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History should not overcome simplicity

When I visited Bulgaria, it was hard for me to make my way through everyday interactions like finding a restaurant because Bulgarians don’t use the same alphabet we do. They use the Cyrillic alphabet, the one with a backwards capital R as a regular letter. I didn’t even know how to sound out the words. I mean, what does a backwards ‘N’ sound like? Or an upside-down ‘h’? I bought a Bulgarian-English dictionary, got some help writing down the order of the letters, then learned how to pronounce the letters. I found out the symbols for sounds such as ‘p’, ‘ee,’ ‘t,’ ‘s,’ and ‘uh.’ Suddenly I could see words on signs, words such as ‘pizza’ and ‘Internet.’ Thankfully, Bulgarians spell phonetically, so there was no mystery to sounding out words. The symbol that looks like a Roman numeral two with no line on the bottom always sounds like ‘p.’ It doesn’t matter what other letters are next to it. It’s refreshingly logical.

[St_Albert_Gazette, 2010-12-11]

Internet Turns Kids Into Terrible Spellers

We may have high-speed information at our disposal, but our basic grammar skills are regressing

A recent study released by the English Spelling Society reveals that the Web has not only wholly altered the English language, but has turned us into a culture of misspellers. “The increasing use of variant spellings on the internet has been brought about by people typing at speed in chat rooms and on social networking sites where the general attitude is that there isn’t a need to correct typo’s or conform to spelling rules,” the paper says, meaning our attitude toward grammar has become increasingly lenient.

[Time, 2010-11-23]

Internet social sites 'encourage wrong spelling'

Internet chatrooms and social networking sites are encouraging children to spell words incorrectly, new research suggests. A paper released by the English Spelling Society concludes that the internet has revolutionised the English language, and made misspelling the norm.

[Independent, 2010-11-22]

Chatrooms and social websites encourage bad spelling, says study

Internet fosters belief that there is no need to correct typos or conform to rules, English Spelling Society finds

Internet chatrooms and social networking sites are encouraging children to spell words incorrectly, research suggests. A paper released by the English Spelling Society concludes that the internet has revolutionised the English language, and made misspelling the norm. As people type at speed online, there is now a "general attitude" that there is no need to correct mistakes or conform to regular spelling rules, it says. But this means that children who have been brought up with the internet do not question wrongly spelt words.

[The_Guardian, 2010-11-22]

Wy can't we get it rite?

Just as you now have to learn thousands of irregular spellings to learn English, English-speakers would have to unlearn thousands of them if the language were regularised. There might be rules of thumb for transforming grieve to greev, for instance, but given the number of reform proposals that exist, the rules would probably not be perfectly consistent, so in effect every new word would have to be learned afresh. Even if the current system has heavy fixed costs, the one-time barrier to moving to a new one may just be too great to overcome.

[The_Economist, 2010-09-15]

It didn't go so well in Germany

MY COLLEAGUE mentions the German spelling reform, wondering how they did it

[subscription] As a student in Germany during the early days of the reform process, and having observed it since, I can say "not very well".

[The_Economist, 2010-09-15]

Reading to kids a crucial tool in English language development

Poring over the works of Dr. Seuss, the adventures of the Bernstain Bears or exploring the worlds of Hans Christian Andersen with a child has always been a great parent-child bonding exercise

Orthography is the part of the study of language dealing with letters and spelling. Georgiou points out that English is an orthographically inconsistent language; in other words, letters can have more than one sound each. Because of this, he says, children learning English "need someone to show them the letters, teach them the letter sounds, play with letter magnets on the fridge. "We have found that in English, you need a rich home literacy environment. It's absolutely necessary," he says. But that's not the case in other languages. Georgiou notes that students are able to learn to read faster in languages such as Greek and Finnish, because there is one-to-one correspondence between a letter and its sounds. This difference with English, he says, implies that Greek or Finnish parents do not need to read as frequently to their children to give them an edge on learning the language. Simply put, Greek or Finnish children will eventually learn to read regardless of how rich the home literacy environment may be.

[Science_Daily, 2010-02-22]

The Keypad Solution

There is a long and noble history of trying to change the English language’s notoriously illogical system of spelling. The fact that through, rough, dough, plough, hiccough and trough all end with -ough, yet none of them sound the same as any of the others, is the sort of thing that has been vexing poets and learners of English for quite some time. Proponents of “fixing” this wayward orthography have included some of the most prominent names in American history. Benjamin Franklin suggested changing the alphabet, and Andrew Carnegie provided money for people to study the problem.

