it's bEd?

Bed? Yes, New Zealanders pronounce it as the bed you sleep in! Here is the proof : https://prnt.sc/jao3zr from Wikipedia. I know! i KNOW! I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT TOO.

So, how BAD is it? 

Consider that 3.4 billion people are learning or have learned English (as a first or a foreign language); that’s 1/2 of the Earth’s population. There are 2.4 billion people that are members of the Commonwealth and we are told that 1 billion are learning English as a foreign language. Does 1/2 of the earth population matter? If it does, if they do, then consider that English spelling system remains one of the most difficult, flawed, and costly systems (of all Western languages) to learn. While everyone knows this to be true, it has been left practically untouched for 250 years. Would anyone accept this if it, say, it was a car or a baby's crib? Of course, not! But, if everyone struggled to learn this and it's so all deeply set in our mind that most cannot fathom it should or could be messed with. It takes 3 more years for children to learn to read and write BASIC English. Not so if you are learning Spanish or Finnish. Most English speaking kids do just fine using the alphabet after 3 weeks to 3 months of learning it. Is a 3 years delay okay? Are hundreds of millions of children feeling bad okay? The mess has real consequences for millions of children and people around the Earth and the Commonwealth. It is not cheap to teach such a system too. Nothing should remain as is (and as flawed) as long as it has, but we are told that there are impediments. I am challenging that view with real solutions. No matter how many impediments, there surely cannot be more impediments than the numerous impediments that kids face and must overcome! Maybe it is time that we start addressing the real, underlying issues and not fix them with chewing gums, hey? What is the next magic phonics method that claims to fix it all?
Some claim that the sheer number of countries (with all the dialects and accents of English) involved would make finding a solution rather improbable. It does not make things easier, that’s for sure, but is it a deal breaker. No. Smart humans look for smart solutions and in this case there are. Additionally, people are generally nervous about any changes that are made to “their” language as they are probably reluctant to learning a new system. I am. I don't have the inclination of learning a new system too. This answer attempts to solve all of these problems, respecting and mitigating these issues because intelligent human beings look for smart solutions, not excuses. This answer attempts to offer practical and viable solutions to respect all parties involved. The stakes are high. There are billions of people (potentially 3 billion people +) affected.
It is imperative, first, that we understand that a spelling system ONLY represents, in writing, speech —aka an oral language— (which is made up of oral elements AKA phonemes making up larger units AKA words). Changes to a spelling system (increasing the relationship and the regularity between the sounds [AKA phonemes] and the representations of those sounds) would not dumb down a language (at all). It could (but just as it relates to the 1 or 2% of homophones that could be either added or removed or as it relates to the distance of relationships between words of the same family), but the oral LANGUAGE itself will not be affected, but …
  1. it would increase the speed by which the written code can be learned from 3 years to 3 months. Now, please find any change in anything that would speed up learning by 2 years and 9 months or 90%! That is a gargantuan efficiency improvement in any field.
  2. it would improve the clarity and the power of communication to promote understanding and solve problems more efficiently, for more people, most of the time,
  3. More importantly, it would allow and increase the chances of people of lower socio-economic and even intellectual levels, including people belonging to the middle classes, to move up the proverbial ladder more than they are now (as this recent university study, which I will comment on later, proves.),
  4. Finally, an easier spelling system would enable and free teachers (primary teachers especially) to have a more student-centered or inquiry-based pedagogy (search for “pedagogy” to go to the place where I talk about it) for ALL students, whereby students would be more in charge of their learning, freed to quench their curiosity by reading more quickly anything they are interested in at their own pace, at school, at home, anywhere, without needing the support of a teacher or an educated parent (or not). It is not possible now since the code is so irregular and unpredictable. These topics are tackled later on in the first (why) section.
If you consider these trivial improvements, stop reading. I am wasting your time. Personally, there is not a day where principals in schools don’t talk about #4. This post by a superintendent of schools sums it up just about right: Coming Back to Personalized Learning There are many high intellectuals and well meaning people who have wanted to improve educational practices and schools. Is there anyone who could doubt that progress on these fronts could not be achieved if children could read in 3 months, not 3 years, because the code would be predictable after learning a set of simple relationships (an augmented and regular alphabet)?
My plan (explained in the “how” section (which you can search for using F3 on your computer) removes the threat of the change as it calls on people to respect current people’s right of using the current spelling system with no fear and no demands put upon them to use a new system, BUT it would call on them to respect the new generations and to help democratize English spelling and its learning. Whoever appreciates the first sine qua non condition should in all logic be okay with the second, unless the only person that matters is him or her and not the 1.5 billion people (give or take a few millions selfish individuals). (This study shows that Westerners are quite narcissistic, so I figure the chances are slim to … a negative number that this will amount to anything, but, hey, it is on topic.) Anyhow, let’s ask George Orwell to help persuade you that I am not a lunatic. (Note that all assertions, all rebuttals to ALL the impediments to not reform the English spelling systems are meticulously backed up starting in the why section).
George Orwell:
Our existing spelling system is preposterous and must be a torment to foreign students. This is a pity, because English is well fitted to be the universal second language, if there ever is such a thing. Would it not be possible to rationalize it little by little, a few words every year? (George Orwell, Book, etext)
I did not put a bullet to Orwell’s head. He actually wrote this. Check the reference. Orwell, for those who don’t know, is THE poster child of anti-totalitarianism as demonstrated in his books 1984 and Animal Farm. To those viscerally opposed to a reform, if you are against an anti-totalitarian, what does that make you? While I disagree with Orwell’s implementation, most linguists and research agree with his assessment: it is tormenting, but not just foreign students. Incidentally, Einstein, who had to learn English at 54, had this to say about English:
I cannot write in English, because of the treacherous spelling. When I am reading, I only hear it and am unable to remember what the written word looks like. Yaakov Sternberg's answer to How good was Einstein's English? What other languages did he know besides German?
“Tormenting” and now “treacherous”! Words that would describe Orwell’s dystopian 1984 or any despotic state like North-Korean represent. Is this the kind of language we want to give to 1.5 billion learners to learn? Fragile children? Burmese refugees? There are many, many people who agree that English spelling is a mess on Quora and on the net.
No matter what some English Native Deniers (END) say, the overwhelming majority of English Native Speakers (ENS) have problems with it too. It does not take a rocket scientist to know why. It takes years to learn to match the way words sound with the way they are spelled because the relationships are highly irregular (as we shall see) and contrived (as we shall demonstrate too). It is not easy, but it is easy to see why. END can claim it is easy, but if Einstein and Orwell claim it was a mess, they will be silly to claim that it is (easy). But, it is not the difficulty that is at issue so much as it is the time that it takes (away) to learn and to learn to read. It is a rote memorization exercise, not a particular intellectual high level task. Savants like in the movie Rain Man are not smart people because they can and have memorized the phone book. Sorry. If you can spell correctly million of words, you are not a genius. Sorry. However, it is the psychological stress it puts on fragile minds who are all eager to learn the alphabet and who quickly becomes disheartened when it does not help much (for the vowel system, in particular). Consider. Most of us (as in 99%) can learn to speak, but why is learning to read so difficult for so many people. Similarly, most (99%) master learning the alphabet in just a few weeks and apply their learning into spelling words using what is called an “invented spelling” system. Then EVERYONE is told to UNlearn the whole thing: softly, kindly, and with a smile, of course. How sweet! How mad! How psychopathic! Yes, … because there is NOTHING invented about it. NOTHING! Every student is just trying desperately to show off his or her talent in applying the hard to learn alphabet and match it to the appropriate sound (or phoneme). But, that is wrong! Don’t spell that word like that, John! Nice try, Lisa! “School is cool” is not spelled “skool iz kool!’! Nice invention! If this is not the definition of madness and hurting someone’s self-esteem, I don’t know what is. But, we do have a lot of psychos running around (perhaps as a result). The invented spelling is the type of spelling that is called “transparent” or “phonemic” spelling. It is highly desirable. Why would you learn the alphabet and then force students to unlearn most of it? The word invented actually should really describe the current system. How devious! How ironical! Along “treacherous” and “tormenting”! But, at age 6 most of us are quite compliant. We can take a lot. But, deniers (mostly the intellectuals, writers, editors, and linguists) are proud of having mastered the system. Why would they poopoo it? Did you know that one of them, the famous linguist Chomsky, when asked, he he stated about 50 years ago that English spelling is “close to optimal”? Can we really take some of these people seriously? They are out of touch. We are set up to learn logical systems, transparent systems, phonemic spelling systems. If Einstein could not figured it out, it is not because he was dumb! It is because IT was dumb! The great majority of people can speak, can learn a language, but most cannot learn to spell and decode words unless we are given years to match almost word by word the way the word is spelled. That does not take a great mind, it takes a dumb computer program, a parrot. That is madness. But, when the deniers are done with that argument, they have hundreds more. The best one is “Well! It will be impossible to fix!”
But, why should we believe these people? They are good at memorizing words like “savants” are able to memorize a phone book. Does that make them geniuses? Can “savants” build bridges, send people to the moon, fix spelling systems? They cannot and they will say —convincingly— that “It is impossible to fix!” just like the deniers will about the spelling system! We are not looking for parroting here. He are looking at outside of the box solutions. Sorry!
But, the deniers or skeptics point that a good reader should use “clues” (lexical, semantics, morphological, and phonological) before it pronounces or decodes a word. RIGHT! BEFORE … EVERY SINGLE WORD! Nice to say, but I find it highly impractical! They will have many of those types of genius-sounding fixes. Here is the thing though. Einstein said that “Geniuses prevent problems from occurring and intellectuals solve them.” Using gum to plug the holes of a leaky boat is indicative that someone missed the boat in the first place. If one were to continue to built boats and distribute chewing gum to passengers, they would be thrown over board, if the people were smart, that is. But, not with the English spelling system. They have ways to fit that round peg in the square hole! Those tricks can help of course, like the gum can. but most Grade 1 readers, Grade 2 readers, and even Grade 3 readers will not or cannot use them. They are impractical tricks that don’t address the core issue.
Pedagogy
The issue is not that the English written code cannot be learned is that it takes more time. Time is the issue. It is also the time that is being taken away from other subjects (ethics, financial literacy,…), no matter how much integration of several subject matters you can do to claim that you are saving time. We are not against integration of subject matters, of course, but let’s not present this and other means as panacea. More crucially, during those first 3 years, students could be more independent learners if they could decode words and texts with more accuracy more quickly. They could lead and initiate their learning more, like in the Montessori approach:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EG3XeNti3Cw&t=267s

or Freinet (from France) (Use subtitles auto-generate > English feature)



