, to which one could soon add useful words longer than the limit of three letters in length that Nabokov's textbook seemed to favour, provided of course that one is prepared to explain the possible complexities of the wider phonics panoply).

A reasonably short, digestible and practical checklist of and guide to the rules of English sounds and spellings can be found in chapter 5 of Joanne Kenworthy's Teaching English Pronunciation (Longman 1995) - I can send you more specific details by private message if you like; then, to move beyond single words, books or resources like the following might be useful (but I am sure you can come up with your own activities):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0876285647/ref=sib_dp_pt#
http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/contact_us/pricelists/highered/07cat_courses2.pdf
http://www.davidenglishhouse.com/en/resources/snakespdfs/summer2003/features/summer2003lisgo.pdf
http://www.btinternet.com/~ted.power/lit00.html (scroll down to the handwriting practice and fonts section)
http://www.caepa.org/downloads/2008sessions/ESLlitInstructionBinder.pdf

Getting back to words/raw data though, the COBUILD English Guides 8: Spelling has lots of lists that give plenty of frequent words containing particular phonemes in initial, medial or final position and is a treasure trove of information on the development of sound-spellings in English generally, whilst the Oxford Learner's Pocket Dictionary has a helpful summary called 'Help with spelling and pronunciation' (detailing silent letters, and alternate pronunciations for particular letters/spellings or combinations of letters) in its rear endpapers (at least in the 3rd edition of 2003, not sure about the new 4th of 2008); and although you said elsewhere that you didn't really have the time right now for much R&D yourself, you might like to eventually consider getting books like Diane McGuinness' Why Children Can't Read or her Early Reading Instruction, as these seem to provide good overviews of the various brands of phonics (and no, I haven't quite read my copies yet, but intend to get around to them one day in the hopefully not-too-distant future!).

A few sites that didn't look like total losses (arranged in the order that they interested/appealed to me):
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/slernsp.htm
http://www.skillsworkshop.org/other.htm
http://el.hct.ac.ae/english/language/reading/phonics.htm
http://uk.ask.com/web?q=phonics+alphabet&qsrc=999&l=dis&siteid=41439049&c=1

One last thing, there was a series on Channel 4 a while ago about trying to teach adults (Beadle appeared to have plumped for the Jolly Phonics course, of which McGuinness briefly reports, in her Early Reading Instruction, that research findings/opinions were divided as to the utility of all the gesturing etc). The one thing that seemed clear was that adult literacy programmes in the UK were taking many things for granted (e.g. literacy already in an L1 orthography, in ESOL programmes, or some level of functional ability with adult learners, which simply was not the case with the "worst" of Beadle's "students").
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=9043

Hope some of this helps somewhat!

* "I learned to read English before I could read Russian. My first English friends were four simple souls in my grammar - Ben, Dan, Sam and Ned. There used to be a great deal of fuss about their identities and wherabouts - 'Who is Ben?', 'He is Dan', 'Sam is in bed', and so on. Although it all remained rather stiff and patchy (the compiler was handicapped by having to employ - for initial lessons, at least - words of not more than three letters), my imagination somehow managed to obtain the necessary data. Wanfaced, big-limbed, silent nitwits, proud in their possession of certain tools ('Ben has an axe'), they now drift with a slow-motioned slouch across the remotest backdrop of memory..." (quoted in Widdowson's Defining Issues in ELT).


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:14 am; edited 7 times in total
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neilpollick



Joined: 30 Oct 2008
Posts: 3
Location: India

PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:54 am    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Thanks to you fluffyhamster for your in depth reply.

I will follow your leads.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3008
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just thought of a few more things:

This book: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bjbUzJeoe-AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=teaching+english+spelling#PPA8,M1

And ERIC: http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=advanced

I found quite a few interesting-looking and potentially very useful pdfs (in no particular order):
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/20/37/b7.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1a/b3/2f.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/13/3f/f6.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/2e/4b/db.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/35/3a/b8.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/31/6c/0f.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/2f/ef/a8.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/33/c6/ed.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/38/a0/1e.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/35/51/2d.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/35/f5/79.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/19/61/34.pdf
http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/37/d7/d8.pdf

If you decide to search ERIC further, make sure that you tick the box for 'Full-Text Availability - Show only results with free full text directly from ERIC' that is immediately below the 'Search for' fields on the Advanced Search page (NB: I usually just enter several keywords into the topmost search box, seems to work just as well as using up an AND additional box).

