Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Topic: Spelling Reform

10-second review: Want to reform English spelling to make it conform more to pronunciation? How do you feel about this example of reformed spelling?

“ ‘Forskor and seven years agoe our faadherz braut forth on this continent a nue naeshun.’ The Simplified Spelling Board presented this as a reasonable revision in our spelling.”

Title: “Sp.: The Problem of Spelling.” Murray Howard. English Journal (November 1976), pp. 16 – 19. The secondary school publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: The author reminds us that “rain,” “rein,” and “reign” were once pronounced differently, “but time made them homophones—words pronounced in the same way.” p. 17.

Comment: I don’t know about my readers, but I found myself sounding out each unfamiliar spelling, which would quickly destroy my comprehension. As inconsistent as standard spelling is, I’m used to it and I can read it quickly so that I can concentrate on ideas and not on words.

In my book Teaching English, How To…. (Raymond Stopper, Xlibris, 2004), I devote a whole chapter to spelling with methods that worked for my students. I focused on predictable misspellings—words with the indefinite vowel (schwa), multi-syllable words, words ending in –sede, -ceed and –cede, etc.—in a way that students enjoyed learning to spell.

With today’s spelling checkers and my consistent program in spelling predictable misspellings, spelling should not be the problem that it apparently still is for “challenged” spellers.

Make no mistake. Spelling is important. Misspelled words suggest laziness, lack of education, carelessness, inattention to detail and failure to seek excellence—in other words, flaws in one’s character. Spelling counts. And reform in order to conform to pronunciation won’t improve it because pronunciations differ across the country and change with time causing spelling to then change. That’s even more complicated than what we have today. RayS.

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