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwSfuO_4AwY


If they could, we could use more beneficial pedagogical methods where the child is initiating his or her learning and is at the center of it, ensuring formative growth and a positive attitude towards learning and schools within a few months, not after 3 years or so. Surely, that must be worth gold to some education minister or superintendent of schools. Why isn’t it?
Lastly, there is at least one billion people who cannot guess at what the exact pronunciation of English words is, as Quora shows time and time again with questions that relate to that problem. The internet is helping. True. There are lots of pieces of gum. But, still, the whole experience is a bit dystopian and mad.
English spelling needs to be reformed because it has a barrier of entry that benefits the well-off, the educated, the English learner over the foreign language learner. It is a system that sets stratas, classes, casts. I actually came up with this notion before I read this study that validated my hypothesis. It is a system that keep the fields slanted. The study does bemoan the time being spent on rote learning facts (which guided reading and general reading is in primary classes). The study is a long and serious study. I urge everyone to glance at it. This is not amateur science (psychology, to be exact). Allow me to quote what is written on page 39 and 40:
Early education and programs focused on cognitive stimulation in children can have dramatic effects on later academic success. Montessori preschools, for example, have a curriculum strongly based on developing executive functions, such as reducing disorder, impulsivity, and inattention, and promoting self-discipline, independent thinking, and orderliness. “Executive functions” (involving attention, impulse control, allocation of working memory, and orchestration of thought and action) are widely asserted to be core features of intelligence (Miller & Cohen, 2001). In one particular study, preschool age children were randomly picked from a lottery to enter a Montessori public school and were compared over time with individuals who were also in the lottery but were not picked (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006). Upon completion of kindergarten (age 5) and sixth grade (age 12) Montessori students performed better on specific tests of executive functions than their peers who attended other schools during preschool. Furthermore, they received better grades in reading and math.
The Sciencedaily writer Ken Branson distilled this part of the study better than I could:
The researchers said the heritability of IQ can be as low as .3 in young children, which leaves plenty of room for changes in intelligence. But school systems often ignore this opportunity, they believe, focusing on increasing rote knowledge at the expense of critical thinking. Intervention programs then often fail to create lasting changes to children's environment.
You have seen those books. Those books that start with “I need glasses. (Picture of a child.) (Next page). Mom needs glasses. (picture of a mom.) (Next page) Dad needs glasses. … My brother needs glasses. … My sister needs glasses. My dog does not need glasses. (Sorry, I made that one up). … We all need glasses. (Picture of the whole family)) This type of books is what Grade 1 children practice their reading with. It is rote memorization disguised as something educational valid. Is the topic educationally sound? Tell me. Is the child learning anything, but decoding. If these types of books do not turn off most of the children OFF to learning, I don’t know what would? For goodness-sake, this is the antithesis of learning, of education. The English spelling system is a relic of the past and it needs a major upgrade because it slows down learning to read and learning. It also makes learning less interesting and valid. It prevents social mobility. Ouch! Would the elite and the educated want to change the status quo? Trust me, they can afford private tutors. The mom working two jobs?
If people are tormented by us, reformers, shouting and screaming bloody murder, maybe you should tell how should a sane person, say, that mom, feel when it has been 250+ years that no one has done anything about this insane mess —or tens or hundreds of thousands of misspellings— affecting 1.5 billion learners and the more disadvantaged of children and parents. No upgrades in 250+ years? How insane is that? It does not help that some say —matter of factly— that language (and spelling) will change eventually as the murder is taking place. Oh! Just wait a little bit more. Be patient. With spell checkers? Sorry! it is not going to happen. Spell-checkers are removing the possibility of a change. Remember. This is not a spelling issue as it is a literacy issue (and an IQ issue, as the study demonstrated.) This is a human rights issue. If change is coming, how come there are so few changes. When was the last time you saw “are” spelled “ar” on Quora (because that is the right way of spelling it as “as, at, am,…)! Oh! Wait! How dare you write “are” without an “e” says the spellchecker. People can spellcheck and edit your posts to make them more “correct” and your answer could be flagged as needed improvement. There are more barriers to change than there ever was. If there is no “appetite” for a reform, then I suggest we start with the concept of “empathy” for the 1.5 billions of people (which include native-speaker kids), who waste years learning this when they could learn about ethics, good communication,… ! The top 10 to 20% of the population might not be so enthusiastic. But, how much more fun and fulfilling schools could be if kids after 3 months could pick up ANY book they wish to read and read them! Instead, we have them learn the alphabet, which they do, and then frustrate them with all the exceptions and the other letters. Great modelling of an exemplary poorly designed and maintained adult system.
When I first started “presenting my views” on the matter, a few raised issues which have been raised for decades. Using my brother MBA in managing changes, I took on to remove as much as I could all of the impediments. The prime directive became: “Do no harm”. I created a multi-pronged solution that addresses all the issues: all the “ands” and the “buts” raised by the skeptics. I am not a genius. I am just exploiting a shift: the digital age shift. You see the skeptics are repeating the same old issues as if the world had stood still and the digital age never happened.
Is the spelling system really causing issues? If you are not sure, go to the first WHY section. I offer many evidence. It is all researched and serious. All facts, no opinion. If you agree that the spelling system currently is a mess and is bound to impede and delay learning, go to the 2nd main section entitled HOW. There is a shorter version just before the WHY section, for those who are not that convinced. It is entitled in bold: A UNIQUE, FAIR, WISE, and EFFICIENT REFORM section is the short version. (Press F3 on your computer and find it.) If it looks like something reasonable, then go to the main section for the details. I have a section towards the middle of the essay where all 15 or so FAQ like points are addressed. How will you make a phonemic spelling system, when they are so many dialects? is one of them.
Is it that bad?
The English spelling system (not the English language, btw) should be reformedbecause it is extremely flawed (about half its lexicon is, as Masha Bell found out). That has been proven in many other ways too and I shall provide the evidence, if you are skeptical. If it is true, it is obvious that hundreds of thousands of misspellingsare not trivial for learners, for teachers, for educational budgets, for taxpayers, for society. In a public school system, it really is more costly to teach (you need more teachers or tax revenues to pay for them) and/or it takes more time (and effort away from other more crucial topics or subjects), if more money is indeed provided. If public funds are low, then some people who can afford a better education (by way of private schooling or tutoring) will always come on top. Where is that level playing field they can all have a chance to shine? No matter how you put it, learning English (learning to read, to pronounce words for foreign learners, and spell) requires a lot of rote memorization (time) because despite of having patterns, there are twice as many patterns than in most western languages (and many exceptions) and there are very few of them (especially for vowels) that are consistent patterns. If patterns break down at a high rate, they are mostly useless as patterns and require raw memorization. Many conflict. Sure, there are patterns like “ight” and “ite” endings, but is it ‘’ight’’or is it ‘’ite’’? There is no clue. And, to boot, there are exceptions like the “eight” spelling, not the number, but the ending (as in height, but eight). And, then, there are other spellings of the same phoneme/sound without the “t” as “ie”, “i”, “i_e”, and “y” suffix (die,… and cry,… and hi). Patterns are mostly useless if thery are broken all of the time, but I digress! (I use the bold letters to illustrate the chaos.) Rote memorization is a must. It's ‘’at’’ and ‘’ate’’, but ‘’are’’ and ‘’have’’, but ‘’am’’, but ‘’an’’, but ‘’ad’’, but ‘’aid’’ (not ‘’ade’’ like ‘’made, but ‘’raid’, but ‘’said’’, … ) It’s ‘’he’’, ‘’me’’, ‘’be’’, but ‘’the’’! ‘’Fuck’’ it! How about a headache to learn to read? This is not trivial. To some, it might be reminiscent of a dysfunctional relationship where no one is sure what is coming next. Children love stability and structure. It is very safe. I think it would put a lot of stress on some people: children, parents, and teachers. No ‘’shit’’, but, hey, ‘’chill’’! How do you exactly pronounce ‘’i’’? “y”? It's ‘’crazy ’’and crazier! Does it need to be? For a 6 years old? I hate school! No kidding! Sure, the teaching methods must be made to accommodate the system. Sure, it can be made to be fun (but are Dick and Jane’s books really pedagogical). They must compromise content for fun. But at the end of the day it prevents others subjects to be tackled. Learning such a flawed spelling system has real consequences for 1.5 billion people on Earth. Are 1.5 billion people trivial? Removing hundreds of thousands of flaws surely would improve matter for 1.5 billions of people, but mostly the new generations, as we shall demonstrate.
My plan is nothing like other plans you have heard of. And, this is not a marketing ploy. Beside, I am not selling anything and I won’t. Others, who teach English for a living, do. Guess where they stand. They might not be too enthused with this idea because systems full of exceptions demand more teaching and they sure do not want to kill the goose that has laid that golden egg. But, I am not and will not sell anything. Think about it. I am actually trying to save billions and lots of aggravations. Will this create more problems? Only if we require existing speakers to learn a new system, which unlike all other reforms, this one avoids.
There is a tremendous upside to reforming the English spelling system. Children’s stress, failure, shame will diminish. They are more stressed, shamed, and there are higher rates of failure now. Parents’ stress and need for paying for tutoring will diminish. Teachers and educational system will be freer to teach what really matters and more efficiently. After a few months of learning the system, students will be able to decode all books that they want to read no matter how difficult the concept is. Most students cannot do that as spelling really slows down learning, limits the potential of what children can learn early on. It will save society too as happy students can be molded into more productive and happy citizens. Is there anyone who believes that memorizing hundreds of thousands of —in essence— misspellings is useful? Intelligent? Good use of time? Painless? Only the people who benefit from it do. It does not need to be this way.
Is turning on the tap not easier than going to the river to fetch the water full of hundreds of thousands of crocodile? It is safer. No one in their right mind would advocate going back to doing it the old way and yet there are people who want to keep us going to the river. Sure, many came back. They did it. But, what about the ones who did not. What about the ones who got injured? Advanced humans do care about their next of kin and care about making things safer and better for the next generations. That is what progress is about. That is what differentiate humans from animals. Sure, it could be argued that humans were more fit as a result. Sure, it could be argued that many do manage to spell and read as many manage to get the water at the river. Still, is the “I-did-it” defense acceptable? Are the casualties and the inefficiencies of the way things are done trivial? And, surely, no one would blame the ones who did not make it back from the river, would they? Yet, not only are we blaming students, but everyone involved except the spelling system. The system is what is at fault. Humans are better than this. Humans are smarter than this. How can humans live with such a mediocre system, a system that has so many flaws? Is it just a bad idea to buy a car that has hundreds of thousands of defects? Would you blame the driver and the road engineers for accidents too? Animals accept their fate; SMART humans challenge paradigms. We don’t use oil lamps anymore. After they burned a few cities, smart humans thought: “Hey! Maybe there is a smarter way!”
BY gARY lARSON
It could be so much better. Imagine the freedom and the happiness of many more children learning to read after a few MONTHS not years, who could explore freely what they wanted to read. There could be a true paradigm shift in schools too. Think Montessori-like programs everywhere.
A UNIQUE, FAIR, WISE, and EFFICIENT REFORM
Learning from research and past reforms and using new technology, this reform de-risks everything, maximizes the opportunity and minimizes ALL issues. First, current users will NOT need to learn a new spelling system because it will be phased-in for 12 years in schools, starting at age 6. (This is unlike many other spelling reforms. That is a game-changer.) Second, it uses a set of diaphonemes (the most popular phonemes of most English dialects) to prevent all polemics. (No one has ever thought about this before.) As a result, it allows for the adoption of an extremely robust, systematic, and phonemic system that will be the envy of all languages. It is a unique, fair, wise, and efficient proposal. MANY paradigms have shifted in 250 years. The English spelling system can and should be re-engineered. English will be finally a worthy lingua franca.
MAIN SINE QUA NON CONDITIONS for a reform
  1. That no current users be required to learn the new spellings. It will not be necessary.
  2. That the new system be introduced in whole to new students in level 1 of primary classes called cohort 1 (C1) and phased-in, one year at a time.
  3. That C1 students and all future cohorts be given bilingual, bicodal courses in the old system. They become a transitional cohort.
  4. That other (English 1.0) students get some instruction with the new system, but increasingly so for cohorts that are closer to C1 .
  5. That diaphonemes (average of phonemic variations of main dialects) be used. It is an algorithm. It cannot be fairer.
  6. That an extremely systematic and phonemic scheme with virtually no exceptions be used. No compromise.
  7. That local, dialectal spoken/speech be maintained. C1 will be bicodal.
  8. That computer technology be used to instantly transcode material. Writers will see their work published in two varieties or as desired by the customer using a free transcoding program.
  9. That no loss of jobs take place. Translators/interpreters will still be needed for the current population and C1.
This is the short version. Please do read the full version below. It not only gives the reasons why this should happen, but explains how it should happen (and why this way) in detail. All reasons I know of to not do it are debunked. I have been studying this issue for 5 years. I have heard them all.