[The_New_York_Times_Magazine, 2010-01-22]

Schools to rethink 'i before e'

The spelling mantra "i before e except after c" is no longer worth teaching, according to the government

Advice sent to teachers says there are too few words which follow the rule and recommends using more modern methods to teach spelling to schoolchildren.

[BBC, 2009-06-20]

French spelling buried by the Académie Française

Spelling is the most visual part of a language, because it is used to create visual representations of words. When at school, children learn to spell correctly, according to the language of a country or region. In Britain, children are taught British English (theoretically, anyway). In the United States, kids learn US English. In Belgium, they are taught either Dutch or Belgian French. And so on, and so forth. However, this transmission of spelling knowledge from generation to generation does not prevent a language from evolving. As such, new words are added, and with time, certain spellings change as well. The difference between American and British English is a very good example, where history led to the creation of two different standardised (standardized in US English) spellings. It is only when codified that spelling becomes nigh immutable. After that happens, change is met with virulent reactions.

[Arpia.be; Brussels,_BE; 2009-03-16]

Britons beat Americans in global spelling bee

A survey conducted last year showed that 62% of Americans got the words embarrassed, liaison, accommodation and millennium wrong, against 54% of Britons.

America is a nation spellbound by televised school spelling bee competitions, and yet the US adults did pretty poorly in a survey comparing how English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic deal with commonly misspelt words. A sample of a thousand adults in the US and a thousand in the UK were asked how they rated their own lexicographic skills and then asked to spell ten words. American adults performed less well on eight of the ten words tested, only two — 'definitely' and 'friend' were spelt correctly by more Americans.

[Marie_Claire, 2009-02-10]

Many Americans vexed by spelling

The nation is not letter perfect. Americans may be embarassed, even. Make that “embarrassed” - it’s among the common words that vex the spell-challenged in an age of spell check. According to a study released Monday by the London-based Spelling Society, 62 percent of the nation can’t spell the dreaded e-word correctly, along with liaison, botched by 61 percent, and millennium, misspelled by 52 percent.

[The_Washington_Times, 2009-02-10]

Americans are bad spellers

A new study shows that Americans are poor spellers and that women usually spell better than men

English is a difficult language for spelling because it has different letter groupings for the same sound, “especially for vowels — silent letters, missing letters,” an academic consultant said.

[The_Washington_Times, 2009-02-10]

Majority of Americans are 'embarrassed' by spelling

An independent survey of spelling released on February 9 shows that more than half of the adult population in the United States had problems with one or more spellings in a test of 10 everyday words. One in three admitted being reliant on spell checkers for tasks such as completing job application forms or writing important letters and men performed less well than women. An independent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI in January 2009, on behalf of the Spelling Society, shows that adults in the U.S. consistently performed badly in a spelling test using ten everyday words.

[Reliable_Plant, 2009-02-09]

Brits and Yanks struck with embarasment embarrassment

New millenium spelling woes

It's official: English is going directly to hell in a handcart because more than half of native speakers of the lingo can't spell "embarrassed" - and even more have entered the new millennium without the foggiest idea of how 1,000 years pan out in our beloved mother tongue. To be precise, 54 per cent of us are embarrassed by "embarrassed", while 60 per cent can't handle "millennium", according to a pole poll by the Spelling Society - a pack of linguistic do-gooders who reckon the time has come to introduce "a more simplified, phonetic system", as the Times puts it.

[The_Register, 2009-02-09]

Americans embarrassed by poor spelling performance compared to Britons

Americans are worse at spelling than Britons, with more than half unable to spell "embarrassed", "liaison" and "millennium"

Despite the popularity of school spelling bee competitions, adults in the US fared poorly in a survey comparing how English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic deal with commonly misspelt words. Sixty-two per cent of Americans got "embarrassed" wrong, against 54 per cent of Britons who struggled with the word in a survey last year.

[The_Telegraph, 2009-02-09]

Spelling Society seeks change

The British Spelling Society says the English language is a relic in need of change.

The society is calling on the United States and Britain to introduce a more simplified, phonetic system of spelling, The Times of London reported Monday.

