Chinese is an important exception, as the Chinese characters do not necessarily give any hint as to the pronunciation of the word.!

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1 What is writing? Roman&and&other&scripts& Writing can be defined as a way of recording language by making marks or symbols on a surface so that the message can be recalled later even without the presence of the writer. How this message is recorded differs between languages. Most writing systems use symbols to represent the sounds of the language being recorded. If you know the sound-symbol relationships, then you can read the message (although you may not understand it). Chinese is an important exception, as the Chinese characters do not necessarily give any hint as to the pronunciation of the word. Some scripts, such as Roman or Arabic ones, are used by more than one language; other languages, such as Georgian, have their own unique script. Many languages do not have a system for recording the spoken word at all. Task Read about the different writing systems here, and consider how they would affect learners learning to read and write in English. British Council

2 Roman&and&other&scripts& Alphabet-based scripts The Roman script English uses the Roman script for writing. It is an alphabet-based system, where letters are used to represent vowel and consonant sounds in a language. There are 52 letters in the Roman alphabet (26 upper case and 26 lower case letters), but some languages have introduced additional letters, such as ß in German or ı in Turkish. Marks, such as dots, lines or dashes, may be added to letters, for example, Ë, ğ, ȼ đ. These marks are called diacritics or diacritic symbols and are used to show vowel length, pronunciation or stress, or to distinguish between homophones. It is important to remember that the Roman script is used to represent different sounds in different languages. Some languages, such as Turkish or Spanish, are very regular (letters and letter combinations always represent the same sound), whereas others, such as English have a great degree of irregularity. The Cyrillic script Алло Cyrillic is the form of alphabet used to write Russian. It is used by over 50 different languages, mainly in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Some use additional letters including those taken from the Roman and Greek alphabets. Other alphabet-based languages include Georgian - გამარჯობა, Greek Γεια σας Korean 안녕하세요. Consonant alphabets - Arabic "#$% Arabic is an abjad, or consonant-based writing system, which differs from an alphabet-based system, because the letters only represent consonant sounds. British Council

3 Roman&and&other&scripts& Vowels are shown by using diacritic marks. These diacritic marks are always used in religious texts and learning materials, but are often omitted in everyday writing. Where diacritic marks are omitted, the meaning of words needs to be understood from the context. Arabic is written from right to left. However, Arabic numbers are written from left to right. Arabic does not distinguish between upper and lower case letters. There are, however, four forms of most Arabic letters depending on whether they connect to other letters in the word and, if so, whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of the word. Some letters are similar in all four forms, but others are very different. Languages that use the Arabic script include Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Kurdish and Urdu. Syllabic scripts Devanagari Devanagari is the script which is used to write Hindi. Devanagari, like many other South-East Asian scripts, such as Bengali and Gujarati, is an example of a syllablebased writing system. With a syllable-based writing system the symbols represent syllables, not individual letters. The syllables are built up of consonants with an inherent vowel attached. These vowels can be changed or omitted by using diacritic symbols. There are also separate vowel letters for the beginning of vowels or standalone vowels. Hindi is written from left to right and has a horizontal line running along the tops of the letters to link them together. There are spaces between words. There is no distinction between upper and lower case letters. Devanagari is also used to write Marathi, and Nepali. Thai Thai is another example of a syllabic writing system. Thai is written from left to right. There are no spaces between words in Thai. Spaces in a Thai text indicate the end of a clause or sentence. British Council

4 Roman&and&other&scripts& Logographic - Chinese Chinese is sometimes called a logographic script. It uses characters that represent both sound and meaning. There are different kinds of Chinese characters; The oldest Chinese characters are known as pictographs and developed from drawings that resembled the real life objects they represented. They give no hint as to the pronunciation of the world. Ideographs are characters that represent relatively abstract ideas, usually by combining different pictographs. They do not show how to pronounce the word. Compound characters most Chinese characters are compound characters with a character which represents the meaning and another character which shows its pronunciation. Characters are also sometimes used solely for their phonetic value to transcribe foreign words into Chinese. If you would like to find out more about different languages and their writing systems a good starting point is the omniglot website at: This website also has further information and articles about a range of different languages. British Council

5 Roman&and&other&scripts& Implications for teaching ESOL beginners Beginners who are familiar with Roman script Learners who can already write (and read) in a language that uses the Roman alphabet will find it easier to learn to read and write in English than those who are not familiar with the Roman alphabet. They know: That different letters (or combinations of letters) represent different sounds and these letters are put together to form words. How to correctly form and join up the letters of the alphabet, although some differences in handwriting practices may exist. That there are upper case (capitals) and lower case letters, although usage may vary across languages. Although learners may be familiar with the Roman script, first language interference may make learning to read in English confusing. They need to learn that: The same letter symbols in English and their own language may represent different sounds. English has many irregular spellings and silent letters and that the spellings do not always accurately represent the pronunciation Some letters or letter patterns can represent different sounds. For example the /k/ sound in cat, king, Christmas, back, Iraq or /s/ sound in cinema and sofa. The same letter or letter combinations can represent different sounds, such as boot and book. ESOL beginners who are already literate in a Roman script language do not generally face the same barriers to learning to read and write as learners who are not familiar with the Roman alphabet. They can already decode the alphabet and usually make much faster progress, especially in reading. The English My way programme is not recommended for this group of learners. Beginners who are familiar with a non-roman script Learners who are literate in a different script will bring some transferable skills to the ESOL classroom. They know that writing is used to record ideas They are aware that different symbols represent different sounds and these letters can be put together to form words, sentences and texts. (This may not be the case with Chinese learners). They have experience of writing so will have fine motor skills. British Council

6 Roman&and&other&scripts& Beginner learners who are unfamiliar with the Roman script may find learning to write (and read) in English challenging: They need to learn and memorise how to correctly form letters of the alphabet They need to know that English is written from left to right They need to learn the relationship (and often lack of relationship) between the letters and the sounds they represent Arabic learners may miss out vowels, as they are generally not written in Arabic. Beginner learners who are not yet literate in any language Beginner learners who are not yet literate in any language face significant barriers to learning to read and write in English and will need a lot of support from you to develop the confidence and skills to learn to read and write. They may lack the fine motor skills involved in writing. They will need to learn and memorise how to correctly form the letters of the alphabet and key words such as their own name. They may lack knowledge of texts such as forms, but also maps and timetables. They cannot make notes in their own language to remind them how to pronounce an English word or what it means. They lack classroom experience and may find it difficult to stay focused for longer periods of time, especially considering the effort and concentration they need, even to just copy words. The English My Way programme has been specifically developed for learners who are not literate in the Roman alphabet and contains lots of activities and teaching ideas to help learners develop basic literacy skills. British Council

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