Btw, there will be in the end of May an international  conference hosted by the English Spelling Society on this very subject. Details are here. (May 2018)
Why and how?
The “how” part offers credible solutions on how to reduce dramatically all of the incredible high costs and/or problems children. parents, and children must face and all of the arguments used by all the skeptics or vested parties to prevent a reform. ALL! For one thing, paradigms have shifted since Samuel Johnson (250 years ago) “dictated” how he thought we (kids and adults) should decode/read, spell/pronounce words. Since Johnson’ time and since some of these arguments were made, a lot has changed. Odd! For another, some reformists expected that current populations change how they spell words and learn how to read in a new way. This was a major error. This issue demanded a new approach that sought outside-of-the-box solutions. There is nothing more idiotic and insane to keep doing something that has failed over and over again and expect different outcomes. Times have changed. Lastly, English has become a lingua franca, spoken by 1.5 billion of people, in some ways or another. This is the short answer. LOL
(I would like to recognize and thank Dana Smith and Roman Huczok for their excellent comments and suggestions, which helped make this answer better.)
  1. WHY?
Consider that as the most used language in the world (spoken by billions of people), it has a spelling system that is an absolute embarrassment for a language and, a fortiori, for a lingua franca, a world language, a language that should be the epitome of all languages. It isn’t. It has hundreds of thousands of words misspelled in its lexicon (see below for evidence), which might explain why you must use a spell checker or can’t pronounce or could not decode words when you learned it, if you learned it, depending on your language (see the end for explanation). With the rapid use of computers and spell checkers, it is my contention that the issue is no more a spelling issue, as it is a decoding/reading and pronouncing issue. This does not take away from the idea at all though because the spelling issue was never considered by many to be the major issue.
Did you know that it takes 3 more years for the average learner to learn just a few thousands words whereas any Finnish or Spanish kid after Grade 1 can decode ANY word in their language’s lexicon in just a few months? (Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but the differences are startling.) What are the good, the bad, and the ugly of it? The good is that consonants are usually reliably consistent represented. It is far from perfect (“s” is often “/z/, but can also be ‘sh’ or /s/ or “j”, “th” can be either voiced or not, and “tion” is pronounced as “shun”), but on the whole consonantal phonemicity is high. The bad is that the vowels are often inconsistently represented which makes decoding and spelling a task that demands a lot of rote memorization, which is tedious and time consuming. Sure, it can be made to be “fun”, but are songs really that educationally worthy? The real ugly part is that most multisyllabic words have one or two syllables that are unstressed, but it is nearly impossible to know which one is going to be unstressed as there is not one consistent vowel that is used to indicate it. Most English-speakers struggle to understand someone who places the stress on the wrong syllable. Add the inconsistency of the phonemicity of many vowels, it takes a lot of time and effort to learn to decode and spell. There could be as few as 44 patterns to learn. As stated there are few reliable patterns. It takes time. given enough time, parrots can learn a lot. Memorizing is not a sign of intelligence. Think teaching the extra time is free? Sorry taxpayers! Think it is easy to learn? Kids labelled reading disabled thank you and so 1/2 of Britons who apparently cannot spell. Illiteracy rates are unusually high in Commonwealth countries (unless you throw lots of money at mitigating the problem like in Canada). To learn top decode and to spell requires brute memorization as there are many patterns (-ight/ite, for instance) or systems (like the magic e system) that are not that consistent (the proverbial 50% coin toss in the air is not a pattern). But, we are told that it would be impossible to fix (Did they not say this for climate change or women equality,…), but many professors of linguistics like Dr. Yule and Dr. Bett think now and many intelligent people like G. B. Shaw, Roosevelt, Carnegie, Websters, Twain,… thought that when there is a will there is a way. It is absolutely stupidity or dysfunctional stubbornness or selfishness to maintain such a mediocre system. Tutors of English and publishers of learning material, even teachers, psycholinguists claim it cannot be done, but I think it is self-interest that skews their decisions. Tony, the mechanic, loved Fiats (Fix it again Tony) for a reason. Broken systems, goods, faulty parts, the status quo is very lucrative. Who is right? Here is the case.
Exhibit A:
attribution on the image
This is how it could look like.
Exhibit B:
attribution on the image
Now compare that with something that is familiar.
Exhibit C:
Exhibit D:
By John Katt
Which is a mess to deal with? And which is an intelligent, engineered system?
ANSWER
d b
By the way, it is much, much worst:
That’s just for vowels. These are just examples. For each phonemes, there are many more examples, of course, although the frequencies of some will vary, of course.
Exhibit E:
But, why it should be done and how could it be done?
1. WHY it should be done?
  • Since Finnish kids start school at age 7 and most English-speaking kids at age 5.5. Given that Finnish is a highly phonemic spelling system, it would allow Commonwealth countries to reduce educational budgets by removing the need for many teachers and many literacy teachers as well. This could be billions in the US. Alternatively, countries could replace these years by the teaching of more crucial matters and include more subject areas in the curriculum. Ethics 101? Financial literacy 102? Programming 103?
  • Billions of foreign learners will finally be able to pronounce words as they are pronounced.
  • There will be less of a chance for Chinese to dethrone English as a lingua franca if English were easier to learn.
  • A country with a better educated population with higher literacy levels might have lower crime rates, but higher employment.
  • More happier children will want to read.
Some linguists claim that it is not really worth it. But, their jobs depends largely on this mess (especially psycholinguists). Tutors/tutoring agencies depend on the mess too. Many benefit from the chaos. They get grant money to study our kids who become their little rats. Are they really disabled or is it the system that is? Which is it?
Exhibit F:
So, is it worth it when most kids in English countries can decode words at a 35% level and most others do TWICE as well? This study was done with normal kids. This was a major study too. Are English-speaking kids inherently dumber than all the other kids? Are English-speaking teachers inherently more incompetent than all others? Or is it that the spelling system is … inherently dumber, disabled, disabling,… that if it were a car, it would be recalled in a second? You bet.
Exhibit G:
If we use Masha Bell’s research on just 7000 words and extrapolate this to the whole English lexicon, it is safe to say that there are hundreds of thousands of words that are “misspelled”. /ə/ AKA a schwa is one of the most frequent phonemes/sounds in English and it can be spelled 13 ways. Most multi-syllabic words have at least one schwa:
It is everywhere and it is misspelled since the only 2 valid letters that should represent it is “u” or “e”. Why “u”? Because the unreduced schwa is a /ʌ/ and most people would agree that it sounds like a schwa. It is the “u” in but, nut, purr. It could be “e” too. “e” Is the most common letter in the English lexicon. Schwa is often represented as an “e”. Check “government”: //ˈɡʌv.ən.mənt/ /ˈɡʌv.əm.mənt/ There are 2 reduced schwas and one that is not. There are hundreds of words where “schwa” is an “e” (center, vowel, hundred,…).
How do you expect people to learn this? Memorize the pronunciation or the spelling of hundreds of thousands of words? (Most polysyllabic words (mostly not part of the 7000 words) have at least one schwa and often many.)
Exhibit H:
Here is that diagram again.
It shows that there are 13 ways of spelling ONE phoneme (the schwa), 12 ways to spell the /ei/ sound or 11 ways the /ɛ/ sound. Hey! I see a pattern! THAT is easy to remember! (Find the list of spellings in the addendum.) Hundred of thousands of misspelled words! NOT! How insane is that? No wonder the native speakers cannot spell/decode words and foreign learners cannot pronounce words (and spell them, if they do not speak a European language). As to teachers, they do the best they can with a messy tool. That it costs a lot of money for taxpayers and parents does not seem to be an issue, but many people don’t know how expensive it is.
PS: Shwa is the most common phoneme in the English language, but it is also the one that is the most obscure. It is a perfect storm.
You want more evidence?
Exhibit I:
(This booklet focuses on the reading literacy test scores of students in the grade levels where most 9- and 14-year-olds were to te found in 32 national systems of education. Data were collected from 9,073 schools, 10,518 teachers, and 210,059 students. In 1990-1991 thirty-two school systems were involved in the LEA Reading Literacy Study. Participating in the study were: Belgium (French) Netherlands Greece New Zealand Spain s Sweden Nigeria , Norvay Switzerland Thailand Demnark Iceland Philippines Trinidad & Tobago Finland Indonesia Portugal United States Ireland Singapore Venezuela)
There is more. From Wikipedia. Exhibit J:
“Alphabetic writing systems vary significantly in the depth of their orthography. Englishand French are considered deep orthographies in comparison to Spanish and Italian which are shallow orthographies. A deep orthography like English has letters or letter combinations that do not reliably map to specific phonemes/sound units, and so are ambiguous in terms of the sounds that they represent whereas a transparent or shallow orthography has symbols that (more) uniquely map to sounds, ideally in a one-to-one correspondence or at least with limited or clearly signified (as with accent marks or other distinguishing features) variation. Literacy studies have shown that even for children without reading difficulties like dyslexia, a more transparent orthography is learned more quickly and more easily; this is true across language systems (syllabic, alphabetic, and logographic), and between shallow and deep alphabetic languages. [20] Wikipedia
This person’s explains it well:
Exhibit L
Exhibit M
Rote learning is out.
Bloom Taxonomy
Attribution
Recall is the lowest level of educational attainment and teaching.
Exhibit N
Finally, if children could read on their own and earlier (using a reformed spelling system that could be learned in 3 months, which we know they can), this would free the whole educational system to explore student-led teaching. It would free students to open any book on any topic and naturally delve in. This idea is not new. Many have heard of the Montessori programs, which enable kids to do just that. Montessoriwas an Italian doctor and her method is 100 years old. There are a host of education programs that vary on this theme and names like student-centered learning is one of these:
This is perhaps the best reason why we should reform the system. How long will it take for some people to get that they are hurting kids and foreign learners and that they are hurting society at large?
15. Finally, I must add this latest research on dyslexia. As a learning disabilities teacher, my hear tank every time I had to pull students out of classroom. I tried to make it interesting, but who wants to be pulled (and be thought of as needing help, as being “stupid”). Well, now there is proof, as MRI scans proving that the whole issue was not that they were stupid, but that they are not set up to memorize thousands of stupid facts (versus 44 patterns, letters,…). From MIT: Dyslexic brains don’t adapt well to repeated stimuli Essentially, if you remove the “jargonese”, they are less able to memorize.
There are 15 reasons why we should reform the English spelling system. How many do we need?
2) How?
Many languages have had reforms (check it out (Spelling reform - Wikipedia (Spelling reform - Wikipedia))) and many were successful. The better ones did not expect current learners to learn the new system. Moreover, today, we have computers, smart phones, AI,… In other words, many paradigms have shifted. In fact, many paradigms have shifted in the last decade or two and at increasing speed. Are the naysayers keeping up with those? Are they shifting with the shifts? I don’t think so. Their paradigm has not shifted. It is the old arguments given again and again. Why are they so reticent? No one who loves to read this will be asked to learn a new system, as I will explain. Why would they want to subject others —including kids— to mental torture because the reality is that the MAJORITY of kids struggle, the MAJORITY of citizens struggle, the MAJORITY of foreigners struggle. While the naysayers love exceptions, the evidence is there: no matter how you look at it, it is a mess. (This neurological research might explain why some people are reluctant. It is not so much the people as it is how some brain works! To be sure, people whose identity is shaped because they know English and can earn a living might have an even stronger reaction, but I will prove that there is nothing to be feared about. Change can be a win-win proposition if done with respect and intelligence.)
But, how could we do it? There have been a few attempts to try to reform the English spelling system. The most serious one came to an abrupt end 100 years ago. President Roosevelt had initiated. His friend, Carnegie, who had been delegated the task of looking into it, believed that we should not force people to spell and read differently as his board had decided. He preferred a more informal and timid reform where people could decide to adopt the changes or not. (Simplified Spelling Board - Wikipedia) Purists, vested interest groups (publishers), and political games did the rest. (German and French reforms of recent times have suffered similar fates. By trying to appeal to the general population, by making minimal changes, they opened themselves to criticisms for being superfluous or a lot of trouble for nothing.) The main issue, however, is the idea of forcing people to adopt the changes or hoping that people will do. All of this would make a holder of an MBA laugh as both approaches are ineffective. In the case of English, there might be a cultural aspect to this as well. The British culture is know for their ability to manage adversity by keeping a stiff upper lip and avoiding reality by going to bars, as this question demonstrated: What are some dark sides of the UK? Not sure if having to learn to spell and read such a complex system is one of the reasons for these types of behaviours, but it might make them less interested in changing matters.They are proud of their culture and their language, like most people are. That is to be admired, of course. But, this is not about culture. It is not about language per se. It is about a spelling system. Times have changed. Times are changing. There is Quora and we can discuss things. Today, we also know more about management of changes. People are texting now. Computers were introduced 30 years ago and everyone seems to have a smartphone in their hands now. One billion Chinese are soon to be a force to be reckoned with. Which international language are they going to speak? Chinese? Many paradigms have shifted. Not sure what is going to be the tipping point. But, things have evolved.
One of the ideas (which is closer to Carnegie's thinking) is that we should NOT try to “force” people who know the current system to learn the new one. However, we have pushed that idea to its extreme. It is our contention that no one, unless they wanted to, should learn to spell using the new system unless they desire it. It is our contention that the key to making a reform work should be to introduce it methodically and slowly in schools first and only in schools. That does not mean that we would introduce bits of the new spelling system to all grades. It will be ALL of the new spelling system starting with the Grade 1 kids, as a wave. Of course, this plan would need to be approved by the government and the people. There will be a congress next year during which a group of linguists and professors at the English Spelling Society will decide which is the system(s) that they recommend. I believe we should use a system that is based on a general dialect that has some, but not all the features of any of the dialects. I am talking about the vowel diaphonemes found on this page. I am including a reformatted sample to give an idea. The multiple dialects that the original chart has have been removed because the idea is that the diaphonemes will be used as the pronunciation guide to be used with whatever spelling system will be chosen. So, in Iezy Ignglish, in all Commonwealth countries “trap” words will now be pronounced with the /ae/ and spelled with an “a” as “trap” and “bath”/”father” words (if the /a:/ is used) will not be spelled baeth/faether (faedher)), and so on and so forth. Btw, this is one diaphoneme that would require an agreement on as it has 2 possible phonemic representations. All others are straightforward. The match with the new spelling system (whatever it is) will be 1:1.
Beyond that, it is our view that a reform should take place in all schools once teachers have been trained. It should be starting with a group that has not learned to read and write: 6 year old kids. The rest of the school children would be taught the old system. It might be wise to start teaching these children bits of the new system. Again, the government will look at the recommendations and decide what they feel is best. The next year, the second cohort of new grade 1 kids would start school learning the new system while the older Grade 1 would move into Grade 2, continuing to learn to read and write using the new system. Tablets will be given/lend to all students (school and home) to access information from the internet or other sources, except that this information would be instantly transcoded when they need it, like it happens with Google translate. I think that by the time this happens, most tablets will be very inexpensive for schools so that all students will have one. (Dana Smith felt free tablets should be given to needy families, but I think these should be loaned like textbooks are/were.) They will be like those textbooks that were given to us at the beginning of the year. Btw, transcoding is much faster and more accurate than translating. Eventually, after a few years, some of these cohorts will be taught the basics of English 2.0: how to read street signs, store signs,… They would not learn how to spell using English 1.0, but they will learn to decode a basic set of words and, especially towards the end of their schooling, how to read English 1.0 words of their trade. There might be a need for them to have a slightly different accent depending on how standardized English 2.0 will be, which might depend on which countries decide to participate in the reform. This reform will take 12 years to works its way out, but it will take years to make it occur. Convincing the population will take years and then politicians more years. But, if and when it is approved, the 12 years will give even more time for society to get ready. Free transcoders (programs that can transcode between English 1.0 and English 2.0) will be available for all. This will be very simple to do. In fact, some reformists have made some of them. When these cohorts exit the school system, they will try to find work like all students or they will go to university. Books and manuals should be available in both codes. This should not be so hard for publishing companies and digital copies of these should available for download into tablets. We would hope that by that time students’ books would all be the digital type. Again, these are recommendations.
Will a reform be perfect? Is anything perfect? Is the English spelling system now perfect? Why are those lovers of perfection in love with imperfection? There are thousands of imperfections now and they are fine with those? Be coherent! The system will no doubt be much easier to learn and to teach. That is self-evident, as demonstrated earlier. Something is simpler to learn than something that is complex.
