by Ranjith C. Perera
Some years back while serving as an Instructor in English at a Vocational Training Centre in a Middle-East Country, I encountered an experience perhaps unique to a Teacher of English.
My students although they were adults and in their late teens, were quite unfamiliar with the English Language and its usage and could read with extreme difficulty.
One day a student read out from the Supplementary Reader – “My mother took the Knife (he pronounced the “K” and said kanife” I explained to him and the class that “K” was silent and that the word should be pronounced – “nife” as if the “K” was non-existent. The student was flabbergasted and blurted out the obvious logical protest. “But Sir, if you don’t tell (pronounce) the “K”, why write it ? to which I had no explanation. “That’s the way the language is ____” I wriggled out of this uneasy situation, and it was accepted more out of respect for the teacher than its plausibility.
He continued to read “My mother took the knife (pronounced correctly this time) and went to the – itchen”. He did not pronounce the “K”. I interrupted him again to say, “Now in the word ‘ Kitchen’, you must pronounce the letter “K” . It is not silent there”
There was a chorus of protests and indignation, and when calm was restored in the class my student pleadingly asked me- “This is a big problem Sir, when we read a sentence how we know what “K” to read, and what “K” not reading ?.