Heinemann IGCSE English – How Parents Could Use This Book
English is important for us, not because it is a school subject, but because we use it to communicate all manner of things. The way we use English is critical because if we fail to use it well our knowledge and understanding of anything is hidden and we are far less useful to other people as a result.
Some teachers have become reluctant to make demands of students. Most of the grammar I learnt at school was taught by my French and Spanish teachers rather than my English teacher. We already have a built-in knowledge of the grammar of our own language – without this we could not string words together – but sometimes it is helpful to have these things explained.
Young people do not like to be told just to get on with things or to simply do what is expected of them. If you can help them to see why certain things are important and if they can understand why things have to be done in certain ways, they are more likely to accept them as part of the discipline of adult life, rather than as something imposed by awkward adults.
Key ideas about learning to use English well
When we speak to one another confusion and misunderstanding are easily cleared up – “What do you mean?” “When did you say you would get here?” “I didn’t quite catch the last bit.”
When we read something we are usually unable to do this. If the writing is not clear then the writer has failed. Writing is very powerful; it can endure and it can reach far more people economically – we can read material three or four times faster than someone can speak intelligibly.
Reading what other people have written is important. Just as we need to listen to other people’s words thousands and thousands of times when we are learning to speak, so we need to read a lot to learn to write well.
Spoken English comes before written English. Hearing what we have written read aloud is one of the best ways of checking written English and we need to overcome our natural embarrassment to do this.
Planning is an important part of writing anything substantial – as is thinking about the effect of our words. In conversation we watch the reactions of the other person; when we write we have to anticipate them.
If you don’t bother to write carefully your reader will struggle to understand you. It is much, much easier for you to bother because you should know what is to be communicated. Your reader will not know and will be entitled to give up if you make it a struggle for them.
Key Pages in Heinemann IGCSE English which help with these ideas
18-19 Reading, writing, the importance of literacy
26-27 Why bother with punctuation
62 Placing words in a sentence
119 Thinking outside the (teenage) box
129 Concepts, words and pictures
177 Pointers to the future