Will some dialects need to re-align some of the pronunciation of a few words? Probably unless they want to develop their own English 2.0 or unless their kids can be bilingual in both Singapore English which pronounces some words that have a short /a/ as /E/ and the new English 2.0 (an international version). I believe kids have that capacity. Up to them to pronounce it the way they want. We would suggest they teach in school the right way and enforce the change in the media. When there is 250 years of laissez-faire, it is necessary to take extraordinary measures, but it will be up to Singapore and other dialects to align themselves with the diaphonemic spelling that is as impartial as one can make it. Accents will be preserved in many instances though, but they will less … pronounced in some cases. But, bad should not be spelled “bed”. Multiple spellings of words could be allowed, but whenever it is feasible. IN some sense, a re-alignment will nt be bad for those “rogue” dialectal words and speakers. It will allow to be understood by more people in the Commonwealth. Is that bed? I mean “bad?
Let me address the most common objections that are often used to prevent any change.
1. There are too many accents (AKA dialectal variations in pronunciation).
  • Dialectal accents are “learned” or “perceived” by the age of 2, BEFORE children can link phonemes, allophones, with any spelling, phonemic or not. Here is the research.
  • We know that children (their brain, really) have the capacity to learn many languages, many accents. In Italy, for instance, it is common to hear people know a dialect (usually oral) and speak/read/write the standard Italian as well. We suggest that the only reasonable way to deal with this issue is to make all Commonwealth children start to learn another standard dialect by Grade 1 which will —finally— be the lingua franca that all people around the world have long been awaiting for. (Thanks Roman Huczok for reminding me that keeping a dialect and learning a standard is very doable.)
  • To avoid political issues and help make English a true lingua franca, it would be wise to use the diaphonemes used on the International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects - Wikipedia or some other agreed form. If some populations of certain countries or region were not interested in this new standard, they would have the option of staying with the current system or reform their dialect as they please.
  • This would not be the Armageddon, the end of English as we know it, an incredible loss of culture,… This is about spelling, not language. It would not be the end of English.
  • The internet, public education for all, social media,... are helping standardizing many accents and, if it were to be reformed in this manner, it will be much easier.
2. I do not want to learn a new system.
  • You won't have to. I repeat … you will not have to. That is our pledge. I do not want to either. This reform is not for me, you, but for the next generation.
  • The change will occur in schools, starting with as many Grade 1 classes as it is possible. Opting out will be possible. In year 2, another group of Grade 1 will start to learn the new system. The first group will go in Grade 2 and will keep learning the new system (or rather learn using the new system since they will have it mastered decoding and spelling already).
3. There will be a need for some people to learn the new system.
  • The 20 to 40 will need to be familiar with the new system, but free programs will be able to transcode from the current system to the other and vice versa, seamlessly and fast. Transcoding is much faster than translating. It is also much more accurate.
  • The cohort that will go into the labour force after 12 to 16 years will speak the same language. Speech recognition software and transcoding programs will do the rest.
4. Street signs and vendor signs will need to be respelled/respelt.
  • No. The new spellers will be able to decipher the old system.
5. ALL documents will need to be reprinted.
  • No. Digital documents will be transcodable. It is much easier to do so.
  • Should a citizen be interested or be in need to read printed documents that are not in a digital format, I am sure we can figure out ways to efficiently recode these (text-to-speech recognition software to deal with that issue) or have someone read the text to him or her or transcode it.
6. Will translators lose their job?
  • No. A good segment of the population will still function in the current system.
  • No. The new spellers will need translation as much as the older generation.
  • There will be a need for some transcoding too.
7. Will teachers lose their job?
  • If a Grade 1 teacher were incapable or unwilling to teach the new system, they could be given the task to teach those children who are opting out or be asked to teach the old system (as a second language) or teach older grades. Substantial accommodations should be given to older teachers wanting to plan (prepare material) and/or learn the new code.
  • There will be a 4 or 5 year preparatory period to start the transition (Year 1/Grade 1) which should give people plenty of time to shift, should they want to.
  • Unions will be consulted and a system will be put in place to facilitate the transition for all
  • Retirement by attrition would be one of the ways used to replace teachers.
  • Grade 1 teachers are often able to teach other grades.
  • New students will need a few teachers to teach the old system as a second-language mode.
8. The language will lose the morphological links between words that will be lost or reduced with a new more phonemic system.
  • Everyone knows the link between language and linguistics or photography and photographer, for instance. These pairs of words resemble each other, but the link is not automatic in the first pair. A more phonemic system will sometimes improve the semantic relation and sometimes obscure it. At the end of the day, some of the words that are linked by how they look, require the learner to remember the pronunciation of the words since they might not be pronounced as they are written or spelled: photographic, but photography: (/fəˈtɒɡ.rə.fi/ VS /ˌfəʊ.təˈɡræf.ɪk/. Which is better? In a reform spelling, these words would be spelled something like this in Iezy Ingglishfetogrefy VS fetegrafic. Notice that in both, the stressed syllable is the one that does not have the “e” or schwa. Huge advantage for foreign learners where now no one knows where the word stress is. Is there anyone who canNOT link the two words semantically? If you cannot, you are either very dumb or very biased. Notice that ALL consonants phonemes provide the link and they usually would. A newer system will improve the link between words that are spoken and words that are written/decoded/read. Learning should be faster as a result. The current system obscures the link between words that are spoken (and heard) and words that are written/decoded.
  • Furthermore, yes, there are words that look like they are related and the link will be obscured, but if spelling and misspellings are so important aren’t they a lot of false-positives that a respelling would clarify? Is ready about reading? (Are we surprised that people find it hard to … read?) Arch isrelated to archive? Hive is related to archive? Apathy is about taken a pathBallet is a small ball? Right? Country is about countingBreakfast is the action of breaking fastColonel is a special colonLead (the metal) is about leadingBus and businessDeteriorate and deter are related? Cancel is about cans and cellsGig (the performance) and gigantic are related ? Have and haven are related? Ache and achievedReinvent and rein (vent)All and allowInventory and invent are linked? Reached and acheResent is about sent/sending? Is a beldam a belle dame (It is an ugly woman)? Is noisome about noise (It is not!) Is nowhere about now and here? Are lions and medallions related and do dentists’ cars more prone to dents? How about “even” and “seven”? Are they related! “Seven has even in it, which is ‘odd’” (Thanks to Barnabas Tanujaya for those.) Electricity and city? There are many false positives. How many more do I need to prove the point that there are a lot of false positives currently?
  • There are words in the current system that appear to be linked, but aren’t. No one seems to be confused. Invest is about a vest that’s in a coat? Numb and numbers are related? Legal is about legAssertive about ass? Is ear related to earn related to learn? Acting and actual are related? Deli and deliverHeaven and heavyMan and manyAdd and addressEarl and earlyPet and petty? How about bigot? Is Nonplussed about being not plus (It means confused!)? Is Disabuse about abuse (it is not!)Is specious about species or special? Crudités are crude? Terrific and terrible mean the complete opposite. How about restive and restful? How about condone and condemnDisinterested does not mean not being interested! Is humility and humiliation connected semantically? NOPE! Is sublime less than good like subway, substitute, subtract? Prodigy and prodigal are not related? If Awesome is great, then awFUL must be even better? But, it is not. Is being “broke” about being brokenDulcet is about being sweet, not dull. Is ribald about badness? It doesn’t! And how about “confident” and “confidential”. Is confidence about a secret? Is transparent about parenthood? (Thanks to Barnabas Tanujaya for the last few.) Is parenthood some kind of material that a parent wears over their head? There are lots of false positives in that sense in the lexicon too. The etymological argument has a lot of flaws. It does not look like it is a robust argument at all. It is a preposterous argument to allow so many irregularities. It is as unreliable as the spelling system. Why do those supporters like unreliability and like to force on people? We know kids love structure, reliability and we give them just the opposite! Why are we lead by dysfunctionality?
9. Is it worth it?
  • Suppose we make English as regular as Finnish. Now consider, Finnish kids start school at age 7. Most English-speaking kids start at school at age 5.5. How much does it cost to teach all of those kids for an extra 1.5 years. Teachers are expensive. Daycare? Less so. Imagine the possibilities. Also, there is quite a bit of data that indicates that maybe kids do not need to go to go to school at age 5.5. Again, daycare or universal childcare could make the life of millions, dare I say billions of learners, that much better. THAT is not worth it? What is?
  • Illiteracy rates in the 30% levels in most Commonwealth countries will drop with a simpler system.
  • A simpler system will be MUCH cheaper to teach (fewer specialist teachers will be needed).
  • Learning will happen faster. As students HEAR a new word, they will be able to link it to its ONE possible spelling and when they read a new word, they will be able to link it to a word that they heard. The brain connections will be reinforced more efficiently. Lets take a word that you have never seen printed before: “tuleafashouhe”? Are you sure of it pronunciation? Where is that word stress? And then, a few weeks later, you hear on TV “tlayfaychor”? Would you be able to connect the 2? Most likely not, but if it had been spelled as it is pronounced, then the connections would have been made, with more certainty. It is self-evident that more coherence between systems would make learning faster and easier.
  • Fewer kids will be pulled out and shamed as reading disabled.
  • Less crime as more people will be able to read and write. (Robots will do the menial work that illiterate people sometimes must do).
  • Happier labour force.
  • Better educated/literate labour force.
  • Better economy.
  • More people around the world should be able to learn an easier system.
  • Easier travelling and understanding between people.
  • More people will be able to read books written in the new code. Higher profits for English-speakers.
10. Which industry will lose?
  • Tutoring agencies and tutors could lose out. Still, we could make the first generation that will learn the new code, bicodal. If this is so, they will surely need help to learn the old code, just like pasts generatiosn did.
  • We need to make this a win-win situation. Anyone displaced will be given a choice of work that is related to what they were doing before
  • Teachers (attrition and re-assignment will need to be addressed), but those who cannot cope will be re-assigned.
  • Publishing houses will benefit. Some of the old material will need to be digitized, but a lot has been (Gutenberg project, Google,…)
  • Psychologists who assess students’ reading and writing abilities/intelligence will lose out, but I suspect that this is a small number, seeing how many of these evaluations took place in my 25 years of teaching.
11. What do these new spelling systems look like?
  • Some are using most of the spelling rules that exist now. They are just regularizing many of the patterns. (Masha Bell has one system.)
  • A reform would not mean spelling using a phonetic system like IPA. There is no cursive writing (although this could be created I suppose). Cursive writing is faster than printing words, but aren’t more and more people going to use technology to avoid writing all together? Even in rare instances where people are asked to cursive write, a recorder with speech recognition software could do the work of transcribing much more efficiently than any one could, even with short-hand.
  • Other systems attempt to maximize the opportunity as taking a second shot at this will prove unlikely. Iezy Ingglish is such a system. It systematizes the easiest pattern of English: the vowel+e pattern found in many words (piece, clue, foe, reggae,…) and it echoes the long vowel+Consonant+e pattern found in a lot more words, which is more contrived than the first pattern and which makes decoding a much harder tasks than it should (late, cute, core, mite, mere). The simpler pattern would do away with the cumbersome doubling of the consonant rule to change the vowel value: pat/patting, mat/matting VS mate/mating/.
  • Others can be found on the English spelling society website.
12. Will communication between the ones who know the new system and the ones that don’t be affected?
  • The language/speech/conversations will be the same.
  • The only communication mode that will be affected is the written mode, but is there anyone who thinks that most people will not have smart phones or tablets or computers to allow this?
  • The internet will need transcoding work, but programs can easily be created I am told by programmers. These programs will be able to transcode tons of material and will do it faster that any translation program (and much better).
13. There will be many homophones/heterographs. Will they not make communication harder? (Thanks to Tomas Murphy for that one.)
You/ewe, read/reed, ad/add,…
  • No one when speaking and listening is confused. There are very few instances where this is a problem in real life. Many cannot be confused as many are not even the same type of words: check (verb)/cheque (noun), ad/add, it’s/its, their/there/they’re,… Let’s respell them. tchèc, ad, its, dhèr: I went to cash the tchèc. I tchèc the tchèc.
  • Homonyms: bark (dog) and bark (tree). Many words have multiple meaning and one spelling. Is there anyone who is confused.
  • The great majority of these words are disambiguated by the types of words they are. You is a pronoun and ewe is a noun. Read is a verb and reed is a noun. Ad is a noun and add is a verb. The linguistic context helps clarify matters already.
  • The great majority of these words are disambiguated by the context.
  • Hundreds of thousands of misspelling are okay, but 500 homophones will cause issues?
  • * There are just 500 homophones and there is close to 1/2 a million words misspelled (depending on the lexicon we use). In any case, it is a very large number of words. And yet we cannot change the spelling of these words because of JUST 500 words (which upon analysis would not cause comprehension issues if they were respelled in any event, in the majority of cases. Of course, we can find the one exception to the overwhelming majority of times. Splitting hair is fun, but tens of thousands of splits VS 500? Are knit-picking or finding excuses or what?
14. Accents will vanish?
  • For the last 250 years (and more) they have NOT vanished even with an extremely POOR system representing them.
15. Language changes
  • The printing press, spell checking, public schooling,.. have cemented the spelling of words for centuries now and will. If one were to re-adjust spelling to be more phonemic/regular, spell checking and printing will operate in the same manner, cementing the new spelling of words. I doubt that vowel shifts will occur again.
  • With a more phonemic system, there will be fewer chances of deviations. Deviations occurred mainly because few people were schooled, could write, could read in the past. The system will be much more stable.
16. The current spelling helps me.
  • If you are French, Spanish, Italian (any Romance language), about 50% of words will be spelled more or less like they are in these languages and reading will be easy for these words, obviously. However, the spelling will interfere with the pronunciation of these words. Everybody knows how these speakers have a real tough time pronouncing English words. Why? Because they are not pronounced like they are in these languages. Why? Because there is very little guidance in the spelling to indicate how these words are pronounced. Again, there are hundreds of thousands of words whose pronunciation needs to be memorized.
Wikipedia, English language
  • If you are Greek, there are only 6% of the time where spelling will be easier for you, Pronunciation again is going to be a huge problem for hundreds of thousands of words as it with everyone.
  • People who speaks Germanic languages are being helped with the spelling 1/4 of the times. Unless they know a Romance language, they will struggle with the pronunciation of those French words and others. The pronunciation of those Germanic-based words will be easier. They are usually shorter and do not contain the invisible “schwa” that one needs to know about for those bigger Latin/French words.
  • But, what about those people who don’t speak any of these languages? Are Asian-speakers persona non grata? How selfish is it for European-speakers to stick it to the Asians, Arabic, African-speakers? Will they forgive you or will they ask you to learn Chinese or Arabic? What goes around, comes around. Latin used to be the lingua franca of the world and how many people speak Latin now.
  • Finally, and sadly last, as a 1st language, pedagogical methods are forced to be of the top-down variety, making the learner a passive, since the code demands a constant expert to check if the learners are not mispronouncing, ” misdecoding” words like “learners” as /lirnɛrs/ VS /ˈlɜː.nərz/ or​ /ˈlɝː.nɚz/. They are not mispronouncing. These words are misspelled. Learning methods make the learner co-dependent, passive. It is a very ineffective way to learn … other subjects, freely, independently, by discovery, by reading. What are the extra costs of that?
If you are still convinced that English spelling should remain as is, are you still driving your PINTO or your FIAT or the item that you bought that is not working because it had flaws? I ask you, this, why is it that you should like something that is flawed when, in all other aspects of your life, you would not stand for it. You have accepted and learned the flaws. Let’s pause though. This world is not just you. There is at least one billion people who are trying to learn this difficult language. If English has the stature of a lingua franca, it should at least act as one. It should change and be a better lingua franca for all people.
ADDENDUM:
The schwa: about, children, pencil, renovate, supply, syringe, luscious, mission, blood, does, cousin, thorough, and especially. (Even “one” or o_e could be included as it is pronounced “wun”.) So, even 14! (I am including stressed syllables/words as schwas like in does, which some phoneticians feel are very different than the “a” in “about”. This linguistics university course 115 (Pennsylvania) seems to indicate I am right: Phonetic symbols and this linguist in speech makes a case for the schwa being just a reduced phoneme of the /ʌ/).
Attribution: John Katt
Attribution: John Katt
/ə/ : about, children, pencil, renovate, supply, syringe, luscious, mission, blood, does, cousin, thorough, and especially
/ei/: great, raid, grey, gray, ballet, mate, table, caffe, matine, reggae, vein, vain
/ɛ/: bear, care, aerial, their, there, questionnaire, mayor, bury, any, friend, leopard
/i:/: be, been, bean, key, mere, elite, people, ski, debris, quay
NOTE:
Differences in English acquisition

