The expression, "Alphabet Headaches", was brought to my attention by a Chinese teaching colleague in Hong Kong. He used it to describe the frustration that he had felt on a recent holiday in the UK, when he hired a car and found himself totally surrounded by road signs and directions that he could not read. All of those new words gave him a headache.
I felt the same way in Hong Kong, with all the advertising signs looming overhead, shouting at me in a script that I couldn't read.
Since then, I have heard English learners in Hong Kong refer to written English as looking like "ugly worms" or "chicken guts".
The Reading Process
Reading is not a natural human activity.
We need to be taught to read, and this process takes time and effort.
an increasing number of English language learners come from
non-alphabetic backgrounds, yet we instructors often don't realise what
an enormous cognitive challenge this can pose.
Here are a few examples of written scripts:
have directional differences (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Dari etc.), some
use a different notation system to indicate vowels (Arabic, Hebrew,
Persian, Dari etc.), some combine different writing systems (Japanese)
and some use diacritics (Vietnamese, Khymer).
Chinese uses detailed characters in a logographic script.
*There is no ready teaching resource that can easily be utilised for students from different scriptal backgrounds.
language "phonics" materials assume a large English vocabulary - and
are designed for very young learners. Even English-speaking youngsters
take three or four years to develop their reading skills.
English learners, and those already literate in another script, may
want to move quickly in their English learning - sometimes too quickly
to fully grasp the complete set of 44 sounds in English and the myriad
ways in which thay can be written.