Is Language Boring?

This is the first in a two part story about a USAID Uganda School Health and Reading Program materials development workshop in Uganda written by SIL LEAD consultant, Agatha J. van Ginkel. “Like” SIL LEAD on facebook to get notifications about part two.

Looking at their gestures, it is absolutely not boring! It is not boring to think and talk about grammar of your mother tongue. Imagine the enthusiasm in a room where new stories and teaching materials are being created for the heart language of a community that has never had the opportunity to learn in this way before. This is a look at several different aspects of a materials development workshop that are a part of the USAID Uganda School Health and Reading Program. 

Our Ugandan linguist is working with the Ugandan language specialists of two languages to select which morpheme to focus on for advanced blending and segmenting exercises.

A morpheme is the smallest, meaningful part of a word. And these grammar exercises divide words like “unbeatable” into its morphemes, “un-beat-able”so that the meaning can be gleaned from the parts of the whole.


The linguists and language specialists work the whole day together to think through their languages. They need to get the right information to help the learners in grade 4 develop advanced skills for reading fluency. 

In the earlier years or primary school, the children learn to blend and segment simple words into syllables. In grade two, they also learn to recognise the most frequent morphemes of the language for quick word recognition, but after grade two this is a skill that needs to continue to develop. This is especially important in languages that like to cluster many morphemes around the root of the word. 

As the linguistics and language specialists wrestle with grammar, the illustrators are scratching their heads. They were used to drawing large illustrations with many details that showed real life situations. Rather than drawing an illustration of 2 by 4 inches, they have to draw two illustrations that are much smaller. They were thinking and thinking how to do so. In the end, they decided to draw within the small square of the provided box to make sure that their illustration will fit into the space available.

In the student book for grade 4, the illustrations have a different role than previous materials developed for grades 1-3. The illustrations help students predict what the text is going to be about. The smaller illustrations challenge the students to get their information from the text rather than the illustration.