Differences in English acquisition depend on the language you learned, you know. If you are a person who speaks a Germanic language, it will be easy for you to speak, read/read out loud, and understand English, day to day English. If you speak a Romance language like French, Italian, Spanish,… it will be relatively easy for you to read/decode/understand written English (especially if it is academic or legal), but it is the speaking and the listening parts that will be challenging, especially if it is a day to day task. English is a mix of both of these families: easier words are related to Germanic languages like Dutch, Danish,… , but more difficult words are usually French, Latin-based Italian, Spanish, … Of course, if you are a speaker of Chinese, of a language that is not related to English in any way, then it is going to be an even greater challenge, as even phonemes and of course alphabetic letters will be completely new to you.

ADDENDUM (for more arguments in favour of a reform)

(Second language learners of English whose mother-tongue is related to English (German, French,...) probably find learning to spell * and read * (understand) English not so hard (since about 40% of English words are from the Romance languages and 40% from the Germanic languages), but it is important to note that other learners (of Asian or other languages) will find learning English incredibly difficult, not because they are lazy or stupid, but because the spelling system is inefficient and highly irregular.) A lot of people would benefit if it were regularized (especially native English speakers, who have no reference points) or modernized, since English hasn't had an effective reform of its spelling system in 400 years (other modern languages have had such a reform, as we will find out later)! (*By the way, depending on how it is being taught, oral decoding and accuracy in pronunciation are usually challenging since letters [graphemes] often do not represent the sounds [phonemes].)

Many institutions recognize the value of modernizing, but the English spelling system has not been modernized in a meaningful way in 400 years! That kind of resistance to change has had a huge cost, human and economic! While it is true that there are many institutions making lots of money to teach all of its quirkiness and idiosyncrasies, it should not be that way! Why does everyone else need to change and not English? Why doesn't English change to make everyone else's life a bit simpler, instead?


The term "modernizing" returns how many  million of hits on Google? Check it out here!  The concept of making something more current is not odd. It is something that humans seek to do all the time: to be better, to do better. We do not use silexes to make fires any more, do we? :) There is no dispute that the English spelling system needs to be updated or modernized as you will read (and as the table above indicates). It is therefore baffling that very few leaders and people in general are okay with modernizing the English spelling system. Is it because it was so hard to master, but it was mastered, conquered, like a romantic can be with apparently more satisfaction? :) Why is everyone interested in getting the latest and most modern gizmo, but not interested in getting the latest and most modern (efficient) spelling system, the very element that underpins reading and learning? Is it cognitive dissonance? It is true that it would be a major undertaking, but we don't propose to force anyone who can read the old system learn the new one (did you read the subtitle of the website). That would be illogical!  No! As the description of the blog under the title states, we envisage a phased-in program in schools that would start in 2020 and take 20 years to complete. I know this will not be easy, but is learning to read and spell easy!, but children should do it? Right? THEY should make an effort, but WE shouldn't? Cognitive dissonance again? The time is ripe! With digital technology, a change of this sort should be much easier than in the past. It is just a matter of RE-coding one element for another. It will not be that hard to make a program to transcode the old texts into new regular texts. We have waited for a better system for 400 years! Let's put our mind together! Let's modernize the English spelling system and leave a legacy for the next generation (and save money and time, in the process).

In her book "Spelling it Out" (2012), Masha Bell describes the situation as clearly and succinctly as one could. 


There are many people agreeing with Mrs. Bell. Take Professor Diane McGuiness's view in a 2002 newsletter:


Do you think that these last people mentioned are stupid or marginal thinkers? Uta Frith is a neuropsychologist ! From Masha Bell's "Spelling it out", Dr. Frith adds:


G. B. Shaw, Carnegie, Websters, Twain would agree too! They were involved in trying to reform it too! Today, there are many professors, such as Noam Chomsky, Dr. Yule, Dr. Betts, and many others who would agree too. How many quotes, how many research, how many intelligent people are needed for leaders to act? How many students do you need to label "disabled" when we know it is the system that is? 


