Non-Romanized Alphabet

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20 thoughts on “Non-Romanized Alphabet”

  1. This is one of those questions that can set you daydreaming all day. I can’t imagine being in that situation bc it’s hard enough to teach reading in a romanized system.
    My first reaction is a practical one: if someone of Alisa’s abilities is asking others, maybe there is no answer. I think that Alisa grocks that, but is still determined to come to some sort of answer. If you know her from past years here, that’s just how she rolls.
    When it comes to teaching languages, I always think in terms of right/whole brain unconscious engagement vs. left brain conscious analysis, which is exactly Alisa’ problem.
    She brings to her students loads of the right brain focus on meaning to immerse them 100% on meaning so that their brains develop auditory fluency, if I may use such a term.
    But then in order to teach reading she can’t use the romanized alphabet that we can use to teach reading. All we have to do is get the kids sounding out the squiggles (they are not aware of it, but that is how I understand reading in a romanized system works).
    So we have the Sesame Street sounding out process to teach reading and so teaching reading for us is about doing the same thing we do when teaching a story, it’s a right brain process and so the kids quickly are able, as Susan Gross famously said, to read like it’s a “movie in their minds”.
    But what if the squiggles don’t lend themselves to this kind of decoding, which chez nous who teach romanized languages is such a magical process? Well, the first thought as I indicated above is to give up. Left brain analysis cannot be mixed in with right brain unconscious processing so why try? Teaching to the unconscious and conscious faculties at the same time can’t work as we all know.
    In that case we would just have to wait like we do with our wee ones as they wait to learn the alphabet and then read after massive amounts of time spent only hearing and building instant image/concept recognition with their (first) language and then teach them what the squiggles mean much much later.
    We who do CI have figured out that ANY conscious breaking down into pieces of language doesn’t work. So we don’t do it. But Alisa can’t just do that. The squiggles have to be learned first so how are Arabic and Mandarin and Hebrew students going to get to reading for compelling reading input, to use Alisa’s terms from above? How are they going to avoid having those daily wrestling matches with the ABC’s of the language being studied?
    Implicite in Alisa’s question is the time element. Does she have the time to teach both if they are indeed mutually exclusionary oil and water processes in the brain of the learner?
    (Notice how I faked an answer – I have no solution but I acted like I had in what I wrote above. I don’t. Maybe after a nice bike ride…).

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Well I’ve been thinking about how lil kids have 12,000?+ hours of quality native lang input before they start kindergarten (is that the right BVP #?) and I’ve watched them discovering the L1 written code – some in K and some in 1-2, and it is a miracle to behold (parents out there think abt your own children or family members….)
    The academic wisdom tells us that once they’ve done it with their L1, subsequent literacy in L2, L3, L4 etc. is much simpler, now that the brain’s hardware is established, they are simply ‘running a different program’ on the platform.
    So some of the strategies I’ve been working with are: a simple L2 (in my case Hebrew) alphabet chart at the front of the room. We have the added clunkiness of block and manuscript styles, which don’t really look alike. My chart has both, in contrasting colors. That’s it.
    In Hebrew people often read in block, and write in manuscript. Arabic has the issue of connected letters…and 2 registers – one for BICS and the other for CALP!!
    Back to the chart. Since many of my Hebrew settings are ones in which kids have already been exposed to the aleph bet (ABCs) in writing, it’s not deer in headlights, and they can make some sense out of words when I establish meaning (the target word or phrase written in Hebrew, underlined and translated into English below – in a contrasting color).
    Next, I try to milk the heck out of L2 student names. Talk about personalized input. People love to hear their names in L2 and even love to see it. So I have their names written on index cards, we spend time on roll call (exposure to all the letters and sounds; good for automaticity and generalizing). Asking who is here today and who is not, and creating a ‘T-chart’, and asking survey questions whose answers are student names (Who likes Harry Potter? Who likes Ron Wealsey?) and creating simple anchor data charts w/names is a way to build capacity and success – very little and very predictable reading – same question over and over…
    But getting to the connected more sophisticated discourse level text? The language in use has to be so patterned, predictable and narrow….
    I think if they start very young we can do as Ben says and playfully flood with comprehensible & compelling oral language. When we deem it time to start with the written code (in the case of Hebrew traditionally they want it RIGHT AWAY) the materials we develop have to be very conducive to success!!
    But the process may be slower and it’s also hard coping as a student with all the new sounds… so I implement a lot of Ben’s ROA extensions, esp Dictation – on Dry Erase boards, which allows for muscle memory work in letter /word formation…I advised the Arabic teacher to break up her long block into (at least) listening and ‘writing’ chunks – with time to practice writing their own and classmates’ names, words like yes/no to answer questions, etc. as a break from all the listening…
    I have felt the power of Cold Character Reading and I believe in it. But it may take a long time to fully break that code…
    BTW I went to a bilingual half-day Hebrew immersion school for 4th, 5th and 6th grade and I was reading a ton of stuff in those years. Not necessarily always for meaning, but there was a flood of written word – possibly at the expense of comprehension of oral language…so what we are going for is the exact opposite… a tall order…

