C is playing football this week. I guess there is a match at a nearby school and they are practicing this week. Then, if they get selected for the team, she will get to play in the match on Sunday. I think it is on Sunday. Anyway, she has had practice every day this week.

Yesterday, I forgot my laptop charger at school. I don’t usually bring it, so then at the end of the day, it was not on the mental checklist when I left. I came back to school and they were out on the field practicing. I got the charger and came down to the football ground again to see what they were doing. The boys were playing, but the girls were watching.

I called C over to me. I have decided that given everything she is juggling, pushing her to meet with me every day for math lessons causes her more stress than it is worth and instead I can try to teach her 10 minutes a day at least something that I think will help her. If she can make a longer lesson, that’s always good, but 10 minutes a day will be something at least. Anyway, she hadn’t come in the day to see me, so I called her to me.

She didn’t want me to teach her. The sports coach would get angry she isn’t watching the game. I looked down at the football ground below us. “C, she isn’t even looking at you. She’s looking at the boys play.” So C relented.

I taught her English vowels. Many Country X-ers cannot say English vowels at all. When I listen to them speak, I listen for consonants and try to guess what something like d__n__t could be. It might be donut. It could be do not. It might even be damn it. Context is important. If you cannot make sounds, you usually cannot hear them either. Then maybe listening to the sounds is too demanding to also give attention to grammar and meaning. I don’t know. But I think better articulation will help her. It can also be done in bits, unlike the Pythagorean theorem, which is composed of many separate skills and concepts that need to be put together.

C cannot make one of the English vowel sounds at all. She cannot make the short A sound. When she tries it, she makes short U. She managed to make the sound maybe 3 times, but it’s really difficult for her. In actual words, she says short A, long A, and short E all the same. It creates a huge number of homophones for her. Leg is going to sound to her like lag. Pain sounds like pen and also pan. Pent sounds like pant and paint. You can’t learn a language when a third of the words sound the same. After 10 minutes or so, she started to be able to hear the difference in the sounds, but making them was still hard.

So we did that. And then I taught her about the stress in words, and she was good at that. She could do that, and she could hear it.

Speech is intensely personal. I was watching her mouth as she spoke. I kept telling her to look at mine. There was a moment when I was looking directly at her and our eyes met as she tried to make the sound. There was something special about that gaze, about the depth of it, although she was just trying to make sounds. It reminded me of looking at a baby. I don’t know how to explain it, just the sense of bonding that came through, and the strength of the bond I felt developing at that moment.