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.
Consistency would make it posibl for all lerners to use the fonic and visual strategies for future good reading at present open only to the verbaly gifted, who are able to fudge.
With a phonic strategy, novel printed words are at first decoded, then, as they become familiar through practiced reading, words are read by fast automatic visual recognition, while the basic fonic decoding strategies remain availabl for further new words. The early use of fonic decoding also sets in place auditory processes in short-term memory which assist reading for meaning of long sentences and passages, because this inner 'rehearsal' helpd to prevent forgetting the beginnings of a passage by the time the end is reached. Spelling exeptions forced by the exigencies of our spoken language can be few enough to be not burden on the memory, and forin words are mostly encountered at a more advanced level.

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.

Intelligent learning

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,
and relating speech and print.

A helpful improved spelling would show the formal pronunciation of English words, as they would be used in a public speech, as the base for spelling and decoding new words. Natural slurring in everyday articulation produces informal speech. Audio learning is necessary to give overseas learners the intonation patterns and accents of spoken English, which are not captured in writing.

Lerning to write

Small children's writing shows developmental trends in how they transcribe the spoken language before they are influenced by the irregularities of present spelling. Many researchers have shown how economically they spell.
They condense rather than expanding long vowels, eg. "TH PLAN MAD A FOCD LADIG AT THE EPOT." They prefer singl vowel letrs to digrafs. The simplest spelling is usualy the easier for them. Even spellings like MOST and COLD are quickly acquired, because they retain rather than elaborate the structure of the words. An improved English spelling would be close to children's 'natural spelling' and its consistent rules and alternativ acceptabl spellings would allow some leeway, while setting the limits.

Individual differences in lerning, and improved Spelling

  • Bright lerners
  • need not be held back by having to lern from sequential class teaching, and so becoming confused, bored or rebellious, as can happen now. They could 'teach themselvs to read' as soon as they were ready, with a pre-school video at home, consistent sound-spelling relationships and its few exceptions, rules set out on two-pages, and great books to read.

  • Slow lerners
  • can 'lern at their own pace' in the classroom, without being left behind irretrievably. They can catch up with instructions 'how to' and a litracy video that are always be availabl to use as their abilities/motivation developd. 'Slow learners' would not be thrown entirely on rote memory or reliance on auditory distinctions which many find dificult (eg. -S or -Z for word endings or two /th/ sounds). They can use the wider range of strategies used by future good readers, without being booby-trapped by strange spellings, or misled by guessing that they cannot check.

  • Dyslexics and specific lerning dificulties.

    The gaps and confusions from present spelling that compound childen's problems of developmental delay or erly deficiencies in verbal or perceptual abilities are often made up too late to prevent emotional lerning blocks. These blocks are a major cause for continuing dyslexia, and always compounds it. This early demoralisation can be prevented by the clarity of an improved spelling system, and the multipl strategies that it makes more accessibl for lerners.

Now see Cutting out Surplus Letters, as a first spelling improvement

For further notes on spelling:

1. Introduction
i. Introduction to spelling improvement - Text of a radio broadcast
ii. Rationale. - How assumptions and barriers against improving the writing system do not hold. Answering the common objections to spelling improvement.

2. Needs and abilities of users and learners: -

i. Needs and abilities of readers
ii. Needs and abilities of writers to spell
iii. Needs and abilities of learners
iv. Needs and abilities of users of international English
v. Spelling reform for the Internet (an older page)

3. The nature and teaching of English spelling

i. See the online video, http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au
ii. The underlying English spelling system that could be made more consistent
iii. Spelling patterns for the English vowels
iv. The Book of Spells & Misspells - a treasury of spelling for everyone
v. 22 Lessons in reading and spelling
vi. The 16 word spelling test for anyone who thinks they can spell
vii. Spelling and classroom practices

4. Improving English spelling

i. Spelling improvement. 2002.
ii. Seven principles to repair English spelling, 2005
iii. Cutting out the surplus letters in words.Streamline - a first step in updating spelling.
iv. Quik gidelines for a next step, with sampl texts, and furthr notes - FASTR Spelling
v. Cutting out surplus letters. 2002
vi. Further steps you can try yourself, with f, j, consistent word endings and vowel spellings.
vii. Further experiments to spel sensibly - Pronunciation and gramr, and a final solusion? / 2000
viii. The future of English spelling. What can be done?

5. Spelling as an entertainment

Spelling Games - starting with a Spelling ABC - different from a Spelling BEE
16-word Spelling Test of 16 common words that few experts can spell all correctly.
International English Spelling Day, October 9
How people spelled when they spelled as they liked before the 18th century dictionaries
Don Quixote spells in 'Spelling without traps'. - To come
Twelve Short Short storys about the fùtùr. Can u imagin a mor ùser-frendly speling sistem? Look at every wurd to see if u think its speling is a trap for lerners.


International writing systems