    1. Asking who is here today and who is not, and creating a ‘T-chart’, and asking survey questions whose answers are student names (Who likes Harry Potter? Who likes Ron Wealsey?) and creating simple anchor data charts w/names is a way to build capacity and success – very little and very predictable reading – same question over and over…
      I might be overlooking the power of data charts, as you mention them here, Alisa. I could create some survey questions during my Calendar Talk that I do at the beginning of class and write the results on the board, maybe creating some graphs (interpreting info on graphs is one of those basic SAT skills my students struggle with). Having these data charts or graphs as visuals on the board helps support some real flow. There’s less worry about using unfamiliar language, or going out of bounds, when you have those visuals to refer back to, point to, pause on.
      What about dictations, Alisa? Could certain variations of dictations help with the non-romanized character recognition?
      It really takes a still mind to attend to the non-romanized CI instruction, wouldn’t you say? Hard for our pre-pubescent coming of age youngsters preparing for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s. or

  3. Just a thought: Do you use the super seven verbs? Could you focus on establishing meaning on those and use them indefinitely, like an entire year or more, spinning mini-stories with just those verbs. I mean, one can spin several mini-stories using the super seven.
    I know, focusing on the super seven would be more targeted than non-targeted.
    And what about lots of TPR? Fill in the mini-story with lots of juicy TPR. The character yells instead of says, or sips instead of drinks. Then you don’t have to worry about the complexities of the language system.
    Perhaps I’m off. This is an issue expressed by the Cherokee teachers that Jason Bond, Steven Ordiano, Grant Boulanger, Bob Patrick, Tina (the prior year) and I worked with this summer. Maybe this thread will help me inform them next summer.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yes Sean, your recommendation is all about staying narrow and for the teacher to use a limited pool of verb-containing chunks. In the case of Hebrew, person (I, you, he, she, y’all (m. and f.) determines the verb ending in the present, so limiting input to mostly the super 7 or say, 2 verbs in a mini scene, is important to reduce the possibility of overload. Dr. Krashen suggests starting ‘in the here and now” – present tense.
    The question isn’t just about sound and meaning; it’s also about decoding these new Hebrew or Arabic, etc. squiggles (in the case of these 2 languages, it reads from right to left).
    Once the sound-meaning foundation is built AND the written system is laid in, we can go a little less targeted…this is also, I believe, Terry Ws argument about Mandarin.
    We forget that since Spanish and French both use the familiar Romanized alphabet, decoding isn’t as hard (though French is way harder than Spanish cuz the sounds aren’t consistent with English and there are lots of silent letters – therefore it’s less transparent (to the English speaker) and harder to hear in your head…)

  5. It seems like there is a lot of pressure to teach these kids to read. In order to reaxh a solution, the teaching of literacy has to be broken down. I refer to Krashen that the most engaging readings work…that and not focusing on drilling with form and phonics. I however do not see a huge difference with first learning a that squiggle or a group of letters equals a sound. I do see the relationship between accelerating literacy with a second language with a common writing system like in romance languages. My thought is that the more unrelatable another language is the more time it will take. My wife and I home school and been reading almost daily to our 7 year old since she was 2. She is only now starting to decipher simple words. We have never drilled with sight words or phonics. All we have done is choose books she likes and ones she thinks she would like. She now oftwn complains that we end reading time too soon.
    My question is: is learning to read a subconscious process? If not, i rather do ntci via listening rather than reading. I wouldnt want to enter that dark targeting place.
    Possible answer: Using SL, as it is non targeted (according to Krashens San Diego workshop.) The teacher tells the story and writes in the TL the key words on the boards. Translations i believe can be used in the beginning stages but SL supposedly set students up for reading and in Dr Masons research it was japanese students who were learning to read English. I just wasnt sure how the process looked like. Does the teacher just read them the text after it is told?

