Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rationale of the Project

Dear all, 

 Happy to share my thoughts on this project with you.

 The English language as we all know is born heterogeneous. The earliest combinations of Angles, Saxon and Celtic gradually expanded with the French, Latin and most other European languages over the centuries. When a word enters the English language, it is accepted with all its baggage – spelling, pronunciation, grammatical class, forms and meaning.
Hence, the plural of foot is feet while that of boot is boots. The former is of German origin, while the latter is of French origin. Nouns and Verbs of German origin change the vowel in the plurals and past tense forms respectively, while those of French origin add , -s and -ed respectively. This explains the discrepancies in the grammatical forms, causing unending confusion in the minds of the users. Interestingly, this chaotic structure of the language is in complete contrast to the structure of Indian languages which have full inflexions. For instance, in Tamil, the first person singular tense endings are a constant – நான் வருவேன் நீ வருவாய், We will never say – நான் வருவாய். Unlike in English where we say I come, you come, we come, the girls come, they come etc. The change happens only for third person singular nouns or pronouns he/ she/ it. This leads to a number of inconsistencies and we have seen just one. 

Therefore, it is imperative on our part to understand and accept that the problem is not with the learner but with the language. Let’s look at another problem that is most relevant to us in the current scenario. The phonological structure of Indian languages are scientific and hence logical. The vowels, அ ஆ are back with lips open, இ ஈ are front with lips spread, உ ஊ are back with lips rounded, எ ஏ are central with lips neutral, while ஐ ஒ ஓ ஔ are the diphthongs. Similarly, க் ங் are the back most consonants, beyond which we cannot produce speech sounds in Tamil, ச் ஞ் slightly ahead, ட் ண் centre of the mouth, த் ந் teeth ridge and ப் ம் the foremost consonants produced at the two lips. All these are arranged as oral and nasal pairs. ய் ர் ல் வ் ள்: ழ் ற் ன் are the single or unpaired consonants with a similar back to front positions. Vowels and consonants combine to form syllables ( உயிர்மெய்) and each syllable has a separate symbol. Besides, the phonological structure is highly logical with perfect spelling- pronunciation coordination. Thus the structure is absolutely clear. This is true of all Indian languages. Such languages are termed syllabic languages. When children learn such a highly logical language, the language acquisition device, that is innate in every one of us, is activated to internalise the logic of the language. 

 On the other hand, English letters - abcd…z have no logic at all, though they do make immense sense in the parent Latin from which these letters are borrowed. As stated earlier, the English language has borrowed the letters of the Latin alphabet with their pronunciation. But English is of Germanic origin with sounds from German the Scandinavian and Dutch languages. Accordingly, there are several sounds that do not have a symbol representation, ensuing in complete estrangement of spelling and pronunciation. Consequently, a single letter can have multiple sounds, as in chart, case, can, accord, (the letter a) while a single sound can have multiple spelling representations as in passion, appreciate, nation, sure, schedule, shell (the sound ‘sh’). This means, the learners will find it very difficult to internalise a logic that will be uniformly applicable in the language. We are hence, caught in a situation to bridge this gap between their mother tongue (highly logical) and English (anything but logical). Striking a middle ground is both inevitable and indispensable. 

 It is in this context that the phonic methods come in handy. Phonology is the study of sounds, phonemics or phonetics is the study of sounds in a particular language and Phonics is the narrowing of gap between letters and pronunciation. The 7 letter- sound groups with 42 letters in all, Jolly Phonics does not correspond to the traditional alphabet sequence– abcd…z but presents a sequence following a different logical order. It begins with the natural sounds that we hear around us in the animal world, moves to sounds made by humans and then sounds unique to English. It is a fun and child centred approach that integrates language learning with physical actions. This multi-sensory method synergises both hemispheres of the brain. Language logic is essentially a right brain activity while physical movement is a left brain activity. That is, the respective hemispheres of the brain control these activities. Thus by producing sound- sound combination – words , the right brain is activated and by integrating hand signs, the left brain is simultaneously activated. This is called whole brain learning that enables learners to synergise both halves of the brain for holistic learning. 

The letter sounds are split into seven groups as shown below. The five skills taught in Jolly Phonics 1.Learning the letter sounds 
2.Learning letter formation 
3.Blending ( to blend the sounds together ). 
4.Identifying the sounds in words (Segmenting) 
5.Tricky words that have irregular spellings 

 Therefore the first thumb rule is to adhere to the sounds and letters and given in the schedule along with the jingles and NOT deviate even a single step, as this methodology brings the learner closest to anything logical in English. If the sequence is disturbed by introducing something new, the learner’s acquisition competence gets weakened. 

 The second rule is that learners have to be given their time to learn. Teachers may take care that they do not hurry with the learning content simply to keep up with the schedule. Each learner varies in the pace of their learning and so must be given their time and space to do so with ease. I do sincerely hope that the above stated reasons for difficulty in learning English, the problems with the language and the rationale behind this methodology are amply clear. I would be happy to clear any doubts should you need them.
 I wish you all a thoroughly enjoyable teaching – learning experience.

 Together we can make a difference to the new generation of learners. 
 Thank you and best wishes to all! 
 Dr Sumathi Shivakumar​ (Chairperson, ELCOM) 
Asst. Professor of English, A.M.Jain College, Chennai


  1. Thank you mam.when I heard the lecture my intention is my fellow teachers should have the benefit of hearing the same.thanks and my mind says we have selected the right person for the right job with respects and regards TSG tamilnadu

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I come to know about the logical sequence of tamil alphabet learning mam clear idea about the sequence of jolly phonics given by you gives us confidence that If we follow the strategy without any loophole then a student will thoroughly learn the sounds and articulate correctly.

    1. Yes! The key is to adhere to the sounds and not deviate from the set path.

  4. Respected Madam,
    Warm greetings,
    Really the importance of the project is perceived in the perfect way after going through your valuable rationale. I hope the path is clear and our success is assured.Thank you mam..

  5. Though I have been teaching the language for few years I have never thought of the rationale part of it. Your blog makes it clear that learning English language is to be methodical. An eye opener to me. Thanks and proud to be associated with you madam.

    1. Absolutely a pleasure to share with as many people as possible, whatever I know, however little that may be!