Anyone Can Read Now
The extent and seriousness of English functional illiteracy exceeds your worst NIGHTMARE,
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6. The Solution in a Nutshell
Dr. Frank C. Laubach is perhaps the world's greatest authority on teaching people to read. He went all around the world teaching illiterate adults to read in more than 300 languages. He wrote primers for 313 different languages and even invented a spelling system for more than 220 national or tribal groupings that had no written language.
Dr. Laubach found that in 95 percent of the languages in which he taught, the spelling was almost perfectly phonemic (words were spelled the way they sounded). In those languages, he could teach adults to read fluently in from one to twenty days. In some of the simpler languages, such as one or more dialects of the Philippine language, he could teach adults to read fluently in only one hour!
Dr. Laubach found that in 98 percent of the languages in which he taught, other than English, he could teach illiterate adults to read fluently in less than three months. All of the above facts are detailed in Dr. Laubach's books, Teaching the World to Read and Forty Years With the Silent Billion.
Of greatest importance is Dr. Laubach's quote from page 48 of his book, Forty Years With the Silent Billion: "If we spelled English phonetically, American children could be taught to read in a week." This may be somewhat optimistic, but it would be a serious mistake to overlook the experience and advice of the person who perhaps taught more illiterates — in more languages — to read than anyone else in history.
Further confirmation of Dr. Laubach's findings are given by comparison to the amazing findings of Dr. Rudolph Flesch. He stated on pages 167-168 of his 1981 book, Why Johnny Still Can't Read, that Russian schoolchildren are taught to read 46 of the 130 national languages of Russia — in first grade! There is no reading instruction, as such, after first grade.
"The need for a common auxiliary language for the whole world has become more urgent every year in the course of the present century.... For a number of reasons English is undoubtedly the living language that is most suitable to fill this important role. For one thing, English is, though native speakers may perhaps find it hard to believe, a comparatively easy language to learn for foreigners at least as far as the everyday spoken and written forms of it are concerned. This is mainly due to its grammatical structure, which is far simpler than those of most other important languages, particularly so in comparison with French, German, Russian, or Spanish. We need only mention such advantages as:
1. The absence of inflection for gender, case and number in the articles....
Sir James Pitman states, "No other major language possesses such a simple grammar and syntax or combines the following advantages:
1. ...[T]here are no arbitrary genders (except in such rare instances as referring to a ship or a machine as 'she')
This shows that the shorter learning time in other languages is NOT a result of English being a difficult language to learn. The grammar and syntax of English is neither the easiest nor the most difficult to learn. It is easier, for example, than many European languages, and most of the students of European languages learn to read in less than three months. More than 1.3 billion people around the world speak English, either as a native or as second-language, but an estimated number of at least 500 million of them cannot read English very well or at all. There are more than 93 million adults in the U.S. alone who are very poor readers.
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