Spelling design for the needs and abilities of
What sort of spelling could be user frendly for everyone - readers, writers and learners?
The '20,000 contradictory facts of English spelling', as Sir James Murray, the great compiler of the Oxford English Dictionary called them, have always been dificult for lerners, especially as we 'start 'em young' before many children have adequat verbal skills. One sound/one symbol is an impracticabl ideal until we have more characters, but lerners' literacy problems can still be significantly cut even with our present alfabet.
Learners could cope with a consistent spelling system that introduces a few consistent rules and a few sight words.
Beginners would start with the basic
sound/spelling correspondences, then progress quickly through
these few rules and sight words, which would also be sufficient to
give them access to the present spelling in the world around them,
to read rather than to write.
Lerning to read can never be effortless except for the gifted few. Practice is essential, as with any other sport. However, we could spare learners the avoidable effort and reduce the unavoidabl effort, and allow no effort to be wasted in confusion. To be able to understand the simpl basic principls of a writing system and its sound-symbol relationships facilitates early 'real reading' practice to peak eficiency - like practising sport by playing it, not just drilling the moves in isolation or theory. Lerners can apply their minds to this lerning, rather than have to undergo a three years' course in dumb-rote-memorising and untrustworthy-gessing.
Beginners could work out the spoken version of almost every word and the spelling could provide morfemic and gramatical indicators that help to work out meanings of new vocabulary in context. Lerning fast makes reading enjoyabl, as horribl experiences do not.
An improved spelling used as an initial learning spelling for beginners and English-language learners could include additional gides to pronunciation and to irregular stress that need not be represented in adult text, since 'one-trial lerning' or litl mor is sufficient exposure. eg. the initial spellings LONGGR FINGGR can later be representd as LONGR FINGR.
Beginners can start to move directly into reading more streamlined 'adult' text while still lerning with the initial aids, and are facilitated in access to present spelling, which will still be around.
Fonic representation for lerners
Consistent sound-spelling relationships make fonic decoding reliabl, not booby-trapped as with TO. Most spelling reform proposals are locked into a rigid aplication of the alfabetic principl alone, but a more helpful spellng reform for learners would integrate visual, fonemic and cognitiv strategies for word and text reading. Regularity in spelling in itself does not solve all lerning problems in literacy - problems still occur for social reasons as in Germany, socio/educational reasons as in Indonesia, and in Finland due to problems in the language, and some individual lerners will always be more handicapd than others.
Hearing sounds in words for fonic decoding and coding. Spelling reformers tend to assume that perfect sound/symbol correspondence would make reading and writing very easy. They rather naturally assume that hearing sounds in words and blending them into words in print would come naturaly, because children must already automatically analyse and synthesise speech in order to listen and talk. However, this automatic analysis of speech for hearing and speaking the language has to be made conscious and abstract for reading and writing. The speech sounds identified in a written language are a cultural abstraction, only aproximating the speech sounds that foneticians find that we really make. Failure to be taught or to discover how to consciously hear fonemes in words and how to relate them to letters is a major reason for reading failure and 'dyslexia'. This must and can be taught, for example, by singing very slowly to hear the sounds in words, and for most, though not all beginners, this can reveal how to distinguish and blend sounds in reading and writing.
Letter-name pronunciations. These are naturally applied by beginners in coding and decoding, so that concise spellings like LITL, APL and ANSR with their sylabic consonants are easier for them than say LITTLE or even LITTUL.
Short words are easier for beginners to decode. That is why BANANA is easier to recognise than any straight fonetic representation such as BANAANA or BUNNANAH. (Hyphens also help in segmenting new words for beginners as the old comics writers knew. When teachers ridiculed them out of using hyphens, beginners could no longer read their complex text.)
Long words and strings of consonants or vowels are not easy for lerners. An improved spelling for learners would assist segmentation into sylabls by retaining patterns of Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) for significant semi-vowels. Accents for long vowels and distinctiv spellings for vowels in final position could help to identify morfemes, which facilitate reading for meaning and identifying unfamiliar vocabulary, as in PARLAMENTRI and HIWAYMAN, rather than PARMLMNTRI or PARRLUMENTARIE or HIEWAEMAN or HIWAMN .
Methods of lerning to read
Poor fonics teaching and poor fonics teaching methods resulted from the intrinsic dificulties of teaching the vagaries of English spelling. This was the reason why teachers rapturously welcomed the promises of 'Look and Say' (with its constant visual repetition) and drill-free 'Whole Language', (with its supposed 'natural' absorption of litracy from the environment without specific teaching). Both approaches have failed the mass of learners, who have not succeeded in developing fast and accurate reading from these starts. But to go back the full circle to the old phonics drills and rules about exceptions is going back indeed.
A logical, consistent spelling system would make posibl vastly improved and innovativ teaching methods. It is then easier to show lerners how to hear sounds in words, how to encode them from speech, and how to decode words in print to achieve reading for meaning. Hence my promotion of a half-hour cartoon take-home video that sets out the writing system and demonstrates how to read and spell. This understanding of how to is the crucial key to litracy. Teachers say 'The penny has dropd' and textbooks say 'The child intuitively . . ' At present, many children experience neither.
A lerner-frendly spelling system would not require young children to lern abstract rules. Children learn the principles of language by a marvellous power to generalise from examples. A dubl page chart should be sufficient as an encouraging and handy summary to show the size and nature of the task. Each element can be then ticked off as it is mastered thru generalising and understanding from exampls - for example, text with contrasting words with stress on the first or second sylabl can generate the rules for pronouncing stress in words.
A lerner-frendly spelling system would mean that a child's major early lesson in school need not be to accept what is stupid without reasoning why. Currently, teaching reasoning in maths is accompanied by teaching unreason in literacy.
Lerning to speak English, reading aloud,