Sunday, May 24, 2015


It is the best of languages; it is the worst of languages. Is English the Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde of all languages? Consider this! No other language holds the dubious distinction of being used by an estimated 1.8 billion speakers (about 1/3 of the world's population), of having official status in 53 countries, spread across six inhabited continents, and of being the language that has the WORST letter-to-sound and sound-to-letter ratios (phonemicity) of all Western languages. Using Masha Bell's research, it is logical to infer that half of the purported 1 million words that make up the English lexicon (or 500,000 words, but probably more) are misspelled in all English dictionaries, phonetically misspelled, that is), as the following table* highlights. (Original source)


Some will claim historical events for this dire state, but they will never mention that the architects had evil motives or characters. Take Mr. johnson, the architect of the English spelling system. He was a doctor and wanted to belong to the class of the intellect who rejected him. They were quite impressed when they saw so many learned words, rooted in Latin and Greek. And take one of the French "acad√©miciens", in France, in 1673, who was even more forthright about it, writing in his notebook:

"" The Academy declares that it desires to follow the old way of spelling words which distinguishes the educated people from the ignorant people and simple women." (Liberation)

There was (and still is) a general attitude to use the complexity of the writing system to keep the commoners to read to rise, or to read to unmask. Yes, true, "commoners" (the estimated 1.8 billion speakers) seems to manage to "speak" it, but how long does it take to learn to read (decode) and pronounce English words and learn how to write (spell) them (and at what level)? Finnish kids start school at age 7 and they ace PISA tests. How much money does it take to make it look like there is not a problem? A LOT! In the USA alone, there could be savings of up to $ 24 billions a year if the spelling system was regularized, as 1.5 years of schooling is expensive. We could, teach ethics or financial literacy, in lieu of spending time learning a disabled spelling system or labelling kids disabled with extra teachers or we could have universal daycare. Creating FREE programs to transcode between English spelling systems would be easy and effective. Another solution would be to enforce the teaching of Esperanto (or Ido) as a 2nd language in ALL countries in the world. The Chinese might decide to choose for us, but it might not be any of the two choices. Why are our leaders looking the other way? Aren't citizens aware that there is a problem? Are they calling them? Is it because English is one of those rare languages that does NOT have a regulating body? (It might soon.)  In any case, if it has any chance, reforms must take place in schools only and first, and must be phased in over 10 to 15 years. (All links open in a separate window!)  MANY countries have had reforms and most worked, although all of them would be more effective if they had been better implemented. In any case, there is something very rotten in the state ... of the English language! The data on the next page proves it. 

(That page has a lot of video content and information, which might make the initial download slow. But, once it is done, save it to read it later.)