Rebut

Many languages have had reforms (check it out) 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,… the paradigm has shifted. Are the naysayers living in the Dark Ages? Why are they so reticent? No one who loves to read this will be bothered. Why would they want to subject kids to mental torture because 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.
But, how could we do it? There have been many attempts to try to reform the English spelling system, but the most serious one came to an abrupt end 100 years ago. Carnegie 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 changes or not. (Simplified Spelling Board - Wikipedia) It is hard to know which approach would have worked the best, but 100 years have passed. Times have changed and the paradigm has shifted as a result. No more so that when computers were introduced 30 years ago. 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. He have pushed that idea to its extreme. No one, unless they want to learn a new system, should learn to spell using the new system unless they desire it. It is our contention that a reform should be introduced methodically and slowly in schools first and only in schools. 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. Beyond that, it is our view that a reform should take place in all schools at once, 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 to all students 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. Transcoding is much faster than translating. It is also much more accurate. 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. This reform will take 12 years to works its way out. It will give 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? Be coherent! The system will no doubt be much easier to learn and to teach.
POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS and SOLUTIONS to REFORMING the ENGLISH SPELLING SYSTEM

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 Ingglish: fetogrefy VS fotegrafic. 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? Arch and archive? Apathy is about taken a path? Ballet is a small ball? Country is about counting? Breakfast is the action of breaking fast? Colonel is a special colon? Lead (the metal) is about leading? Bus and business? Deteriorate and deter are related? (They are not.) Cancel is about cans and cells? Gig (the performance) and gigantic are related ? Have and haven are related? Ache and achieved? Reinvent and rein (vent)? All and allow? Inventory and invent are linked? Reached and ache? Resent 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 medalions related and do dentists’ cars more prone to dents? They might, but these are not related. etymologically, although it sure does look so. (Thanks to Barnabas Tanujaya for that one.)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 leg? Assertive about ass? Is ear related to earn related to learn? Acting and actual are related? Deli and deliver? Heaven and heavy? Man and many? Add and address? Earl and early? Pet 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 condemn? Disinterested 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 broken? Dulcet is about being sweet, not dull. Is ribald about badness? It doesn’t! 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.
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. We cannot change the spelling of words because 500 words (which upon analysis would not cause comprehension issues if they were respelled.
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.

  • 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.
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/).


/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 depends 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.
Now, is there anyone who has Elon Musk or Bill Gates’s phone number handy?

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