Monday, 9 July 2012

Spelling Test

Kipling leading a community discussion on spelling choices
Writing practice
The community outhouse
Our outhouse
Goodenough Island

During spelling tests in school did you ever want to object to the correct spelling with an alternative that made more sense? English spelling is inconsistent and frustrating and our chances of ever streamlining it, when there are so many dialect variations, are slim.

Not so in Anuki. This people group is small enough for the community to gather and review their alphabet and spelling choices. The corpus of literature is small enough that changes can still easily be applied. It is possible to walk the length of the people group and back in a day. In fact, many school students do almost that to get to school and home each day.

A few weeks ago a colleague and I visited the Anuki to lead an alphabet review workshop. In 2000 they had their initial alphabet and writers workshop, where they made orthographic choices. Our job this time was to help the community test their spelling by reflecting on their choices and discussing any problem areas they had with their alphabet. Maybe a four day spelling test sounds like a chore to some, but we had a lot of fun.
Each day Tuula lead a number of literacy games. These were designed to help get people thinking about words, sounds and syllables. Each day we also had spelling tests. After each word was read out, we collected all the alternatives for spelling, wrote them on the board and the community decided which one best represented their language. Some decisions were made and then remade as more words with the same sound came up or a better understanding of syllables developed. Another feature of the workshop was practicing writing and reading stories. Although we could not understand the stories, there were clearly some good writers, based on the responses of the listeners.

Trips like this are tiring as we are in the public eye the whole time. In such strongly communal cultures to leave us alone would be very unhospitable. We often went to bed early, and then read by torchlight, as our only quiet in the day. Although workshops ran all day and the trip was tiring, there were also many beautiful and relaxing moments. We ran the workshop in view and hearing of the beach. Across the bay we could see Goodenough Is appearing from the clouds on occasions. The hospitality of the community meant a new wash house and a new out house had been built just for us.  The Anuki proved themselves very good hunters and we feasted with the community. When we had a free day at the end of our stay we walked to a neighbouring village, coming home via mangroves and beach. All in all a very fun way to hold a spelling test!

1 comment:

  1. What a great adventure. One day there will be grandparents telling their children of the time when some Aussie women came to their village to help them create their own dictionary. It is the stuff of myth and legend as the story will be told over and over.