They are not alone. Here is just one sample of articles that were written in the Spelling Society's bulletins from 1981 to1983 years:



Most people do not realize that most languages have about 50 spellings or spelling patterns (link between a sound and a letter or a group of letters). Finnish has 28 or so! Masha Bell indicates. English has 91! That would not be so bad, she notes, compare to the average of 50, but the problem is that 69 of them have several words that don't follow the pattern. In fact, she concludes her analysis with this shocking statistics:
"There are 2008 divergent spellings out of 4206 (which occur in 3700 words out of the 6800 most commonly used [words in the English language])." Masha Bell

So, more than 1/2 of the most commonly used words in the English language have an irregular spelling! It means that a learner might as well flip a coin to know whether or not a word will follow the pattern!  (By the way, there are are tens or hundred of thousands of irregularities if one uses a complete corpus of words and longer words, whose spelling and reading are problematic because of the unstressed schwa syllable[s]as well!). Check the "y" in Dr. Jekyll. Because it is unstressed it defaults to the schwa sound. One must know where the stress falls. Yes! There are rules for that! And, yes, there are just as many irregularities! I detect a pattern: whenever there are rules, there are items that do not conform to the rules! Sorry! That's the best pattern can offer you! In any case, Masha Bell goes on to write (this is an example):


In her book, she lists the 69 irregular patterns. There is even more insane. I am running out of superlatives here, but the -le and -re ending of words like "people" and "centre" are clear examples of dyslexia. Apart from the fact that there are regular examples of these endings (level, teacher,...), well, teachers and experts in literacy insist that students write these words as if there were dyslexic, even though being dyslexic is  frowned upon! In other words, you must cross a busy street on green, but sometimes it is okay to go on red, even though you might get ticketed once in a while when it is green or red! "Suffice it to say that reading is excruciatingly hard to do in English. Imagine what a 6 years old must memorize to learn to read. Imagine how frustrating that would be, if one is looking for patterns. But, if this was not difficult enough, spelling is even more difficult! Out of 6800 common words,...

"No other European language has more than 1000 unpredictable spellings. English has about 4000!" 
(Masha Bell


Spelling it out (Masha Bell) The blog page



Finnish has 6 unpredictable spellings! 


Dr Davies, a person who learned Finnish, indicates that:


"Finnish is spelt exactly as it is pronounced, and is pronounced exactly as it is spelt. [...] Once you grasp the basic idea of how Finnish works, it is an easy language to teach yourself from books, because there is never any doubt about how to pronounce words. You just follow the rules, and you will be right every time."


In fact, Finnish students must only learn 1/3 spelling rules (since it has about 30 phonemes represented by 30 letters). No wonder it takes in 1/3 less time for Finnish kids to learn their language compare to English-speaking students! Of course, if English was really simplified (more so than just regularized), there is no reason to think that English-speaking students could not be able to decode ALL English words in one year too! Imagine all the new notions they could learn much earlier than they are now ... like the Finnish or Italian kids can! No need to reform the education system, teaching, find new methods. 

As you will read later, the state of the English spelling system has not changed effectively in 400 years and that is one of the reasons it is such a mess! Here is a preview!

Caxton
The Printing Press Casting Spells
Latin VS English



So the way English is, I mean iz, is artificial or artiffishial or artiffishul, caused by a number of events and people, as we shall see later on! Many languages and many people of many countries have understood that a language is artificial! In fact, even the Chinese, whose language is anything but phonetic, have adopted a phonetic transliteration, Pinyin, to make learning it easier! Is it arrogance or ignorance or ... greed that have brought us to keep spinning our wheels or go backwards, in fact? When will educational leaders (ministers, superintendents, teachers, union leaders,...) understand this? Right now, they are leders (as in lead [the heavy metal that is hard to move] or as in pen ... so do write to ... them) ! Are paradigm shifts for us, but not them? Is thinking outside the box something that WE should be doing, but not them? Why is everyone else supposed to bend over backwards to change, but they can dictate some changes, but not others, for some people, but not them? Why the discrepancy? We are not advocating literate people to learn a new code, we just want to make the educational system more efficient! Are they against efficiency too? Of course, some will state that it will be very hard to get all Commonwealth countries to agree on this reform (or any reform). Granted! It is not going to be easy! I am no politician, but it will take a few courageous leaders to get things rolling. The regularizing of the spelling system is the smallest common denominator and many linguists or reformers appointed by the countries should agree to it. Politicians are not linguists, so let's leave that decision to the ones who know like Dr. Yule, Dr. Betts, Masha Bell, and others who have proven over time to be expert in the field. It is true that maybe political leaders are unaware of this issue and are willing now to take the bull by the horn?  I guess it will take editors of newspapers and journalists to give this movement a little bit of momentum, but maybe editors and journalists are afraid of losing their jobs or their position as "experts" of the language! Who knows?


So, many languages have had reforms, as you will read later. In any case, guess who is going to learn to read faster? Guess which system will have fewer kids with behaviour issues? Guess which system will have fewer students struggling with reading and learning (because if you cannot read, it is harder to learn)? Guess which education system is CHEAPER? Guess which teachers appear more "competent"? Why does all this matter? While learning to spell right is not so important with all the tech gizmos people have nowadays, reading or literacy is crucial in today's world. Yet, English-speaking countries are beset with abnormally high rates of illiteracyabnormally high rates of reading and writing disabilities, and/or abnormally high budgets which are mitigated --in some countries (Canada)-- by hiring high numbers of learning support teachers used to teach in small groups students who cannot decode as well as their peers, who take much longer to learn to read than peers from other countries! Do you see the pattern? Many Canadian leaders gloat about how well Canadian students do on PISA tests, for instance, but at what cost! How many countries can afford a cap of 24 students per class in primary classes. Not many! In British Columbia, it is the case! There are also 3 full-time, expensive, literacy teacher specialists with masters degree, for about 200 primary kids per school. That's not cheap! Kids do well, but the cost is prohibitive! Take this UK parliamentary report looking into the issue. It costs $2000 to $3000 to support those struggling readers. That isn't cheap, but building jail, among other things, isn't cheap either! Ultimately, taxpayers pay for that. Are you concerned about that? Keeping this silly spelling system intact is turning out to be a bit expensive, don't you think?




But, even if cost was not an issue, one must consider the loss of time used to teach (memorize) all of those irregularities What about the parents who must hire tutors to help a kid unable to read and often spell. Governments use a lot of smoke to make the mirror look good! In fact, Canadian kids are not immuned to being labelled "disabled" in spite of all of the expenses and in spite of a system that seems to set them up for it! Other Commonwealth countries are failing too!


"The most common learning disability. Of all students with specific learning disabilities, 70%-80% have deficits in reading. "

(Wikipedia, Learning disabilities)

Well! Well! Isn't that strange? Not really! In fact, Wikipedia articles in Italian and Finnish on the subject matter are much smaller in scope and length. Is it because their language doesn't cause "learning disabilities"?

"[...] Dyslexia accounts for 6 to 10% of LD students. Reading is [sic] about 2-3% of the population."
(Translation from the link from the Finnish Wikipedia article on LD!)




"29% of the United States adult population – over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story. [...] There are 46% of Australians who can’t read newspapers.



Are all of those American and Australian teachers (and let's add all the other Commonwealth teachers in the mix as well) BAD teachers? Maybe it is the kids or their parents who are lazy or stupid? Fortunately, there is a simple and logical answer and solution to this problem! It is, in fact, the language that is incompetent! Consider this! There are between 200 and 400 ways (depending on the corpus of words chosen) to represent about 44 sounds with 26 letters in English! There are 38 ways in Finnish! Most other European languages have 50 ways! In a corpus of words that most children would meet, she counts 205 ways! (Masha Bell, Spelling it out!) 



Early learners in Grade 1 might learn about 450 common sight words, yet about one half of them do not follow the phonetic rules, which makes learning the other half just as hard to learn because you would have to memorize the ones that do fit the rule! (Masha Bell, Ibid) And, you are surprised that Grade 1 don't FOLLOW ... RULES?  If adults don't, why should they? :) (Click on the slices for detail. Stats from Masha Bell, Ibid) 



"The majority -- approximately 80 percent -- of children 
identified as having learning disabilities [in English] have 
their primary academic problem in reading."


Are students really disabled, are the teachers really bad teachers, or is it the language?  The preponderance of the evidence seems to point to one and only one logical answer and solution! Just for fun, did you know (do you remember that) there are 24 ways to spell the "oo" sound as it is found in the word moon. But, there is more insane! Of all those words that are pronounced "oo", say, using the "ou" spelling (as in through), the "ou" spelling is irregular: it is "", "through", ... but it is "through" (schwa), through (trɔf), "your" (/o/ phoneme), but "flour" (/awer or flaʊər) or "harbour" (Schwa), and "pout" (/paʊt/)There are thousands of examples like these for other letter combinations. Many people know that you can pronounce "ough" 7 different ways, for instance! So, how are learners going to know when a word spelled with "ou" vowels is READ or DECODED? In fact, English has 91 spelling rules
91

AND, MANY, contain more exceptions that elements that follow the rule! (Stats are from Masha Bell's Spelling it Out.)

That is more insane than "more insane"! I thought rules had to be respected? Don't you get a traffic violation if you break "the" "rules"? So, English (and many education leaders and ministers), you get a violation. In fact , thousands of violations for being incompetent or lazy! One for every exceptions?)

By the way, how many spelling rules are there for Finnish?


1 *
A phoneme is written and expressed one way and one way only!

Speaking of 1, guess who is # 1? Canadians? Australians? Americans? Brits? (For those who know about the PISA tests and know that Canadians do quite well on them, you are probably smirking right now, but I will have the last smirk! I will prove you wrong! Do you like foreshadowing?) So, GIVEN THE SAME BUDGETS, THE SAME AMOUNT OF HOURS OF INSTRUCTION, and THE SAME SERVICES (I will be less subtle later!), who is going to be smarter? Who is going to be more competitive? Guess which teacher is going to have an easier time teaching Language Arts? Guess how much time Finns will spend on learning spelling rules and their exceptions? Guess who will learn more advanced notions faster? Are educational leaders asleep? Are they dumb? Are they lazy? Can't they read? Are they le(a)ders? That's right you read right! Leders (like leaded or deader, I suppose!) :) It is true that I would not be able to play on the word if the spelling was ... regular! :) They are just regular "leders", I suppose, then! :) Hopefully, not all of them! Time will tell!

(* There are about 28 spelling patterns, though, since there are 28 letters + 1 spelling rule, which states that if a sound is long, double the letter. IN total, then, 29 + 3 rare exceptions! A far cry from English spelling's mess!)

In Chapter 28 in her handbook on Orthography and LiteracyUsha Goswami, a professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at Cambridge (UK) declares what seems so obvious: that the complexity of a language's orthography (its spelling system) makes reading more or less complex depending on how regular the mapping of symbols to sounds and sound to symbol is. Learners of English want to use what most learners of more phonemic languages like to use (phonemic decoding), but they end up relying on more logographic "decoding" (whole word) to unable them to read words correctly:


(Goswami, Handbook on Orthography and literacy  p. 477, Chapt. 8)

Moreover, many studies link English irregular orthography to the epidemic number of "learning" disabilities found in learners of English as their first language:


(Masha Bell, Spelling it out, 2012)

Is it coincidence? Is it illogical? (It is worth noting that the word "dyslexia" is used here to describe a general difficulty with reading and spelling. It is not just related to the original issue of letter reversal or phoneme sequencing issue, which is essentially what learners of language with regular orthographies will mostly have!)

  In fact, the evidence is incontrovertible, unless you are blind or ... cannot read this! The English spelling system is not only disabled, but probably disabling. No wonder learners have problems reading! I invite you to read "Spelling it Out" by Valerie Thomas. It is a reading book that would be used to help students with reading. It does indicate how a child might feel when he or she is asked to write (and read) in English. So, studies show --and current education practices show also-- that the only way to master the system (if you can call it that) is to force students to memorize all of those words like Chinese learn all of those ideograms. What a waste of time! The guided reading remediation programs that are in vogue is just acknowledging that memorizing is pretty well the only way one can learn to read and spell in English. Is that a solution? Wouldn't it be simpler to solve the underlying problem and regularize the code! Well! No, of course! Let's keep the status quo! Kids MUST learn it! And if they cannot, well, they are disabled! But, is it them or is it the language?  Most people have this attitude: "Hey! I learned it! So,...!",  "Hey, I fetched the water to the river! So,..." The truth is English spelling is very inefficient, in that if it were a car, it would not sell; if it were a paper, it would get a fail; if it were an invention, it would never get off the ground! If this was an Apple phone, do you think people would buy it? So, everything else needs to  improve to get ... market-share, to be more efficient, to be better,... to survive, to grow, but why is it that English is allowed to be the exception to that rule or law? One thing is certain: the law of capitalism don't seem to apply to English! It has not changed in 400 years! 400 years! Do you know anything that has not changed in 400 years? Even other languages have changed! Everything has, but English! Is it complacency or arrogance! The English spelling system is far from efficient! Students are not "dumb"; they know English is (its spelling system)! :) Anyone with a half brain should accept the evidence!


