Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A is for Analfabetismo

Well, my friend at has decided to the A to Z blog challenge, and it sounds like fun. I'm enjoying reading what she has to say! Therefore, I decided to do it too! Not officially though, because the page where people are supposed to sign up has long scripts and won't load on the laptop. Also I might be too late, as it started on April 1st. I figure that it's not likely that anyone will actually read this, but that's okay because I will! I am going to base the blog around one Spanish word a day. So when 30 days are up, you will have 30 new words in your vocabulary which I am sure will be very useful to you! So, today is A for Analfabetismo. Do you know what that means? Alfabet is close to alphabet, so maybe it has something to do with letters? Good guess. It means illiteracy. Living in westernized Canadian towns, it may not be something that many people even think about. We may just assume that everyone can read- even if it's not a conscious thing. At a restaurant you'd ask people what they want off of the menu, without even considering that they might not be able to read it. People hand out brochures, business cards, etc. to everyone they see, never thinking that to some of their market it could be incomprehensible.

Having lived in a city in the developing world where much of the population is illiterate, I can tell you that generally the educated class there does the same thing. It works for the most part, because many people are trying to sell things to people who have money- which for the most part is not the illiterate population. I do know a man who owns a multi million dollar buisness and cannot read or write more than his own signature. He has trusted employees who read things for him. Life seems to be quite swell for him. But, generally speaking, the inability to read and write is a huge disadvantage when it comes to employment which pays a decent wage (like more than $100 a month). The biggest problem is the rich, educated class' opinion of the generally poorer and less educated- they think it's their fault and often see them almost like a different species. That way, they don't have to try to help them or feel anything constructive about thsi issue. It's quite disgusting. Actually, in some cases people have chosen to continue to be illiterate, because they like their lifestyles or because they are used to them and do not see education as a worthwhile endeavor. But, other people strive to better themselves and it's very inspiring. Have you ever tried to teach a 16 year old girl to read (in your second language)? I have, and it's quite an experience, out of which I think I learned more than she did. Another challenge people face is embarrassment. It's hard to go back to school knowing you will be in a class with people half your age- and still harder to be motivated to stay. Obviously the best thing to do is put young children into school as soon as possible, but what about those people who are already teenagers and adults? How can we convince them to go to school or learn to read and write? I don't think we can. It has to come from them. How do we convince parents to send their children to school rather than collect an income from their work? I think that people have to see that it will be useful to them, worth the sacrifice of lost income due to taking time to study, and valuable enough to make up for lost free time. Have you ever tried convincing a teenager with a grade 1 education that going back to school and training to be a nurse (her desired occupation when asked) would be beneficial and economically profitable in the long run? What about convicing her mother? If you figure out how to do so successfully, you will be able to solve a big problem. How do you inspire a girl to get educated when all of her role models- all of the women she knows- are exactly the same as she is and as far as she can see, they are fine?! How can you get somebody to think about their future when they only tend to think about their future as a week or two from now? Is illiteracy even a problem, when a lot of the people who are illiterate are quite content with their lives? Shouldn't we just focus on the people who actually want to be literate and allow the rest to enjoy their existance as they have chosen?

It's not so different from us really, people stick with what works for them. We are a habitual species and we like our routines.

This image is not mine. It is from Check them out if you want!

This sign says, "Please don't go past this point. If you can't read, ask at the ticket office. Thanks."


Susan Taylor said...

Very interesting post! I've been involved in several experiences working with adults who want to learn to read and write or to speak English as a second language. Excellent question about how to motivate young women whose only role models are all illiterate. (I loved the sign you posted.) SiouxsiesMusings

Loca4crafts said...

I have taught English to Speakers of Other Languages(TESOL). At one point I had a student from Iran who was in his sixties and illiterate in his native language. It is very difficult to learn a new language if you are illiterate in your native language, but he was motivated.

By the way, I love the sign. I have always thought these types of signs are ridiculous, like on planes, the safety card tels you to ask a stewardess if you can't read the information!

Marie said...

Great A to Z topic, and an interesting word.