I visited my "adopted" family for the fourth time today. Jamali has made excellent progress with his writing, I am happy to say. I had given him a tablet with lined paper and a chart of the printed alphabet, both capital and small letters, and told him to copy the alphabet on a sheet of the paper, each time I visit. He has done so, and I am amazed how much he has improved, in just two weeks. I wish I had a "before and after" to show you. He is slow with his reading, but I am optimistic, because he tries very hard.
One thing I have been reminded of, in my experience tutoring third-graders, is just how difficult and complicated English spelling is. It seems that for every rule, there are exceptions, and the only way you can dependably learn to read and spell is by memorizing. The letter "c" always makes Jamali hesitate. Who knows whether it is to be pronounced as "s", "k" or "ch"? How about "...ough" at the end of a word? Is it "uf" (as in tough) or "o" as in "though"? And don't get me started on the vowels!
But what I really want to talk about now, is my blunder in a conversation with Jamali's mother, Tunza, this morning. I had done a little research on Burundi, and saw that there are people of the Hutu and Tutsi tribes there. I asked Tunza if she and her family are from one of those tribes. She said yes, they are Hutus. I asked if the tribes are still fighting and she said yes. Then, like a big, thoughtless dumbbell (it just popped out), I asked if that's how her husband died. Tunza burst into tears, which she tried to hold back, and she looked so terribly distressed that I would have given anything to suck back my stupid question. I kept apologizing as she kept saying it's okay, until I was ready to run for the door. Fortunately, Jamali came back into the room then, and we were able to switch channels, back to reading.
So...I learned a lesson today that is as important as how to pronounce "antidisestablishmentarianism." And that is, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! I just hope I will pass the test, if one is given.