July 19, 2005

Learning to Read...

So apparently in teaching little kids to read, it's considered a big step to get them to the point where they know just how to hold a book, and turn the pages, and follow the words along from left to right, and pretend they're reading a book they've actually memorized. Even if they can't pronounce a single word, or understand any of what's printed on the page, these pre-readers have made an important step in acquiring literacy skills.

Today I sat down with a copy of The Little Prince in Arabic. (I figured this might be about my appropriate reading level.) I started to read the front cover, which had an unusual number of words for the front cover of a book. But with the help of my dictionary, and a good deal of time, I figured out that it said something about "one of the most beloved characters in children's literature, now available in Arabic..." etc. Which I thought was a strange title, but oh well. I turned the page and began. I was able to pronounce the words, and a few were familiar, but I was not getting any sense of the story. In fact, I was completely confused.

At some point, I noticed that the page numbers were going down rather than up, and realized my mistake. In Semitic languages the text reads from right to left, and the spine of the book should be in your right hand as you read beginning with what, to an English-speaker, looks like the back of the book. So I had actually tried to read The Little Prince beginning with the back cover, then page 88, 87, etc!

Anyway, after studying Arabic for a year, today I graduated to the level of "pre-reader." This might seem basic, but all of the (more complicated) texts I'd been introduced to before had been reprinted in Western books, or on photocopied sheets. This is my very first actual book. Hopefully it will be a good story!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess that made you anti-semitic! :)


July 22, 2005  
Anonymous Ebie said...

The Little Prince! I also read it for the first time when I was in Africa, though I read the English translation. Tunisia is where the pilot has crashlanded to start the journey, no? You may or may not share my surprise that this great book is only recently being printed in Arabic. It would be interesting to find out why that is.

August 10, 2005  

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