International English Spelling Congress

The Society announced last year that it was promoting an international conference to produce an alternative to traditional English spelling. We now set out our proposals in greater detail.

Background

English as a language is relatively simple to learn in its basic form. Its grammar, syntax, and punctuation follow fairly clear and predictable rules. But its spelling system is possibly the most irregular of those based on the alphabetic principle. In contrast to most other spelling systems, not merely is it hard to predict the spelling from the pronunciation, but it is not always possible to predict the pronunciation from the spelling. This peculiarity among spelling systems has economic and social costs. It takes English speaking primary school children longer to master basic spelling than speakers of other languages, resulting in undue stress on students and teachers from the beginning; many children carry over to secondary education spelling problems acquired earlier; and English speaking dyslexics suffer disproportionately compared with others. The problem of functional illiteracy remains a matter of major concern in English speaking countries. No teaching method has been found which addresses satisfactorily the problems arising from the high irregularity of our spelling.

People have campaigned unsuccessfully for change for over 100 years. Obstacles have included:

  • no official English body equivalent to the French Academie Francaise;
  • lack of co-operation on spelling matters among the governments of English speaking countries;
  • failure of those in favour of reform to agree on a feasible alternative to traditional spelling.

Many proposals have been put forward — they range from making very few changes to making many. But these have been written and promoted by reform enthusiasts; there has been little attempt to involve the public in the wider English Speaking World. The proposed Congress will try to remedy this failure.

Our plans – in general

The Congress will involve both experts and the wider public in the search for an acceptable alternative spelling system.

Those participating may apply from all over the English Speaking World. The event is open to all whose maternal language is English or who speak English fluently. Full participation (with voting rights) will be offered to all who support spelling reform or who are benevolently neutral on the matter. Others may be observers.

Most delegates will participate via a ‘webinar’ – i.e. a video / audio link that can be accessed via a PC in the privacy of one’s own home. But there may also be some physical meetings, linked to the webinar.

Following the first meeting of the Congress, a commission of experts will be appointed to select some half dozen alternative spelling proposals from those submitted. This shortlist will be presented to a reconvened Congress, probably a year later; this will lead to a vote or votes on an acceptable alternative to traditional spelling.

Our plans – in detail

  • See the Detailed Plans for more detail on how the Congress will proceed.
  • Complete the Application Form to take part in the Congress. Applicants from the whole world are welcome.
  • Read these Guidance Notes if you are thinking of proposing a spelling scheme for Congress to consider.
  • See all Society Press Releases. (The latest one is linked below.)
  • If you would like to discuss any aspect of the IESC, feel free to post on the Society Blog.

 

Page editor: S Linstead. Contact by email or form.

 

IESC Press Release 2018-01-30

English spelling is broken: plans to find a new spelling system announced today.



IESC Detailed Plans

How the Congress will proceed.



IESC Guidance Notes

Read these notes if you are thinking of proposing a spelling scheme for Congress to consider.



IESC Application Form

Applicants from the whole world are welcome.