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    OK I think we (Ts of non romanized languages) embrace the idea that the literacy development (cracking the written code) will take longer, and that the auditory flood preceding that step is crucial.
    If we do any kind of story listening, and we want to establish meaning on any new words, we DO NOT HAVE a transliteration system, like Pinyin, to turn to. So we write the Hebrew or Arabic on the board, underline it and put the English below it. The TL ABC chart is up at the front. We can do some narrow letter pointing and phonetic ‘sounding out’ of the words. We can have the kids work on letter formation with dry erase boards after the listening phase, answering with ‘Yes’ and ‘no” in the TL – basically copying these words form the board, so that it’s not just letter formation, but answering contextualized questions. (“Who likes PokemanGO? Steven. So they copy Steven’s Hebrew or Arabic name from the posted chart.)
    If literacy is where the action is for concretizing and expanding the L2, then we must get to it fairly quickly. In my 16 hours of Mandarin w/Linda Li, we did Cold Character Reading for like the last hour (before that it was PinYin – which is like transliteration in romanized letters).
    So we need to introduce compelling and meaning-stuffed words almost from the get go. That’s why I’m advocating Student names in the TL – either students already have a traditional Hebrew name or are assigned a culturally authentic one – and then Ss can start to see, hear, read and write these VERY SHORT predictable chunks, like 20 hours in….
    What do y’all think of that?

  7. I think that is a great idea of using names. It’s personal and they see those chunks. I know you may see the power of Cold Character Reading but when I read about it… my understanding of it may be off but it seems like it is about circling in print form… and that is how it gets internalized. To me it seems too school like and perhaps not compelling enough and enforces skill-building or drilling but the literacy piece to me is still a great mystery and I am glad you are problem-solving. What does the research say?

  8. I studied Hebrew in college for three years and my teacher always made a point to not transliterate the words. She emphasized that she wanted us to learn the alphabet and the sounds they made so that we wouldn’t become reliant on the transliterated form. She did not use CI so we did practice writing the alphabet repetitively but I found this very helpful (of course, I am one of those 4-percenters). We also learned the alphabet song which helped tremendously.
    I think your plan of writing new words on the board in the TL alphabet in order to establish meaning is a good plan as well as the names and whiteboard activities. I feel like the more exposure they get to the aleph-bet the better. It will all come together eventually.
    One other thing that really helped me with the reading aspect was simple texts that she would have us read once we had some practice with the alphabet. I really liked the book: ?? ??? ????!!

  9. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Steven, when I did the Cold Character reading w/Linda Li it didn’t feel like written circling. It felt (and I CAN’T REMOVE my lang teacher hat) like the culmination of a lot of playful oral language, and it made us feel smart that we were kind of following along and recognizing the character strings (words) because they were predictable from the stories…I only did it (CCR) once, but I can see where repeated exposure to it over time would cement the visual recognition….
    Thanks so much for the group-think. I will keep working on this and let y’all know any Aha’s – please do same!

    1. Cool. Thanks for sharing out. This PLC is awesome. Still for my own children, I wonder if developing literacy is a skill-based process instead of a subconscious thing. I know that people can acquire via reading but I hear that only in Romance based languages when they know the writing system.

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Pre-literate means they don’t know any writing system yet… but they may get/have a growing ‘concept of print.’ So, for example, if you point to words as you read them (read aloud), pre-literate kids may surmise:
    The squiggles carry meaning and are standardized. (‘I see those same marks in different books/signs’)
    There’s space between words.
    Text moves from left to right & 7he sentence wraps to the next line.
    They may begin to recognize letters and their sounds, and overgeneralize, for example any word that begins with a capital ‘A’ – they may think is ‘Alisa,’ or their name. (I see this a lot w/K-1)
    Many kids (sad but true) recognize McDonalds golden arches and know that the ‘M’ stands for McDonalds, and even the letter’s sound…
    We can use all that foundational knowledge for L2, L3, etc.
    I’m working on a blog piece for my Names idea – I will share when I’m done.
    Thanks so much for continuing to ‘group think’ about literacy in non-romanized languages!