[UPI, 2009-02-09]

Oh Say, Can You Spell? (Probably Not)

I consider myself a pretty good speller, at least compared to the imbeciles who frequent CraigsList. Have you ever seen a listing there that didn't include at least one misspelled word? I often look at drums for sale on CraigsList, and it's a horror show of "simbals," "cymbols" and "cymbles." And don't even get me started on the various ways cymbal manufacturer Zildjian can be mangled. (I mean, the name is printed on the cymbal, dude! Just copy it down!)

[Washington_Post, 2009-02-08]

Bad at spelling? Could be your genes

Are you lousy with words? Well, don't blame your old teacher, says Kate Wighton, the likely source of your woe is a little closer to home

[subscription] Many of us are foxed by spelling, and panic slightly at the thought of a world without a spellchecker. Is it definitely or definately? Necessary or neccessary? This month The Times launched the UK’s first national Spelling Bee to bring these issues out into the open and to fuel interest in what some would say is a forgotten art. In the past, poor spelling was attributed to all manner of things, from bad schooling to a lack of moral fibre. But science is offering a new explanation. A difficulty with spelling could be rooted in your genes and in the way that your brain is wired.

[The_Times, 2008-10-25]

FactCheck: David Cameron's speech

How did the Tory leader's keynote to conference fare on the FactCheck scale?

"Listen to this. It's the President of the Spelling Society. He said, and I quote, 'people should be able to use whichever spelling they prefer.' He's the President of the Spelling Society. Well, he's wrong. And by the way, that's spelt with a 'W'." — David Cameron, Conservative Party conference, 2008

[Channel4, 2008-10-01]

Free Up Spelling? Giv Me A Break

You could be forgiven for imagining that an organisation calling itself The Spelling Society would be animated by a crusading ardour for literacy

[subscription]

[Financial_Times, 2008-09-27]

British kids can’t spell ‘was’

Some GCSE students are unable to spell simple words such as ‘was’ instead spelling it ‘whas’, a report has found

Simple words such as “looked”, “there” and “was” were all spelt wrongly in English GCSE exam scripts studied by researchers for Cambridge Assessment. The researchers, who studied 60 GCSE papers found that the most common mistakes revolved around confusion with double letters, the Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported.

[Metro, 2008-09-12]

GCSE pupils with the spelling skills of seven-year-olds

Pupils can gain a good GCSE in English despite being unable to spell basic words, according to a report

Many were awarded at least a C grade - considered a decent pass - even though scripts were littered with errors, it is claimed. Some teenagers were unable to spell there and where - words the average pupil is expected to master at the age of seven. Pupils were also awarded B grades despite spelling words such as finally with one "l" and failing to appreciate the difference between woman and women.

[The_Telegraph, 2008-09-12]

Teaching correct spelling is a waste of time - and the apostrophe should be scrapped, says expert

If ur a stikkla 4 good spelling, u may not wish to read on. A leading academic has said we should stop worrying that 'textmessage speak' is creeping into general usage. John Wells, president of the Spelling Society, which campaigns for spelling reform, claimed that the informal language of texts, emails and chat rooms is the 'way forward'.

[Daily_Mail, 2008-09-09]

Writing wrongs

A professor of phonetics wants us to abandon our old-fashioned spelling rules, but our loopy orthography is glorious

As far as language goes, there is no right or wrong. That's one of the first things you're taught if you make the outlandish decision to devote a chunk of your life to studying linguistics, as I did. Lots of people who deal professionally with language – translators, English teachers, editors – are sticklers for correct usage, even going so far as to insist on pointless rules such as outlawing split infinitives. However, linguists (or if you want to be really accurate, linguisticians), inhabit an island of serene calm amid the maelstrom of the language-is-going-to-the-dogs debate, a place where whatever someone says is, by definition, an authentic example of the language. The mantra is "description, not prescription".

[The_Guardian, 2008-09-08]

Irregular English spelling should be scrapped, says leading academic

Irregular English spellings hold back schoolchildren and should be abandoned, a leading academic has said

Spelling should be "freed up" and the apostrophe scrapped, according to John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London. He proposes turning "give" into "giv", "river" into "rivver" and embracing Americanisms such as "organize" with a "z". In a speech to the centenary dinner of the Spelling Society, of which he is president, Prof Wells will blame the country's literacy problems on the "burden" the English spelling system places on children. "It seems to be a great pity that English-speaking countries are holding back children in this way," Prof Wells will say.

