Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.1. Use reading and/or viewing strategies

ryanrori January 24, 2021

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Reading strategies are tools that assist a reader in unlocking the meaning behind the printed word. These strategies can be helpful before, during and after the actual reading event. The same basic strategies that can be used by beginning readers are equally helpful to advanced readers. 

Some of the strategies we will be learning about are:

  • Identifying unfamiliar words
  • Understanding ambiguous words
  • Separating main ideas from supporting detail

Identify unfamiliar words

Have you ever started reading a book or an article and found that half the words have no meaning to you; you have difficulty in understanding them, let alone pronouncing them?

So, maybe the first question that we must ask ourselves is why do we need to understand and use the information that we are reading in the workplace?

The answers to this question are as follows:

  • To understand instructions
  • To understand complex reports
  • To understand the language in certain work-related documents
  • To analyse information in business documents, such as reports.

So, let’s now look at the types of documents that you might come across in your workplace:

  • E-mails
  • Reports
  • Memoranda
  • Letters
  • Agendas
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Accounts
  • Diaries
  • Magazine articles or work-related newsletters
  • Annual financial reports.

Naturally there will be times that you will come across words that are confusing or unfamiliar when you are reading. Apart from looking words up in the Dictionary, there are other ways of finding the meaning of these words.

You could try breaking the word down into understandable words; this is known as a “decoding skill”. Decoding is when your brain changes difficult words into easy, understandable words. Decoding skills are also known as ‘word-attack’ skills. It is called ‘word-attack’ because you apply different strategies until you have “conquered” the word.

You can decode the meaning of an unfamiliar word by:

  • Looking at the word structure
  • Using your prior knowledge
  • Looking for clues in the context where the word is used.

Let’s look at these in more detail:

Sometimes the meaning of a word can be understood by examining the word structure and breaking the word down into two or three parts:

  • Prefix This is a letter, syllable or word that is placed at the beginning of a word to change its meaning. As an example, let’s take the word DISCOMFORT. You will recognise the word COMFORT, so the DIS is the prefix. This way you have split the word into two parts. Now, look up DIS in the Dictionary. The Dictionary gives you several meanings – the meaning of DIS changes according to the word used. 

So, Comfort means your body is at ease – the DIS in Discomfort changes the meaning to “your body is not at ease” 

Try doing the same with the following words: Write down the ROOT word.

  • Suffix: This is a letter, syllable or word placed at the end of a word that can also change the way the word is used in a sentence. For instance: arrangement, comfortable, understanding. Can you identify the suffix for each of these? Let’s try the first one: Arrangement: We can identify the word Arrange – so the suffix is MENT. “Arrange” is a doing word – You ‘arrange’ the tables and chairs in a room. The MENT then makes the word a noun – The arrangement of the tables and chairs suited the purpose of the event.
  • Root: In each of the above, we identified the root word. This was the original word that we recognised; for instance ARRANGEment and disCOMFORT.
  • Prior Knowledge: The other way of identifying the meaning of a word is by asking yourself questions, such as:
    • Do I know this word?
    • Can I pronounce it?
    • What do I think about when I see this word?
    • Where have I heard this word before?

Have a look at the following words and see if you can identify their meanings:

Trek: move or journey – taken from Afrikaans

Yebo: Yes – Taken from Zulu meaning Yes.

Koppie: Hill – Taken from Afrikaans

Breyani: A meat and rice dish – taken from Indian.

Samoosa: Savoury/spiced mince in pastry that is shaped in a triangle – taken from Indian.

These are all familiar words to you probably as you would use them in normal conversation with friends and family, but they are not originally English, they are borrowed from some of the languages used in South Africa. Others that you would recognise that are typically South African are: Springbok, Wildebeest, Boerewors and Veld.

  • Contextual Clues: When you are reading a report or even a book, you may find a word that is not familiar to you and you do not know what it means. You may be able to identify its meaning by reading other words and sentences that surround the unknown word that give you clues to its meaning. These clues are known as Contextual clues. In the following sentence, “My absent-minded teacher loses his keys, his book and his chalk almost every day!” We can infer that absent-minded means his mind is not present when he loses things on a regular basis; in other words, the context reveals that he is forgetful or preoccupied with other things.
  • Complex Terms: Complex terms refer to words that have been created by adding complete words together, rather than just adding a prefix or suffix. These words are also known as compound words; for example, farmhouse, father-in-law, fingerprint, etc.
  • Understanding Acronyms

These words are formed from the first letter of each word in a title or phrase; such as AIDS – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or SPCA – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Try a couple of these:

  • ESKOM – Electricity Supply Commission
  • COSATU – Congress of South African Trade Unions
  • SABC – South African Broadcasting Corporation
  • asap – as soon as possible
  • NUMSA – National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa
  • Understanding Neologisms

Neologisms are newly invented words or existing words with new definitions. Especially in the computer industry, e.g. e-mail, etc.

