THE WORD ‘purple’ turns out to be a problem. For two years, I’ve watched as students from just about every language group struggle to pronounce it.
I have the same problem with the name of the actor David Oyelowo.*
We have a male student now. I work in a class for students who require child care. We use the facilities of a local Baptist Church. They’ve made several rooms available to us – 3 child care rooms and 2 classrooms. But because we are specifically set up for parents needing child care, our class tends to be full of mothers. Now, however, we have a dad. His wife used to be in the class, but she was successful in finding work and since he now needs child care to come to English class, he’s joined us. Before this, he was in a class a block away where there are no child care facilities. You probably didn’t need to know all that. I mention it to say that we don’t often have a man in the class as a student. We do have a male tutor 2 days a week, which is especially helpful for students who are not accustomed to speaking with men outside their families or may not have been encouraged by men to learn. This is all beside the point.
It was our new male student who stumbled over the word ‘purple’ several times yesterday, then declared:
“Oh! This word ‘purple’ is like the word…….”. He couldn’t say the word he was thinking of, so he wrote it out, a mix of caps and lower case: J-e-w-e-L-r-y!
The word ‘purple’ is like ‘jewelry’? Nobody had ever suggested this before. I thought about it all the way home. Is it that it doesn’t sound the way it’s spelled or that there are too many consonants for the tongue to trip over? I don’t know. I’ve been saying the word since before I knew how to spell it, so it comes naturally to me.
But this morning I saw a clip with David Oyelowo and it started to make sense to me. Maybe ‘Oyelowo’ is like the word ‘jewelry.’ I struggle to get all the vowels and consonants and syllables to fall into place when I try to say it.
There’s seemingly no end to the number of things I don’t know about English. I’m learning daily.
*(pronounced – “oh-yellow-oh”)