[...] a Statistics Canada study estimates that a country which is able to improve its mean literacy score by 1% relative to other countries will enhance its relative per capita GDP by 1.5% in the long term (Coulombe, Tremblay and Marchand, 2004)

And, then, you have those people who cannot fathom ANY change, but who don't like paying higher taxes! :) Guess what? WE are not asking you to change! Books using the old system will not vanish! Don't worry! We are the phonetic police! :) Could it be that the language that underpins every single aspect of learning be the cause of some of the headaches (and the heartaches) that besets the Commonwealth systems and, more importantly, besets most learners of English? But, maybe there is something even more sinister at work here! Education leaders and anti-teachers can always ask teachers to work harder and, basically, ask them to accomplish an impossible task consider how complex the spelling system is! It is a perfect system to keep every teacher busy and everyone else frustrated or illiterate!


"Could it be that kids are not disabled, but 
that English orthography is?"

In contrast, there is Finnish! It has one and only one rule: a letter has one and only one sound attached to it! It has 38 spelling patterns and virtually no exceptions! Which would you like to learn? You can call they dumb, but who is going to read the harder books first? Which is the most efficient system? Finnish students do not have to learn 91 spelling rules which have more exceptions than items that conform to the rule! And, predictably, Finnish students (and even Estonian students) beat many English-speaking students of many Commonwealth countries (see DATA page) on an international test called PISA. Is this really surprising? Of course, it is hard to ascertain that "the" language "did it" because there are so many variables that can influence language acquisition (start of schooling, socio-economic factors, teaching methods, nutrition, budgets, support, time spent on language acquisition,...) and these tests are conducted on students who are late in their language acquisition development (age 15), so a country school system can over time or with added support, compensate for the difficulty. That is what happens! They pour money into their language programs and, bingo, they do better! Anyway, these tests take place at 15. It is a too late to know what is really going on! However, if logic and intuition do not work for you, as luck would have it, one comparative study in early language acquisition (Seymour et al., 2003) shows that after one year of instruction, English children show the lowest percentage of correct word reading on a scale in comparison to other European countries, with only 30-40% correct words compared to German, Greek and Finnish, with close to 100%.


If all this was not enough to convince you that most English educational systems are just patching holes instead of fixing the underlying abyss, there is yet another proof indicating that there is a problem with English! A careful analysis of the previous diagram will reveal that all of these countries have a more regular spelling system than English, if you refer back to the first diagram provided above. Is that a coincidence or is there more to it than that? Well, I wish we could "hide" this little piece of information under a rug somewhere. Actually, to obfuscate matters, many Commonwealth countries spent inordinate amount of money and time to make teachers teach and student learn about those 91 spelling rules and to acquire fluency in reading where Finnish kids can focus on matters like critical and creative thinking earlier and therefore, at the end of schooling, learn more important skills that will help them compete as individuals (and as a nation). Commonwealth countries spent more if they want their students to outshine others, but they have a tough time competing with the Finnish students! Finnish kids learn to read much quicker and much more often than English students learn to read English! Literacy issues are nowhere what they are in the US, for instance. Worse, English-speaking kids are sometimes even labelled as reading disabled, when, I think, if they had been born in Finland, not so many would be. Not only does it damages many kids' ego (and possibly his or her life), but demands a whole host of special services, teachers, and material to remedy the problem. Is the kid disabled or the language disabling? There is data that shows that the rate of "dyslexia" (which is sometimes used to speak about reading/writing disabilities) in English speaking countries is much higher than in countries that have a language that is easier to learn! Please follow the link to the page DATA. In any case, I wonder how certain interest  groups (publishers, remedial reading services, English learning schools,...) are feeling about a reform! Do you think they would love it? Actually, there is an event in the history of the language were some of these groups derailed a reform. Suffice it to say, learning English is big business (and the more complex reading and spelling are, the better it is for them)! Innovation? No! Status quo? Yes! We have the quintessential VHS-Versus-Beta issue or, as I would like to put it, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde problem! Read below!

"Could it be that the language that underpins every single aspect of learning --English-- be one of the important causes of some of the ailments that besets educational systems in all Commonwealth countries?"

Are we finished yet? Not quite! There is yet one more piece to this puzzle --or nail to that coffin, take your pick-- that should convince anyone --and I mean anyone-- that the complexity of language does affect the rate by which a learner can learn and a teacher can teach effectively and efficiently!  Remember those PISA tests? As luck would have it, a Finnish university student delved into the matter. (Apparently, no one knows who this fellow is!) As luck would have it, his analysis reveals that language does matter and he could prove it! He could prove it because Finland has 2 different linguistic communities (Swedish-speaking and Finnish-speaking kids) receiving the same kind of education! Mmm! Not a perfect controlled experiment, but close! As it turns out, all things being equal, the Finnish-speaking kids do better on PISA tests than the Swedish-speaking kids. 




Check this table! While the purists will indicate with a smirk that Canadian students aren't doing badly, thank you very much, this result does not indicate how much money they must spend on their education budgets (much more, as in hiring more teachers, learning disability teachers, aids,...). In any case, where do Swedish-speaking Finnish students stands in terms of phonemicity compare to all the Finnish students? Are you connecting the dots?  (And, in this experiment that the PISA test reveals, the Swedish-speaking Finns belong to a higher socio-economic group)! And, of course, the "Finnish" data includes the Swedish-speaking kids, so the gap is even more important between the 2 groups! But, the Swedish-speaking Finns should do better than their Finnish-speaking counterparts. Studies after studies demonstrate that one's background gives you an advantage (Karl Alexander's study in Marita's bargain in Outliers does)! What do you think the education budget of Finland is (per capita) compare to, say, the one of the US, or England? Would it surprise you if I were to tell you that Finland spends less on education than English-speaking countries, would you be surprised? Are you connecting the dots? Go to Finglish to read a more thorough analysis on this topic. Finglish? What's that? Don't be afraid! The new code is not going to look like Finnish! Don't worry! We are not radicals! We are not as radicals as to impose to billions of people a system that is completely illogical! We wouldn't want to do that to anyone! You would be surprised how reasonable and how kloes thu niue koed iz and more importantly how logical or lodjikul.) It is worth noting that many reformers (because I am not the only one behind this unless Dr. Yule and Dr. Betts, both distinguished linguists are inept) don't  advocate for radical changes. There are many others! Masha Bell has written many books on the subject, detailing all of the irregularities of English. Check also all of the videos below and the Children of the Code website. It is also worth noting that many people from many nations (Chinese, Dutch, German, French, Estonian, Irish, Japanese, Romanian, Portuguese, ...) have undertaken some reforms to make their language simpler to read and learn in the last 300 years. That has not happened with English in 400 years! Is English perfect? Even Chomsky, the famous linguist, says that a reform would be beneficial, according to a private conversation I had with Dr. Yule. 



Is progress not in the cards? Why is it that everything is improving, but not English? Ever? Should we go back to using the printing press? Silexes? Why is this completely stubborn obsession of keeping a system that is fraught with more exceptions that regularities? New learners must think that adults are completely nuts! In 400 years, only the USA and (to some degree) Australia were able to push for minor reforms, in spite of many proposals for more substantive reforms. While a reform of the sort might seem frivolous to the un-informed, it is not. It is --first and foremost-- an economic act designed to increase literacy and eventually a nation's competitiveness. Reformists recognize that a language is a tool and, like all tools, it should be efficient for what it is designed: communication. Texting is not seen as a viable code for a reform because it hinges on literate people to make up letters that are omitted. It taps on knowledge that a new learner would not have. Anyway, what will it take for the leaders of the Commonwealth to realize this? A crisis? An economic crisis? 

Actually, I think there is a crisis now in Commonwealth countries, but it is well ... "hidden". I think literacy issues in Commonwealth countries are more severe that are being reported (even though there is lots of data to suggest that there are crises). 


http://www.thecourt.ca/2012/03/10/at-the-court-moldowan-revisited-and-learning-disability-human-rights-claim-considered-at-the-scc/comment-page-1/#comment-452095
Again, these crises are mitigated --as best as one can afford or want-- by all kinds of measures that are very costly (higher budgets: more support and more hours devoted to language acquisition, for instance). All things being equal, English-speaking students would be appalling low in international assessments! I guess we owe it to the amount of money being poured into the system and the brave teachers who day in and day out makes English make sense to the kids, if indeed that is possible! For many, the reality is that they will have to learn English almost like Chinese kids have to learn Chinese! I will explain that little bit of information in my Finglish page!

I would be remiss if I did not address the one important objection that reformers must answer, namely that most children learn to spell and read well. First, they do, but how long does it take them? There is the rub! Some quickly, but some not so quickly, especially if we compare them to the proverbial paragon of student: the Finnish-speaking Finn. The study above show that many English-speaking kids learn English, but not very fast (and some not at all). Why do some learn to read and spell and some don't, anyway? ANSWER: VISUAL memory VS logic! I think it is probably safe to say that a parrot could learn English! I am being facetious, of course! But, people who have a great visual memory (or who are reading often and early in life, with literate parents urging them) will do okay! Sadly, the ones who have no books at home, illiterate parents, and a visually-impaired memory, will have a tough time. The ones who tend to rely on logic (trying to find the logic behind the system) will come out more confused and frustrated, as we known English to often having rules and within a rule, more exceptions than elements that fit the rule! In some ways, English is like languages like Chinese or Korean, where one has to memorize many characters or ideograms to learn to read and write! The distinction about not including speaking is important and will be explained later. Also, if you know Germanic or Latin languages, reading and spelling in English might not be so hard because you can rely on the one of the 2 main languages from which English was based on. Both of those languages being more phonetic would make spelling and reading much easier! So, depending on your abilities, English will be relatively easy to learn or impossible to learn. One thing is very sure, it takes for most people more time to learn to master reading and spelling English than many languages! If it is not completely intuitive, there is lots of data to suggest that this is so!

To be sure (and this will be addressed more thoroughly later on this page), there is the idea that, even though there is a problem, the way to fix this would be overwhelming; in effect, a reform is impossible. There are many reasons that would make a reform difficult, but can we afford to be playing the ostrich? Oddly, though, the digital age has opened up that window a little bit wider. Teachers should not feel threatened by this. Government shouldn't either. And, the public at large, the literate people, will not have to learn a new code. I offer a compelling and elegant way to solve this crisis and reform English below. Clearly, 400 years of neglect does not make it easy to cure the depth and spread of the disease, but what is the relative pain of a preventive medicine delivered to new patients administered by a doctor who will no longer be hiding from its past! However, it is quite possible that the dark side of capitalism will raise its ugly head and prevent a better product from being created, but are governments and the rest of the industry not belonging to those vested interest groups going to lie down and take it? Here is just one example that indicates how difficult this is going to be! 




Will they eventually not see the merit of progress and the lure of better efficiencies or productivity? Does money corrupt the most loyal of enterprises? The gains will take a generation to ... register (pun intended), but a generation is unfortunately not a word that parties like to look at, unless you have someone with a vision who comes in: a true leader! There are many vested interest groups wanting to keep the status quo! 

Finally, we do not pretend to offer a solution that will solve all the problems in the educational systems. Teaching, school facilities, management, quality of the material used, diet, parenting,... all of those elements do ALSO affect educational outcomes. That is absolutely clear! What is also absolutely clear is that the way a language is structured does impact outcomes too. That should be absolutely clear too! Are Commonwealth leaders unaware of those realities? Probably! Probably so because many educational leaders are too! Even so, where is the leadership? Is that ship sinking or thinking? Maybe we should read le(a)dership not leadership! Millions of kids (and foreign language learners) are hoping for a significant paradigm shift, not patching holes with rags ! And, remember ... we are not advocating that literate adults learn a new code if they don't want to! Read on!


-----

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and, considering English reading is not that compelling, I thought the following video couldn't highlight some of the issues better!




But, let's explore how this Mr. Hyde of a language was created?

INFUSION, FUSION, DIFFUSION, and CONFUSION

There are five pivotal events in the history of the English language.