[The_Telegraph, 2008-09-08]

Let pupils abandon spelling rules, says academic

[subscription] Children are being held back at school because they are forced to memorise irregular spellings and learn how to use the apostrophe, a leading academic will claim this week.

[The_Times, 2008-09-08]

Spelling Reform Movement Takes On ABCs

In the modern age of mega-stage spelling bees, there are still factions of what amount to advocates for spelling reform — those who want to simplify spellings or scrap the current alphabet all together

[transcript] The English language is full of spelling traps. There's an I in friend, but don't dare pronounce it. Why does once begin with an O not a W? Why do cough and rough both end in GH not an F? And then why does the GH in neighbor sound like a Y? Why does psoriasis begin with a P? And what's that C doing in the middle of Tucson anyway? I could go on. Instead, we'll ask Paul Collins to. There are what amount to advocates for spelling reform. Paul Collins, our literary detective, teaches English at Portland State University, and he saw some agitated spelling reform advocates at the 80th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Paul joins us from Palantine(ph) Studios in Portland. Thanks for being with us.

[National_Public_Radio; Washington_DC,_USA; 2008-09-06]

Can't spell? Maybe it's because you're too clever, says Collins dictionary

If you have particular trouble with certain spellings, it seems you might not be as stupid as you thought. Researchers claim that a number of words are misspelt simply because we're too clever. For example, the English word most commonly spelt incorrectly in published documents and on the internet is supersede.

[Daily_Mail, 2008-08-26]

Spelling out the real social costs of illiteracy

ARE some variant spellings acceptable, as advocated recently by Ken Smith, an university lecturer? How does the Spelling Society view this?

To give some background to this issue, a little history does not go amiss. The Spelling Society of the UK will reach its 100th year next month with a dinner at University College London. The aim of the Spelling Society is to raise awareness of the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling. What are these problems? They are many. Children are taught an alphabet and then told to disregard it in many instances.

[Yorkshire_Post, 2008-08-26]

People can be too clever to spell

Spelling mistakes are not always down to ignorance of the English language, they are sometimes made because people know too much

Researchers at Collins Dictionaries found that the most commonly misspelt word was supersede - being wrong on one in ten occasions. The problem arises because people use their knowledge of the words that have a phonetically similar ending, like intercede, precede or cede, from the Latin cedere - to yield. They then wrongly assume that supersede is spelt with a 'c'.

[Telegraph, 2008-08-25]

It’s proof of what you’ve always known: you’re too clever to be good at spelling

School Gate: Take the spelling test

[subscription] A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – especially when it comes to spelling. The English word most commonly misspelt in published documents and on the internet is supersede, an analysis by lexicographers has found. But it is not pure ignorance that leads many of us to get it wrong. Rather, the problem is that many of us know a little bit too much.

[The_Times, 2008-08-25]

Judge brands court worker an 'illiterate idiot' after spelling word wrong four times on charge sheet

A judge flew into a rage in court yesterday after being presented with a charge sheet littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. In an extraordinary outburst at the Old Bailey, Judge David Paget bemoaned declining standards of written English and branded a bureaucrat from the Crown Prosecution Service an 'illiterate idiot'. In the papers, the official had consistently misspelt the word 'grievous', four times accusing the defendant of 'greivous bodily harm'.

[Daily_Mail, 2008-08-12]

Renowned Chav Professor Advocates Use of SMS Text Language and Spelling Errors

RUNCORN – England – A highly respected Professor of Chavology at the University of Runcorn has proposed that the English language be adjusted to include mobile phone text language and incorrect spelling

Labour education ministers were today considering the latest proposal from a highly respected professor of Chavology at Runcorn University. Professor Ken Smith is so proud of marking his Chavology students’ lazy nonsensical attempts at English that he has proposed the most common spelling atrocities committed by his moronic pupils be accepted as “variant spellings”.

