News Archive - 2017 (46)
Medical chief's warning over failing campaigns
[paywall] Scotland’s chief medical officer has warned that campaigns to reverse the country’s poor health record are failing because people in deprived areas do not have the literacy skills to understand them. Catherine Calderwood said that healthcare professionals who relied on traditional methods such as leaflets to get their messages across often failed to communicate with those who needed them most. Dr Calderwood, whose annual report last week called for a survey of the strengths and weaknesses of NHS care across Scotland, said that while in affluent areas simple advice to young mothers was understood within weeks, it took far longer in poorer communities.
A paper published in the journal Language uses an examination of English spelling to show that even without regulation the language evolved to be orderly
A Stony Brook University-led study of the history and spelling of English suffixes demonstrates that the spelling of English words is more orderly and self-organized that linguistics have previously thought. The finding, details of which are published in the journal Language, is an indication that the self-organization of English occurred even though the language has never been regulated or governed through the centuries.
Five-year-old Edith Fuller is the youngest person ever to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee
Schoolchildren across the United States have been taking part in local and state spelling competitions. These competitions are called spelling bees. The young competitors spell words that even some adults may never have heard of. More than 280 local winners will earn the right to compete in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. The event will take place from May 28 to June 3 near Washington, D.C., at the National Harbor in Maryland. Most competitors in the National Spelling Bee are between the ages of 12 and 14. But this year, one competitor will be less than half that age -- five-year-old Edith Fuller.
These days the speed of change means that even adult-speak is not constant
From time to time we get flurries of agitation in the letters column of newspapers about poor pronunciation and grammar. These are often directed at television personalities and commercials or our previous prime minister. They also come from parents or grandparents complaining about how young people today are mangling the English language: shower with a "wa" at the end, lots of "likes" in a single sentence and "should of" instead of "should have". Then there’s the misuse of words such as "literally" when "figuratively" is meant. A friend of mine told me recently that she had "literally died from laughing".
In worst possible timing, president’s misspellings of “hereby” sandwich his message about fixing American education
Just when Donald Trump was trying to sound really indignant and presidential about Democrats’ meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin years ago, along comes that pesky word “hereby,” which the president misspelled not once but twice in tweets.
International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a sombre occasion, eliciting a handshake between what is becoming seasonal patriotism and constantly increasing cosmopolitanism. For Bangladesh, it is extra-special since it falls on a day revered for a denied language from far before. Many other countries forging independence after World War II may also find the celebration to be extraordinary, especially since, under the weight of globalising forces, many languages spoken by either limited or declining populations have been evaporating, or have simply devolved into a lower tier: out of the 7,000 languages on this planet, the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger identifies 2,473 at risk, placing them in five categories, ranging from the least to the most risks, dubbed "vulnerable"; "definitely", "severely", and "critically" endangered; and those already extinct.
In a country with numerous languages and dialects and a literacy rate below the world average, nearly 200 kids gathered in this auditorium hoping to spell "baculiform." And Ghanaian kids have been doing so for 10 years now.
One good thing about English spelling is that, when you look for some oddity in it, you don’t have to search long. So why do we have the letter u in boulder (and of course in Boulder, the name of a town in Colorado)? If my information is reliable, Boulder was called after Boulder Creek. A boulder near a small stream won’t surprise anyone, but the letter u in the word and the place name may, as journalists like to say, raise some eyebrows. Bolder (the comparative degree of bold), older, colder, folder, and holder do without u, but shoulder, unexpectedly, sides with boulder. American spelling has mold in all its meanings and the verb molder, while the British norm requires ou before l. What is going on here?
Remembr speling? Neither does our president. In his first tweet as POTUS — posted at 11:57 a.m. on Jan. 21 — @realDonaldTrump tweeted, “I am honered [sic] to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!” (He later deleted the message.)
I live in the town that was Noah Webster’s birthplace, so perhaps we’re already a little dictionary-happy here. A huge statue of him fronts the downtown Noah Webster branch of the library, and the latest, hippest development in town is called Blue Back Square, in honor of the little blue-back spellers that Webster first published in 1783. Less is known about Charles and George Merriam, whose publishing firm bought the rights to Webster’s dictionary after Webster’s death in 1843, but recent visitors to the company’s Twitter feed have agreed that Merriam makes a delightful baby name.
