By Eyal Rav-Noy
© 2011, CAP IT, Inc.
Countless students of the Hebrew language have a hard time reading Hebrew. Their reading is not accurate, their fluency is low, and they are embarrassed to read in public.
How did a phonetic language like Hebrew become so difficult to learn? Should Hebrew not be mastered by everyone? After all, Hebrew is NOT like English — what you see is what you get with very few exceptions. So what is the problem? Why are so many children left behind, either dropping out or forced into months — sometimes years — of remedial help?
The answer in a nutshell is that most people are not taught Hebrew properly because their teachers almost always skipped a crucial step. This step IS addressed in our CAP IT! program, which explains its amazing success.
Before delving into the solution, let us review the problem, from a new angle. A child enters a Hebrew class and is taught that a “Bet” has a B sound (pronounced BUH). He is then shown a Bet, and he says B (BUH). The same process is repeated for the rest of the Hebrew letters and vowels. But for some reason, some children are unable to retain this information. Furthermore, when these children are shown the letter Bet WITH a vowel, or in combination with another letter (before or after), they are no longer able to recognize the Bet at all. Why?
The fact that there seems to be no logical reason for this confusion is a source of major frustration to many educators and parents. The solution to this frustration is THE MISSING LINK: the “Conceptual” level of human understanding, as we explain below.
All of human knowledge evolves through 3 stages:
Our senses are our first contact with the outside world, but they offer no knowledge; they do not function volitionaly, and their affects are not stored in our memory. It is our perceptual ability that is the base of our knowledge. Babies use their senses instinctively, but understand nothing. Over time, their senses get organized in the form of percepts, that means that they begin to recognize shapes, sounds, objects etc. It is this perceptual stage that is the base of knowledge, and it is in this level where memories are formed (i.e., a child will remember his mother and his bed).
A baby begins to use their perceptual understanding to make sense of the world and remember the objects they come in contact with. Everything they see, hear, touch, smell or taste is perceived, and then filed in their memory in its own special file. No two objects are grouped together, because every perception is perceived as a separate entity. For example: The child is aware of his bouncy chair he sat in for the first few months of his life; he then begins to recognize his high chair he is put into when it is time to eat solids; he notices that when guests come they sit on a sofa etc. But when the family takes a trip to the beach, the child does not recognize the beach chair. Why? Because he has never yet seen it. What is it that allows the child to finally realize that all of these, his bouncy chair, the high chair, the sofa, and the beach chair, are all just that: chairs? The answer to this question is the key to understanding the mind of a human being as opposed to that of an animal: one’s conceptual faculty.
The third stage of human development is the child’s conceptual stage. This is done when the child begins to notice similarities and differences between various objects (percepts). The child will begin to integrate various similar objects together. For example, the child realize that there is a similarity between all the objects people sit on. This is when the child forms his very first concept: chair. Later the child will learn the name of the object (chair). The child has now conceptualized the chair: he has realized that there is such a thing as a chair, and that this concept can take many shapes and forms. Once the child has realized this, he will always recognize a chair for what it is, whether he sees a rocking chair, a glider, or one at the dentist. A chair is a chair no matter where it is, what colors it has, what material it is made of, or its size.
This brings us to a logical conclusion. It is one’s conceptual faculty that allows him to recognize various percepts even though they don’t always look alike, or are not found in the same context or setting. A chair is a chair no matter where it is, what colors it has or material it is made of, or its size.
But the opposite is also true. If a child — who has never come into contact with a chair — is taught the word “chair” and is shown one type of chair, say, a bouncy chair, this child will not know that the word “chair” also refers to a high chair. This is because he has no conceptual understanding of a chair. To him the word chair is not a concept, but only a bouncy chair — a precept.
For a proper human understanding of reality, all percepts need to be conceptualized, and all concepts have to refer to actual percepts. For example: All chairs — bouncy chairs, high chairs, rocking chairs — are subsumed in the word Chair. And the word Chair refers to all chairs — be it bouncy chairs, high chairs or rocking chairs.
The above discussion has a profound affect on our understanding of the process of reading. Letters are concepts. So although they appear in different forms, fonts, colors, combinations and contexts, they are still the same letter (like our “chair” example above). But for a student to always recognize a letter, they need to understand that the letter IS a concept — a point they are never taught. Instead, they are taught that letters are percepts (like a child who thinks a chair only refers to a bouncy chair). And this is the crux of the problem. If a Bet is a B, like a bouncy chair is a chair, then how do we expect the student to recognize the Bet in a different shape and context (like a beach chair)? If a letter is a percept, then is there any wonder why it is not recognized when covered with dots and lines above, inside, and under it?
It is only once the student realizes that a letter is a concept, that the student will always recognize the Bet for what it is, regardless of its shape and context.
So how do we make sure that students realize that letters are concepts (that refer to actual percepts)?
The key to successful reading is to train the students to view letters and vowels as concepts. This is done by introducing each symbol (Bet) as an abstraction of a percept (Ball in a Box). When the student understands that the symbol (whether consonant or vowel) is only a concept (which always points to a percept), they know that any given consonant or vowel (such as a Bet) is NOT itself a percept, but rather only one of many representations of the concept “Bet.” This allows the student to always recognize the Bet irrespective of context, much like a child will always recognize the chair once he has learned the concept “chair.”
In short: the missing link in the reading process is man’s (unique) ability of concept formation, a link that makes the CAP IT! program utterly unique, and the secret behind its success. In CAP IT!, every letter (concept) is turned into an actual percept: A Bet is turned into a Box with a Ball. A Patach is a Tongue Depressor, etc. Every symbol is conceptualized by giving it a substitute percept to which it points to. The student then, no longer has to associate arbitrary sounds to arbitrary symbols, but rather recognizes every symbol as another expression of its underlying concept (consonant or vowel). Once this link is made, the student will always recognize each consonant and vowel, no matter what the context, combination, font, or color.
The uniqueness of the CAP IT! method is not only in that it treats consonants and vowels as concept, thus developing and tapping into the student’s ability of concept formation, but also that it incorporates the entire human learning method in one fell swoop. When the student learns a new symbol (Bet), they are conceptualizing it (Conception). When they see the Ball in a Box — they are perceiving it (Perception). When they hold the Ball in a Box in their hand — they are sensing it (Sensation), thus linking the entire human learning method in a single setting: Conception-Perception-Sensation, hence our name: CAP IT! Concept And Personality Integration, conceptualizing the Hebrew language, and integrating it with one’s entire personality!
The above is the philosophical underpinnings and justification of the CAP IT! method, and the key to the CAP IT! success.