[The_Daily_Squib, 2008-08-09]

Common misspellings should become part of language, says professor

COMMONLY misspelt words should be accepted into everyday usage, a university lecturer has suggested

Professor Ken Smith is so sick of correcting his criminology students' blunders he has proposed that the most common mistakes should be accepted as "variant spellings". To start, he suggested 10 words including "arguement" for "argument" and "twelth" for "twelfth". He added: "Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this, or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such." Spelling Society chairman Jack Bovill welcomed the Buckinghamshire New University lecturer's idea. But he added: "It's a waste of time if people aren't aware of the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling in the first place." However, Plain English Campaign founder Chrissie Maher said: "It sickens me to consider we would allow anyone the liberty to destroy our heritage just because they are fed up with seeing it misused. "Instead, do something about it, deal with the real problem, stop the rot."

[Daily_Record, 2008-08-08]

Lecturer: overlook common spelling mistakes

LECTURERS should turn a blind eye to common spelling mistakes, a teacher at Buckinghamshire New University has said

Twenty of the most common mistakes such as "Febuary", "ignor" and "speach" should be overlooked said Dr Ken Smith of the High Wycombe-based university. His comments - in the Times Higher Educational Supplement - have sparked a debate in the national media today over literacy. Dr Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Buckinghamshire New University said: "Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. Aren't we all? "But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea.

[Bucks_Free_Press, 2008-08-07]

The spell is broken: Lecturer calls for spelling amnesty on students' top 20 errors

Faced with a flood of basic spelling mistakes, you might expect a university lecturer to demand his students pay more attention to the dictionary. But one don is so fed up with having to correct his undergraduates' errors that he is calling for something rather more unorthodox - a spelling amnesty. Dr Ken Smith is urging colleagues to turn a blind eye to the 20 most common slips - such as 'Febuary', 'ignor' and 'speach' - and view them instead as variants of standard spellings.

[Daily_Mail, 2008-08-07]

Does students' spelling matter?

University lecturers should "ignor" students' appalling spelling mistakes and avoid giving themselves the "opertunity" to be riled. I know I'm on dodgy ground picking up on anything to do with spelling working for the Grauniad, but it's an interesting point so bear with me. In an opinion piece in today's Times Higher, Dr Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, makes the "arguement" that most misspelled words make more sense. Rather than getting upset over "thier" for their, why bother with it at all? Why not replace it altogether with "there", he suggests. "Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such," he argues.

[The_Guardian, 2008-08-07]

‘I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’. Or maybe not

Time to give up on spelling, says academic

[subscription]

[The_Times, 2008-08-07]

University students 'cannot spell'

Standards of spelling among university students are now so bad that lecturers are being urged to turn a blind eye to mistakes

Many undergraduates misspell basic words such as "their", "speech" or even "Wednesday" in essays, it is claimed. First year students are the worst offenders, despite already spending at least 13 years in the education system. Standards have deteriorated to such an extent that one leading academic has been forced to ignore common errors altogether. Dr Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, said "atrocious" spelling was rife among new undergraduates, with many failing to apply basic rules, such as "i before e, except after c".

[The_Telegraph, 2008-08-06]

Does spelling leave you embarrassed?

Around half of British adults are unable to spell commonly used words such as embarrassed, liaison or millennium, research has disclosed

More than a quarter of those surveyed struggled to spell definitely, accidentally and separate. One in three Britons had trouble spelling and was not confident enough to fill in an application form without resorting to a dictionary or spell checker. The under-35s were more likely to be uncomfortable filling in a job application form than their parents or the over-55s. Thirty-five per cent of under-24s relied on some form of spell check compared with 13 per cent of over-55s.

[The_Telegraph, 2008-05-23]

Should we simplify spelling?

They've been campaigning for a century to make the spelling of the English language easier and recently picketed a spelling bee in the US to make their point. Welcome to the Simplified Spelling Society.

Masha Bell, a member of the society and author of Understanding English Spelling, believes that reform of the spelling of the English language could help children learn to read and make life easier for some adults too. Prof Vivian Cook, a linguist, expert in second language learning and author of Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary, believes changing spellings would be unnecessary, expensive and could harm children's ability to read.

[BBC, 2007-07-10]

Freespeling be damned

Confound the internet, the tool of knaves and fools

Basically is, in some parts of London, bysickly, in others boysickly - and Lord knows what in the hideous patois of Liverpool or Manchester. If we cannot agree on pronunciation, how on earth can we arrive at an agreed spelling based on how we say the word?

[Evening_Standard; London,_UK; 2002-04-01]

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