Occasionally, new terms have to be coined for new situations, inventions, items, etc.  A good example is cell phones:  The equivalents in other languages are: selfoon, iselula; selula founo; selula founu.  

Another example is: Unleaded petrol its equivalent being ongelode petrol.

To help you identify neologisms, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it a noun, verb or adjective? (use your skills to identify word structure)

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, or thing

A verb is a ‘doing’ or action word

An adjective describes a noun

  • Does it have a prefix?

Note: We have already learned that a prefix is a syllable or word put at the beginning of the word to modify the meaning, e.g. rearrange, discomfort, misunderstanding.

  • Does this prefix have a meaning?
  • Can you identify other word(s) from which the neologism is derived? For example, if we look at the neologism microwave we identify the words micro and wave. 
  • Understanding Colloquialisms

Colloquialisms are words that relate to, or are used in common or familiar conversations. This is the type of language you would use with your friends and not in an office or with your employer. Some are also specific to the country in which one lives. The Oxford English Dictionary says the following: Words or phrases used in normal conversation but not formal speech or writing.

Here are some examples of colloquialisms found in South Africa:

  • We had a lekker jol last night. (good/excellent party, good time)
  • Howzit going? (hello, how are you)
  • I am really gatvol. (I have really had enough)
  • Ag no man. (expressing discontent)
  • Aita bra. (greetings to you my brother)
  • Understanding Slang

Slang is related to colloquialisms and refers to informal words or phrases that are used by specific groups of people. It is usually related to teenagers, although it can also be used by older or younger speakers. Slang is not long-lasting and ranges, in most cases, from months to a few years. You would not use slang at work when speaking to your employer or some of your work colleagues. 

Examples of slang found in South Africa

  • Cool
  • Chick
  • Cherry
  • Understanding Jargon

Jargon refers to language, or special vocabulary used by specific groups, professions and cultures that is not understood or used by other people. For example, if you work in the manufacturing industry you will use words that people who work in the computer industry would not understand.

  • Understanding Dialect

Dialect: Dialect, also called an accent, refers to the way in which people from a particular region or particular social group speak. There are two types of dialect, regional and social.

There are different dialects of English. In Australia, the English dialect is different from the dialect spoken in New Zealand. Austrians who speak English as a second language have a unique variety of German accent.

The English spoken in Britain has different dialects. Standard British is commonly known as “the Queen’s English,” “Received Pronunciation” or “BBC Standard.” This is the more educated dialect of Southern England. 

Some English South African dialects resemble varieties of soft Australian or New Zealand dialects. 

In South Africa, there are different patterns of dialect. For example, isiZulu spoken in Hluhluwe is different from that spoken in Johannesburg.

Have a look at the following list of languages and patterns of dialects spoken in South Africa

  • Afrikaans: Cape Afrikaans (West Cape Afrikaans), Orange River Afrikaans: East Cape Afrikaans.
  • English: `Coloured’, Black, South African Indian, and Afrikaans English, White South African English (distinguishing between `Conservative’, `Respectable’, and `Extreme’ South African English).
  • Southern Sotho: Taung, Phuthi. Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, S, Sotho-Tswana, Sotho, Southern.
  • Swati: Baca, Hlubi, Phuthi. Classification: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, S, Nguni.
  • Tsonga: Luleke (Xiluleke), Gwamba (Gwapa), Changana, Hlave, Kande, N’walungu (Shingwalungu), Xonga, Jonga (Dzonga), Nkuma, Songa, Nhlanganu (Shihlanganu).
  • Tswana: Tawana, Hurutshe, Ngwaketse, Thlaro, Kwena, Ngwato, Tlokwa, Melete, Kgatla, Thlaping (Tlapi), Rolong.
  • Venda: Phani, Tavha-Tsindi. 
  • Xhosa: Gealeka, Ndlambe, Gaika (Ncqika), Thembu, Bomvana, Mpondomse (Mpondomisi), Mpondo, Xesibe.
  • Zulu: Lala, Qwabe.

Note the following South African language population percentages: 

Zulu is spoken by 22.4% of the population in South Africa; Xhosa by 17.5%; Afrikaans by 15%; English by 9.1%; Tswana by 7.2 %; Southern Sotho by 6.9%; Swati by 2.6%; Tsonga by 4.2% and Venda by 1.7%