  11. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    OK So the Bar/Bat mitzvah prep is liturgical (Shakespearean) Hebrew, not modern Hebrew for communication. Kids learn to read their Bar/Bat Mitzvah portion without understanding word for word, what they’re reading, but someone usu works with them IN ENGLISH to understand the theme, (plus they have the translation & commentary), and work with a teacher to write a lil essay on how their ‘portion’ relates to their life… This they often read aloud IN ENGLISH at the ceremony…
    I have been advocating to keep them separate – to have different times to teach and separate focus. In general, liturgical Hebrew is for prayer and such life cycle events, whereas modern Hebrew is for everyday communication (at least at the novice level)…
    And yes, the ‘data charts’ provide a visual anchor and could, if used judiciously, help with the data reading skill! I’m sure there are chart-creation apps to convert numbers to percentages, bars for bar graphs, pictographs, line and pie charts…
    Finally, we can’t do much Dictee until the kids have nailed the letter-sound system. But we can do it in the Names framework that I’m cooking up.
    A dictee would be a demonstration that they’ve already internalized this letter-sound connection, AND have the muscle memory to form the letters…though I leave the Hebrew ABC chart up in the front of the room.
    Here’s the chart I use – It has block and cursive (which look different). There are basically 22 letters. 5 letters have an alternative final-position form – look different if at the end of a word. Some soerve as vowels and sound different depending on the word. Optional vowel pointing (a system of dots and lines that sometimes appear below, above or in the letter) helps clarify the sound, but I really don’t bother with it (per Terry W). Traditional Ts are all about the vowel pointing dots and lines, as you can imagine…

    1. Alisa, I have switched dictee/dictation to a COMP quiz for my level 1s. I basically tell a mini story using words from their last reading. They write the meaning in English or L1. It is much more valuable for me for them to demonstrate their comprehension rather than the writing at the level.

      1. Just to validate your mistrust of dictation, and its low value in terms of use of instructional minutes, Steven, know that when I brought dictation to the TPRS community over ten years ago it was was only to get the students writing as kind of a break from all the input. That is just about its only value.
        The kids think they’re learning during a dictation and that’s more important to my mental health to to constantly be trying to cram every minute with CI when in truth they need A LOT more time than I can provide in even a four year program. (As we have discussed here many times, since we have about 1/20th of the time necessary to get to mastery so why not we get to relax a bit?)
        You are taking the CI high road by giving them listening input instead of writing output. I would expect nothing less from the Knight of the West.

        1. Thanks Ben but I’m not sure that I have knight status. Funny because doing this work in isolation–like many of us, I am unsure of how much input and results we are getting.
          I have started some mini-lectures on Basic SLA principles. It probably serves more to flex my knowledge and to validate my own homework on the subject. In the end I do a project. Very few students hold on to their stubborn ways that learning a language needs to be a focus on form and output/practice.

          1. Wise words.
            Hey Steven I need to change your name from The Knight of the West. I just realized it because Robert is already Le Chevalier de l’Ouest. What was I thinking?
            Western Star? California Whiz Kid? Fresno Freak? Any ideas for me? I feel like you gotta have a name now.
            And you definitely have earned knight status. Oh my gosh, are you kidding? For many many years now you have filled these pages with comment after comment of knightly and noble insights. Hell yes.
            I’m leaning toward the Fresno Freak since you have the only existing freak flag in the known CI world.

          2. Steven when you finish the series of mini-lectures let me know. They must be shared in small book form for the student explanation/reflection days in the first two weeks of the year for all students new to CI. We will include the Learning Styles Inventory and teachers will be able to redirect their classes when it really counts there at the beginning of the year. The learning styles, plus your book, will make kids realize that even if they are a kinesthetic or visual learner, they can still succeed in your auditory class as long as they know (a) what real listening means, (b) what rule #2 means, and (c) how they learned their first language so well. It will be a nice two or three day hiatus there in the beginning of the year to get everybody on the same page. I’m very excited about this project. I will sell the book from my website and we will become millionaires! I bet I can even sell it to Teacher’s Discovery. Send it to me the moment it is done and I will take care of the rest. Please appropriate
            any and all ideas from old posts here on the topic of how people learn languages. Search in the Admin/Parent/Teachers category and in the Primers and in so many other categories – there are so many that address this topic! Make them mini-lectures but have like 100 of them so we make more money. I would help you write it but I have a new book I’m working on that I am really excited about.

  12. Nathaniel Hardt

    Alisa,
    I was working with Modern Greek a few years ago. A few of my Spanish students (grade 12) wanted to learn a bit in preparation for a trip to Greece. I did not write anything that I said for several sessions. Instead, they wrote down their own versions of what the words sounded like. There pronunciation was pretty good. When I started writing the Greek spellings they were able to make the transfers. (The problem once we got there was to discover that the majority of signs were all caps and we had been working with lower case.) I am not sure if this would work with young children, but I was surprised by how well it worked as a transitional approach.

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