English Spelling Improvement

English Spelling
- a colonial oppression

If overnight English spelling were cleaned up just enough to prevent
even 50% of illiteracy,
then within three weeks only the oldest reactionaries
would not be saying how sensibl it was.

What's stupid about English spelling?

• Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German, Korean, Turkish, Indonesian, French, Dutch . . . every other major language in the world has had reforms of its writing system in the past century - except English. So it can be done.

• English spelling need not be turned into phonetic 'spelling as you speak' as many spelling reformers imagine, abandoning our heritage of print. It has a system that only needs a 20% cleaning up to become far easier to learn and to spell.

• It is ridiculous that almost everyone is either a 'bad speller' or has wasted ages 'learning spelling' when it is the fault of the spelling not to be easier. It should be a tool of information technology, not a totem to keep in a museum.

• English has been the International Language of the world, used by more people than any other language. Most are not native English speakers. They deserve an International English spelling, so that education, science, commerce and culture can be more widely shared, without having to learn two English languages, the spoken and the written.

• Why bother about a Republic when the greatest English oppression on us is English spelling - particularly hard on the disadvantaged. Surely the Left should be concerned, as in so many other countries in the world, helping to bring in reforms of writing systems.

1. How to start.

Cut out surplus letters, to make
spelling esier for writers, lerners and readers.

Reserch shows this is the esiest way to start updating English spelling. Obsolete letters that serv no purpos to represent meaning or pronunciation of words cost us 5% waste of paper, time and efort, and often mislead.

• See The Sixteen-Word Spelling Test. Try to spell those 16 words correctly. Most educators and University graduats fail. Test your frends. If most peple cannot tel where to insert the missing letters, what use ar they? Just omit them.

Pijin spellings of English are esier to lern and use, becaus they omit useless letters. Nobody has trubl reading or writing them.

• U may go furthr, when yr readrs ar familiar with 'surplus-cut' and shorten 'sylabic letrs' -r, -l, -m, -n, as in letr, apl, autm, goldn. SMS Texting oftn does this.

2. The aims of Fastr Spelng for
International English spelling

- to precede the full reform of Interspel

A way to improve English spelling that follows the first reform of cutting out surplus letters.

The five aims

• To meet the needs and abilities of writers, readers and learners, native and international, and suit the nature of the English language

• To improve the competence of all readers and writers

• To promote the usefulness of English as an international language

• To be compatibl with present spelling and our heritage of print

• To make possible greatly improved methods of teaching literacy

The five major features

• Omit superfluous letters in words

• Use consistent consonant spellings

• Reduce over 240 spellings for English vowel sounds to 48, justified by reason.

• Faster reading for meaning, with sound-symbol relationships modified by grammatical, morphemic and problem-solving principles that children can understand.

• Open the way to future fuller reforms

Fastr Spelling ansers the
comon objections to impruving spelling

Access to our present heritage of print is not lost. Visual resemblance is maintaind, and up to 95% of letrs in text are unchanged Fastr Spelling is backward compatibl with the present TO (Traditionl orthografy).

Retraining for present readers is not needed. Fastr Spelling can be read on first sight. Like Italian or German spelling, its consistent principls are quickly understood and used.

• 'Spelling as you speak' would lead to a confusion of dialect spellings. Fastr Spelling transcends this problem through standardised broad-band 'diafonic' representation of speech. Spelling conventions are like conventionalised drawings universaly recognised, such as the sign for a man, unlike a fotograf of a specific man. Anyone, regardless of dialect, can read or spell banana, altho one spelling is used for three speech sounds. English words in pijin languages show how unclutrd, broad-band spelling aid lerning and comunication.

Visual relationships of word families. 'Chomksy principls' are extended. Fastr Spelling facilitates fast reading for meaning and clues to understanding unfamiliar vocabulary by maintaining visual relationships of word families (morfemes) and gramaticl markrs.

• The nature of the English language. Fastr Spelling suits its multipl linguistic origins, compound word-structure, standard inflections, many homofones and 40+ fonemes with only 26 roman letrs to spel them. Etymology that gives clues to meaning is retaind.

'Isn't our antiquated spelling lovely!' The urgent need for mass literacy is more important than the private delights of mulling over 'quaint' spellings like cough/dough /hough/ lough/ rough/slough/through/ thought/thorough. The familiar becomes more loved than the obsolete. We dont want to read the history of computers when using them.

