The Friendly Forest

John and Anne Maher, authors of The Friendly Forest stories, both hold Master’s degrees. John’s degree is in Teaching English as a Second Language (Azusa Pacific University, California) and Anne’s is in English (University of Chicago). They live in Brisbane, Australia.

Together they have many years of teaching English as a Second Language (three continents, to students from Europe, Asia, and South America). They have learned the value of verse and rhyme in helping both native and non-native English learners master English language skills.

English is a stress-based (or stress-timed) language. This means that in English, as in other stress-timed languages, such as German and Dutch, syllables are shortened or lengthened depending on the stressed words in the sentence. Speakers of Latin-based languages – French, Spanish, and Italian (syllabic-timed languages), stress each syllable in a more regular rhythm. Other speakers of tonal languages such as Mandarin and Thai have a more staccato rhythm so that each tone is heard clearly.

What this means is that English speakers must learn which words to stress and which to leave unstressed. Rhyme and rhythm teach these skills. Nursery rhymes and songs are time-honored methods of teaching these speaking and listening skills to native language-learners. Stories in rhyme allow the reader and listener to internalize the rhythm of English and to learn how the sounds fit together, thus enhancing their speaking and listening skills.

Versification and rhyme have other significant language-learning outcomes as well. They encourage careful listening, memorization, mastery of idioms, vocabulary, and the grasp of grammar rules and syntax.

And rhymes are fun! They are games for the brain. They give a child a sense of structure and thus mastery over an uncertain and tumultuous world of new experiences. They offer a pleasant sense of security.

John and Anne hope that The Friendly Forest stories will help our friends develop in every aspect of their English adventure.