Oh, and a few sites produced by searching for 'phonics spelling':
http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=phonics+spelling&meta=
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Rp



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 50
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:09 pm    Post subject: Additional resource Reply with quote

Just to throw my two cents worth in the ring, I have found many useful exercises in the following book:

Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, by Gambrell, Morrow and Pressley.

There are a number of thought starters which could be adpated for an EFL environment.

Rp
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1311
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would highly recommend teaching the students in their own language first. There are so many skills in literacy that can be learned through their own language and that might never be taught in English because we don't know what we use them. I have found that it usually only takes adults six months to learn their own language and then they can gradually take on a bit of English, more each month. It stikes me that they will be better able to use their literacy skills in their own language given their situation.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3008
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose that the issue of whether to learn Tibetan script first would depend on its utility outside of Tibet (i.e. to Tibetan refugees in India and beyond), its individual complexities, the familiarity of the available teachers with the Tibetan language generally, and lastly, perhaps the potential similarities of that script with other scripts (including the English alphabet).

One advantage of an alphabet is that can more closely approximate foreign sounds (than is sometimes the case with foreign scripts trying to approximate English e.g. try writing English in Chinese characters or Japanese kana), and I am assuming that it is possible to adequately represent Tibetan sounds with the English alphabet if so desired (if the Tibetan section of a travel guide and phrasebook to China generally that I recall having somewhere is to be believed).
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woodcutter



Joined: 19 Jun 2004
Posts: 1303
Location: London

PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bet that no book exists which teaches the alphabet to adults. The market would be pretty small and you could adapt kids books reasonably well I would think. If I was teaching basically uneducated people, I would expect some heavy duty problems any which way really. Good luck.
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Eric18



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 151
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:04 am    Post subject: Picture Dictionaries Reply with quote

Nice discussion, including those great detailed responses.

In the United States, this sort of problem remains more common than one would suspect. Sometimes adult students can not read and write in their own language, complicating matters. Sometimes students can speak fine, but can not write at all. Adult education programs often have trouble serving these students. Personalized tutoring, often with picture dictionaries and workbooks, can be effective.

You might check this link to the American Library Association's webpage on adult literacy interesting.
http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/olos/adultliteracy/servicesnewnonreaders.cfm

Good luck!
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neilpollick



Joined: 30 Oct 2008
Posts: 3
Location: India

PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:24 pm    Post subject: Thanks for your help Reply with quote

In the end I adpated a set of books designed for English speaking toddlers.

I had to add pages of grammatical explanation becasue the books assumed that the learners were picking up the structures outside the classroom (I had to give them these structures INSIDE the classroom).

Then some of the teachers at the school record the content of the pages to MP3s so that the students could read and hear the words at the same time. They will get a copy of the CD which they can listen to at home.

I believe that we have created a unique resource that will be of use to teachers everywhere (it has no reference to Tibetan culture or alphabet).
However it is designed to be taught by someone who knows the students language (or enough of it) because some transaltion (kept to a minimum) will be needed.

I will post it on rapidshare soon for download.

My time at that school is done and there can be no further development of that course from me. I suppose other people can take it further or shift it to suit themselves. It will be "open source".
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3008
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you settled for words like 'doggie' and 'nappy', Neil? Laughing Very Happy Wink

But seriously, it's good to hear that you've developed something, and I'm sure that people will appreciate your posting it (it'll be interesting at least, and probably pretty helpful too!). Smile
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eslweb



Joined: 31 May 2006
Posts: 208
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:53 pm    Post subject: Headway Beginner isn't bad... Reply with quote

I found that Headway beginner wasn't bad for helping with vocabulary, because it is mostly picture based and from there you can carefully show the words on the board. I know it may not be as good as something specifically teaching the alphabet, but it may be easier to get a hold of.

James
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