'I workd hard to spell, so everyone else should.' Dificult spelling was valued as a social screening test, but today's needs are for eficiency, mass literacy and cutting waste.

• 'Not in my time, O Lord'. Fastr Spelling can co-exist and interlace with present spelling. Lovers of present spelling can continue to read and write in it. They can read Fastr Spelling, but need never write it.

Trivial spelling teasers do not justify mothballing reform for a ha'porth of tar'. Some posers can be solvd by Spelling Pronunciation and a few 'exception' spellings remain.

The interests of readrs, writers and lernrs are not so conflicting, that any reforms that help one group must hurt another Fastr Spelling can serv the interests of all groups.

Costs of change. a) Cost-benefits include shorter lerning times, reduced failure rates, skill-improvement for the alredy literat, and the advantages of a literat peple.

b) Ful Fastr Spelling's economy is a significant saving in materials, efort and time -

c) Printing costs. Electronic updating of print is now at the touch of a butn. Almost that peple read today has been printd or reprintd in the past ten years, so that introduction of new spelling does not require exessiv special new publishing, exept for dictionaries. Present spellings would remain easily acsessibl for many years even after the final steps in reform.

Startng reform. An internationl comission must test and establish reforms, but anyone can start dropng surplus letrs whenevr they like. Emails and Internet are good testing sites. ~

The first step - SurplusCut' spelling

Dropping surplus letters in words

The most acceptabl introduction to spelling reform indicated by experimental reserch is to clear clutr from present spelling by omitting useless letrs from words (Yule 1991). 'Surplus' letrs are defined as serving no purpose in representing pronunciation or meaning of words. They mislead lerners and increase spelling mistakes in writing. Modern tecnological and business trends towards streamlining are alredy shown in 'advertising spellings' and trends in spelling change such as develop and program that hav been replacing develope and programme.

Surplus letrs that can be cut out include:-

Dubld consonants that have no useful function in words such as accommodate. Surveys show that over 56% of writers omit one or both surplus letters, so acomodate makes sense.

Silent letrs can also distort pronunciation, as in head, debt, vigour, foreign, people, guard, queue, discipline (hed, det, vigr, forin, musl, peple, gard, q, disiplin.

Silent final 'e' is common in TO and esily dropd, as in minute (minut) and sieve (siv).

Advantages of cutting surplus letrs from words

No waste. Up to 15% of writing in TO is expense of time, energy, paper, money and worry.

• Omitting letrs barely disrupts the appearance of text, unlike changing words by substituting or adding more letrs. It is therefor a sensibl place to start reform.

Letrs are not omitd where this could be disturbing and cause new readrs to recoil and reject the whole idea. Omission is applied in each situation according to 'what 'the market will bear. Absolute logicl consistency in cutting letrs is not required where it might confuse lernrs and users who are familiar with present spelling. Unclear unstressd (schwa) vowels are not omitd if readrs may be confused by their omission.

Empirical reserch backing. SurplusCut spelling is based on experimentl reserch (1972, 1980, 1982,1986, 1989, 1991) that shows that normal reading is often slowed when letrs in text are changed, but omission of surplus letrs may be barely noticed or not at all. Surplus letrs are least missd when cut from towards the end of words and sentences and from less frequent words, so these are the best sites to initiate omissions and introduce readrs to spelling reform.

SurplusCut Spelling takes acount of cognitiv and educationl reserch into children's 'natural spelling', how beginrs lern to read and write (which is not necessarily how they are taught), adult reading processes and spelling preferences, and popular trends (1986, 1991).

• SurplusCut spelling to introduce spelling reform. The first steps in any reform are the most dificult. Public awareness of the benefits of spelling change is an essential step. Once useful changes start rolling, they accelerate and snowball, and conventionl membrs of the public start conforming to the new fashion. The wedge for reform is that once change begins in anything formerly monolithic, and is successful, further changes can be rapid.

In English spelling, letr-deletions are an easy start, that can then be followd by the letr-changes that are necessary for a logicl English spelling system. During transition, pragmatism as well as writers' personl imperfections make temporary inconsistencies unavoidabl. But once users discover the benefits of improved spelling, they will want to go furthr themselvs to reduce TO's inconsistencies. The first step in any change is always the hardest.