The first and most important event is the conquest of England of William the Conqueror of France. He (and his soldiers) conquered England in the 11th century and, for about 300 years, the French conquerors "imposed" indirectly or directly Latin and Norman French as the language of the court, while commoners spoke English and those who wanted to climb the social ladder spoke both, which meant that eventually elements of both languages got fused, often duplicating the lexicon. In other words, this act of slow infusion created a slow fusion which proved to create confusion, as a result! Confused? Read on! Things will become clearer! :) 

Second, when eventually Henry the fifth came to claim back England and English as the national language, it looks like clerks, who had written in French and Latin before, had to invent ways to write English words now, often "latinizing" words, with no central authority to guide them in that regard. The word "some" used to be spelled "sum" before the French came and the word "quick" was spelled "cwik"! The old system wasn't perfect. As you can see the "c" has the same sound of the "k"! But, the French influenced messed things up! There were also the inconsistent copying issue. At the time, monks, left in badly lit rooms, were copying books written in Gothic font, which is excrutiatingly difficult to read, as this example shows.



Can you make out the words? The first verse is "A poore wydow somdele ystept in age"! It is easy to see that mistakes in transcription could occur. Masha Bell in her book "Spelling it Out" indicates that many letters could be confused and were badly transcribed. Incidentally, this is a well-written version. Not all printing was that clear! :) One can understand that copies of copies became less and less like the original. In other ... words, errors were rampant.

Third, when the printing press came to the fore, a set of characters/letters designed for Latin was used to represent English sounds and words, forcing again to "latinize" English because there weren't enough symbols or characters to represent the sounds of English AND Norman French words (which meant that sometimes 2 or 3 letters were needed to represent a sound). English's inconsistent spelling became fossilized. 

Adding insult to injury was the peculiar change of the pronunciation of the English vowels for the next 300 years after the French had left. This great vowel shift compounded the issue of the fossilisation of writing because irregularities as they occurred in time became fossilized. I cite from pg. 167 of the "Origins and Development of the English Language" by Thomas Pyles and John Algeo (1982):
The 15th c., following the death of Chaucer, marks a turning point in the history of English, for during this period the language underwent greater, more important phonological changes than in any other century before or since. Despite these radical changes in pronunciation, the old spelling was maintained and, as it were, stereotyped. William Caxton, who died in 1491, and the printers who followed him based their spelling norm not on the pronunciation current in their days, but on the usage of the medieval manuscripts. Hence, though the quality of every single one of the long vowels has changed, the graphic representation of the newer values remained the same as it had been for the Middle English ones. (The Modern English Period to 1800: sound and spelling)
The next issue came when, in the 16th century, England's leaders started their colonial expansion, starting the diffusion of English, "imposing" on the inhabitants of 52 or so "countries" that they ruled --during the 300 years that it occurred-- this rather ill-designed language, with its different versions, each evolving differently. What a mess! 

Finally, in the middle of the 18th century, Samuel Johnson was given the task to make an English dictionary, but it appears that he either was inept at regularizing the spelling system or felt he just could do as he wish. He kept many unnecessary irregular patterns and thousands of exceptions to these irregular patterns, all of which had been put in the books 150 years earlier when the printing press came to existence and Caxton fossilized it! 1476! Most of the problems originate there and Johnson immortalize them! English became a dead language. He had the chance to reduce patterns and exceptions, but he didn't. His dictionary became a standard, sadly, and would create problems for learners for centuries to this day. 

It is now quite apparent that the result of this fusion, this fossilization, this shift, this dispersion, and Johnson's machination or this affection for what is complex made it almost impossible to clean up a language, which overtime, because its orthography was so irregular and its pronunciation, ever changing created gaps between how words were pronounced and how they were spelled, across all of those Commonwealth countries, which might explain the difficulty to reform its spelling. Granted, differences between accents are waning, thanks to the infiltration of the television and the globalization of entertainment! Speaking of which, did you notice that Mr. Hyde is spelled with a final "e" that is not pronounced, but "might" doesn't have a final e? Also, the "i" sound is written with a "y" or with an "i". And, finally, "gh" doesn't sound like "g" or "h" or "gh"! Isn't that weird? Or, should I write weerd as in beer? Or, weard as in fear? Or wierd as in achieve? Are you getting the picture? 


This Change is not for you. We Agree!

There is no denying that spelling makes reading and writing excruciatingly difficult in English. The facts are incontrovertible. Nonetheless, there are people opposed to this reform. But, I wonder! Are they also opposed to the invention of the shoe, the bicycle, the car, the plane, the jet engine, all of which made travelling EASIER, if I am not mistaken? Do those people long for the times when human beings had to spend hours to create tools and arms out of stone, when their ancestors chased for days mastodons, when their grand-parents went to the river to wash their clothes? Wasn't it more difficult? The same can be said about reforming English. English has to evolve. There is no need for anyone to be upset or be concerned, however. People who can write and read current English will never be required to learn, read, or write the new code. They will not be impacted. True, their children or grand-children will be impacted, if nothing is done about improving English! Do they like them to suffer? Do they like them to fail or to be labelled learning disabled? Do they want countries to spend billions in literacy programs? Do they want more people in jail? Do they want to pay more taxes? I mean. There are some good arguments (13 to be exact) that can be made against reform. To make things short here, I did not want to address them all, but this reformist tackles each and everyone of them and, you guessed it, dismisses each and everyone of them too. If after reading all of this you are still opposed to it, please leave a message! I would be interested to know your arguments. But, remember, YOU will not be impacted,... if you can read and write now, that is!

Seeing 20 ... 20!

I believe that instead of trying to force everyone to change the way they write (and read), we should regularize English at the school level first and phase the change over two decades --at least-- modifying English spelling ever so sightly, as indicated in the  "fixes" page, where Masha Bell or Dr. Yule's recommendations or systems would be followed, in a committee of experts, teachers, parents, politicians, ... belonging to as many Commonwealth countries wish to participate (video conference please to make it easy and feasible). They would vote on what the best system should be. Another system could be invoked and a debate could occur over 3 or more systems. I think the system that look to modernize English have a better chance to succeed. English has a logical system, but there are just as many exceptions as there are rules. So, the idea is to use the existing rules and regularize all the exceptions. By introducing this kind of change at the school level on a gradual basis starting with K or Grade 1 classes, we would solve many issues that other systems have not been able to solve. Teachers would likely be the one group that would need to teach a new system. As a teacher, I do not see many teachers embracing this kind of change because it would be so onerous on them. Their own materials would be useless, would need to be revamped, and they would need to learn the new system. I am pretty sure teachers unions would be fighting this for ... decades. But, if we were to slowly introduce this change, it would take about two decades to be phased in. Older teachers who are towards the end of their career could teach different grades that are still teaching using the old system or we could have a system where parents could have a say as to which system their kids could learn. In the MEANtime, we could have younger teachers who could be trained to learn the new system and be phased into the system by, say, 2020 for seeing 2020. This approach would comfort the general public in that they would not be required to learn the new system. We would thus have two parallel languages (the old and the new form) being phased in and phased out, respectively. I am not suggesting this reform would be easy, but if announced 10 years in advance, most teachers (new and old) could get prepared for the change. Often, as a teacher, I have experienced changes created by a new minister or new director too eager to make his or her mark to impress or get promotion. Again, it is the system that would be failing us here. It will take a formidable change in the minds of the population where the whole of the population is considered and individual needs are taking a back seat! That would be --in my view-- a huge cultural shift in some cultures where the individual matters more than the group, where elections are won for short-term plans, where capitalist gains from institutions that have invested in education programs using the old system might need to evolve... We might need more than 10 years to change things! Let's see how smart humans really are at changing systems. A reform in other systems might be needed for other reforms to take place! After all, other reforms like the ones about climate changes and ecological issues take time and hard work to be implemented, if they get implemented at all. And, the sad reality is that, until these issues are dealt with, a spelling reform might not be worth much politically as children are not going to get you any votes!

The second proposal is more drastic. It would still introduce the system to children and not require adults to change anything, but traditional spelling system would be revamped significantly, simplifying it even more, getting rid of rules that are unnecessary to have a functional reading system that most can learn quickly.

No matter which system is used, there is no one who could disagree that the advantage to society would be immense. There would be minor costs, but huge gains for everyone, down to foreign language learners trying to crack the code. And, even though reforms have been attempted and have failed in the past, I think that now is the time to give it a chance. Times are different. We have computers and programs that can easily translate (or transcode) words spelled in the traditional way into the new form. It would be a matter of just pushing a button. It is quite feasible now.

Millions of kids and adults suffer from low self-esteem because they cannot read or spell. While spelling is a minor issue, being illiterate is not. It costs billions. Is it any coincidence that English-speaking kids have 10 to 20 % of students who need special learning assistance programs in reading? It costs lives too. Is it a total coincidence that 80 % of prisoners are illiterate? This needs to change, but you will not be impacted negatively on a personal level. You will not be required to do anything. This reform would be a silent reform. It will take decades. You and I will never need to learn the new system! For that and that reason only, you should support this movement. We owe this to the next generations of kids. It simply does not make any sense to keep the old system. Read this article for more info and or watch this video:



I am sure there are thousands like these and many trying to devise a way to master all of those irregularities. How many will it take for people to get that to fix this problem all you need to do is fix the spelling system?

So! The cure to all of those literacy issues is a new spelling system! It is that simple! Except that won't make those ESL schools or publishers too happy, but have their programs worked in the past? Except that there are other issues that might be more important, but our kids (you as a kid maybe) were cheated! And, except that there are many debates has to how this new spelling system should look like. No matter what, a reform is long overdioOverdioo? Overdew? Overdue, ... no matter how it is spelled or spelt! :)

References

(1) http://www.spellingsociety.org/kids/index.html. To cite another article from the Tyee, a website that writes about issues in British Columbia, a province situated on the West coast of Canada, "According to page 19 of the B.C. budget for educationfrom 2008/09 to 2010/11, adult British Columbians (aged 16 to 65) who could read at "level 3" in 2005 was just 60 per cent. With luck, that number may have risen to 69 per cent this year. (Level 3 is defined as "the desired threshold for coping with the increasing skill demands of a knowledge economy and society.") In other words, a minimum of 31 per cent of adult British Columbians can't read well enough to understand this article. That's about 880,000 of us. It does not speak well for a government that made literacy the first of its Five Great Goals." Also, "In 2003 a sample of adults in the U.S. were given a reading proficiency test and only 13% were rated proficient (87% not proficient). Surprisingly, only 30% of adult collage graduates scored as proficient in literacy on the test." (the American Literacy Council)
(2) The American Literacy Council

(3) The American Literacy Council

(4) Ibid
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language#Number_of_words_in_English
(6) (Public Investment in Skills: Are Canadian Governments Doing Enough? Serge Coulombe and Jean-François Tremblay, C.D. Howe Institute, 2005)
----

The following videos outline the reasons why spelling is the way it is. It is quite clear that the spelling system needs a major overhaul. They are hinting it. Many are on the Children of the Code website, even though there are the usual literacy gurus that will sell a more complex solution! Navigate at your own peril, but the following videos are very informative. Enjoy!


Before the Normans' Conquest



Courtesy of Children of the Code

------

During the Normans' Conquest




Courtesy of Children of the Code

------

After the Normans' Conquest: Henry 5



Courtesy of Children of the Code


------

16 and 17th Centuries:
Latin scribing in English: 26 Latin letters and 40+ English Phonemes.
We have a Problem!


Courtesy of Children of the Code


------

The Great Vowel Shift and the Printing Press


Courtesy of Children of the Code


------

Caxton
The Printing Press Casting Spells
Latin VS English


Courtesy of Children of the Code



Now, do you agree that something should be done about English?

ADDENDUM

/ə/ : about, children, pencil, renovate, supply, syringe, luscious, mission, blood, does, cousin, thorough, and especially
/ei/: great, raid, grey, gray, ballet, mate, table, caffe, matine, reggae, vein, vain
/ɛ/: bear, care, aerial, their, there, questionnaire, mayor, bury, any, friend, leopard

/i:/: be, been, bean, key, mere, elite, people, ski, debris, quay


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't agree nor disagree: I cannot see the vids LOL!

Anonymous said...

It looks like some (but not all) videos (links?) have been messed with and, of course, I was not unaware that this was the case. Thank you for your comment. Now I know. there are many towards the end that are still operational. I am investigating.

Anonymous said...

I have fixed the 3 videos that did not play. Odd! it used to play.