Consonant changes alredy becoming popular can be taken up and brought into mainstream spelling now. f can replace ph to spel /f/ and J replace G and DG to spell /dj/. These changes are also familiar thru internationl as well as alternativ spellings, as in telefon, jail, jell.

This and folowing sections are ritn with moderat dropng of surplus letrs and f replacing ph .

English Spelling in the New Milennium

Spelling reform has been thought of as simply betr matching of sounds and letrs. Fastr Spelling chanjes the question to what sort of spelling for English would most help its users and learners now. Fastr Spelling challenjes assumptions. Its inovativ features are based on present knolej in cognition and education. Reserch rather than just argument is required.

Fastr Spelling's pragmatic aim is to maximise the advantajes of present English spelling while clearing up its problems - the 'present caos' described in Fowler's English Usage. The way can be opend to improve literacy now, and to fullr reform later, when compatibility with traditional spelling becomes no longer a major priority.

Fastr Spelling looks like present spelng without its clutr, so that those alredy literat do not have new problems. Fastr Spelling does not have surplus letrs, consonants are consistent, and spellings for the 19 vowel sounds are reduced in numbr and rationalised. Rules are few and consistent, and can jenerate spellings for new words. Its flexibility can suit users without burdens for lernrs. Dictionaries can use its principls for pronunciation keys.

The present time of flux and inovation on the Internet is an unprecedentd oportunity for global experiment. Anyone can now take up Fastr Spelling's user-frendly features. Public experience during transition clears a way to oficial internationl development, recognition and aplication. Fastr Spellingcannot be dismissd by arguments from outdated assumptions. The real test is whethr it works and is useful.

The five aims of Fastr Spelling

• To meet the needs and abilities of writers, readers and lernrs,
native and international, and to suit the nature of the English language

• To improve the competence of all readers and writers

• To promote the usefulness of English as an international language

• To be compatibl with present spelling and our heritage of print

• To make posibl greatly improved methods of teaching literacy

The five major features of Fastr Spelng

• Omit superfluus letrs in words

• Use consistent consonant spellings

• Reduce over 240 spellings for English vowel sounds to 48, with flexibl operation justified by reason, not obsolete custom

• Facilitate fastr reading for meaning thru sound-simbol relationships modified by gramaticl, morfemic and problem-solving principls that children can understand.

• Open the way to future fuller reforms

'Interspel' is a generic term for aplying a set of principls, and thay can be aplied difrently acording to lerners' situations - 2, 3 and 4 ar all connected.

For exampl, a beginner might start with a trike. Then go on to a bike. Then go on to a motor-bike.
Or a beginner may print letters. then write cursive. Then tipe with tuch tiping.

So, a beginner starts withi the alfabetic principl.
Then lerns modificatons to be able to rite fairly close to present spellng but consistently.
And a few mor modifications, and can read 'spellng without traps'.
And then enything now in print will still be acsessabl, even tho spelling reform has muved on to be consistent.

On the other hand, a skild reader of present spelling may start with Surplus-Cut spellng,
to realise that English splling can be made esier to read and rite without afronting them.

Get it? It is a difrent way of looking at spelling reform, I know.

My ozreadandspell.com.au is a difrent sort of aid from the usual in lerning to read - and literat pepl such as teachers hav problems with that too becaus it is not what thay expect.

  1. Surplus-cut letters.
  2. Spelling without traps for reading. Minimal rules ar described elsewhere as u kno. Aplicatin of principls to modify present spellng to take the traps out. Vowel spelings vairy but a;l hav one pronunciation only.
  3. Spelling for riting without traps. Adds some mor principls to beginnrs speling which makes it closer to present spelling. But one spelling for each vowel, exept for the final vowel pattern.
  4. The introduction to reading and riting for beginnrs – who qikly start reading in version 2 and riting in version 3, as thay ar next introduced to the ‘minimum principls’ for modification. This is the strait alfabetic principl.

The result? Spelling reform does not abandon everything in print. The dearly beloved etimology and other cultural objections ar fixd up. But the traps go, with consistent principls to boot them out.

Instead of starting with the idea that any spelling reform must be 'spelling as you speak',
start with how the present system could be improved -
Making the most of its advantages, and removing its disadvantges -
An improved standard writing system can keep everything now in print still decipherable,
and help everyone who can read now, to read even better.

How few principles are needed to replace whole dictionaries as guides to English spelling?

Seven principles are listed here and then illustrated in action.

They can be applied in different ways, of course, and experiments are needed to find out what is most useful.

Let us start where you dont expect.

1. Since about half of everything you read is the same hundred common words repeated, then

And hey! half of everything you read will remain just as it is.

This will be great for present readers, as it immediately keeps so much of text unchanged.

It will be great for learners, as the number of irregular sight words to learn will not be too many to manage.

Very common words in the paragraf above

About half of every thing you is the same then the among the most and half of every thing you will just as they are this will be for as it so much of it will be for as the of to will not be too many to.

A varìety of ways to spell the poem The Chaos

Let's look at 8 lines from that very long epic poem called The Chaos, by the Dutchman, Gerard Nolst Trenité.
It has gone the rounds of European English Language schools for years.

A. Present spelling
with some of the trickiest spellings  of words in capitals
'Interspel for reading without traps'
Dearest creature in creation,
Studying English pronunciation.
I will teach YOU in MY VERSE
Sounds like COURSE, CORPS, HORSE, and WORSE.  (to finish)
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Dearest creature in creation,
Studying English pronunciation.
I will teach YOu in mY versE
Sounds like corpsE, corPS, horsE, and wOrsE.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
4. Going back to the past - back to the etymology of present English spelling  - so much for those who are keen that present spelling retains etymology 5. Beginers alfabetic speling
Deore creare in creation,
Estudie englisc pronuntiatio
Ic willa taecan in mi fers
Soun lich cors, corps, hors and wyrs.
Justus comparare hearte, berd and hieran,
Deghen and diete, hlaford and word,
Rond, wund, grever and sifte,
Freond, feond, life and libban
Dèrest crètùr in creàshn,
Studìing Inglish pronunsiàshn.
I wil tèch u in mì vurs
Sounds lìk corps, cor, hors, and wurs.
Just compair hart, bèrd, and hurd,
Dìs and dìet, lord and wurd,
Rounded, wùnded, grèv and siv,
Frend and fènd, alìv and liv.

Further Information:

How English spelling can be updated while still remaining backward compatibl, see:

vyule. 'The design of spelling to meet needs and abilities'. Harvard Educational Review 1986. 56: 278- 297.
vyule - Fastr Spelng: Personl Vew publishd by the Australian Centr for Social Inovation 2000.

Further sites on spelling:

 1. Introduction
Introduction to spelling improvement. /spockham.htm. Text of a radio broadcast
Rationale. How assumptions and barriers against improving the writing system do not hold. Answering the common objections to spelling improvement. /sration.htm

2 Needs and abilities of users and learners: -

i. Needs and abilities of readers /sreadsp.htm
ii. Needs and abilities of writers to spell - /swritsp.htm
iii. Needs and abilities of learners - /slernsp.htm
iv. Needs and abilities of users of international English - /sintrnt.htm
v. Spelling reform for the Internet (an older page) http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spinternet.htm

3. The nature and teaching of English spelling

See the online video, http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au
The underlying English spelling system that could be made more consistent - /spelsys.htm
Spelling patterns for the English vowels - /svowchart.htm
The Book of Spells & Misspells
- a treasury of spelling for everyone
22 Lessons in reading and spelling - v01acover.htm
The 16 word spelling test for anyone who thinks they can spell - 16sp.htm
Spelling and classroom practices - sclassprac.htm

4 Improving English spelling

Spelling improvement. 2002. - /spelimp.html
Seven principles to repair English spelling, 2005 - /sp7princ.htm
Cutting out the surplus letters in words.Streamline - a first step in updating spelling. /ssurplu.htm
Quik gidelines for a next step, with sampl texts, and furthr notes /sfastrs.htm. FASTR Spelling
Cutting out surplus letters. /intspel.htm 2002
Further steps you can try yourself, with f, j, consistent word endings and vowel spellings. /intspel2.htm
Further experiments to spel sensibly - Pronunciation and gramr, and a final solusion? /intspel3.htm 2000
The future of English spelling. What can be done? /sfutspe.htm

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. /16sp.htm
International English Spelling Day, October 9 /spday.html
How people spelled when they spelled as they liked before the 18th century dictionaries /spfree17c.htm
Don Quixote spells in 'Spelling without traps'. - /spquixote.htm. 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.

6. References

References. A short list of references up to 1991 that are still relevant. /srefrens.htm

See also wikipedia entry

Here are some other interesting addresses. Let us know if they drop off the web.

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