Dr. Brian Deady is compelled to correct one of medicine’s most commonly misspelled words
Today, I am paired with a young man who seems bright and keen to learn. He has just done a history and physical examination, his first of the day. I hear his presentation, “Alexa P. is a three-year-old girl, brought by her mother with a one-day history of vomiting and diarrhea.” But what I read on the chart is the word written with a double “t” before the “ing”: vomitting.
President Trump’s administration has a spelling problem, and it seems to be getting worse. The latest cringe-worthy gaffe, courtesy of the Education Department, was a double whammy: In a tweet Friday, the agency misspelled the name of the late scholar-activist and NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois. Then it followed up with a correction, with its own glaring error: “Our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.”
You know it’s gotten bad when the dictionary feels the need to weigh in
In January, less than 24 hours after becoming president, Donald Trump sent out a tweet telling the nation he was ready to lead. He seemed to follow a simple checklist: Tell the constituents they’re awesome. Remind them of your job title. Throw in a few words about honor and service. Easy enough. The 18-word tweet dropped just before noon. “I am honered to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!” Trump wrote, deterred neither by auto-correct nor the red line that likely appeared under “honered,” imploring him to take closer look.
A rumor has been circulating about our new president’s level of literacy. First suggested (I think) in a blog post for The Times of Israel, the notion that the president not only doesn’t like to read but cannot read above the fifth-grade level of his campaign rhetoric has made the rounds of Samantha Bee, the Daily Kos and other left-wing opinion makers. I am not here to spread that rumor, but to ask what it might mean for our understanding of both this unusual president’s character and the future of any such administration for the chief executive to be functionally illiterate.
If you get confused about why a common English word is spelt differently – ‘centre’ or ‘center’ – blame the Americans for wanting to be different from their colonial British masters after the 1776 revolution that eventually created the United States. The change in English spelling if [sic] often attributed to Benjamin Franklin – an inventor who described as a ‘Founding Father’ of the US, with his legacy enshrined in the US$100 currency bill and often described as ‘the only president of the United States who was never president of the United States’. His suggestion that English words be spelt the way they are spoken gained much favour in the newly independent nation – but most balked when he proposed to drop some letters like ‘c’, ‘w’, ‘y’ from the alphabet.
A challenge “to” great for the Trump administration: spelling
It’s not clear who was responsible for the mistake, and who missed it in proofreading. But Trump has certainly set a tone in his administration as the misspeller in chief. His tweets have been riddled with mistakes, including words like “payed,” big “shoker,” “loose” instead of lose, “big honer,” and “leightweight choker” (referring to Marco Rubio). Possibly everyone’s favorite concerned China’s “unpresidented” seizure in December of a U.S. Navy drone. (It has since been erased from Trump’s site.)
The quest to Make America Great Again does not include its dictionaries
On Sunday evening, the Library of Congress was forced to pull the $16.95 “Donald Trump Inauguration Print” from its online store after a typo in the pull-quote was widely mocked on social media: “No dream is too big, no challenge is to (sic) great. Nothing we want for the future is beyond our reach.”
There’s an unlikely new battlefield in the already divided American public sphere: the defense of proper spelling. The US Department of Education stepped into the minefield this weekend with two typo-ridden tweets, one meant to correct the other.
Former Soviet state aspires to ditch its cumbersome 42-letter Cyrillic alphabet in favor of a Latin one—but which letter should represent the nation’s distinctive guttural ‘K’?
[subscription] Almaty, KAZAKHSTAN—Or should that be Almaty, QAZAQSTAN? This Central Asian nation sandwiched between Russia and China is arguing over a surprisingly elemental question: how to spell its name.
David J. Peterson is the award-winning creator of Dothraki and High Valyrian in “Game of Thrones,” the multiple languages and dialects of “Defiance” and Tarsem Singh’s epic “Emerald City,” and many of the languages of the Marvel cinematic universe
Trigedasleng is the name given to the language that evolved on Earth over about a century and a half from a mix of modern English and a code with mysterious origins. Used exclusively by Trikru at the outset, by the time we meet the Grounders in the show, the language has well outgrown its original circumstances, and become a de facto lingua franca amongst all the Twelve Tribes.
The Trump White House on Monday night, attempting to demonstrate that the media had ignored terrorism, released a list of 78 “underreported” attacks. The list didn’t expose anything new about terrorist attacks, but it did reveal a previously underreported assault by the Trump administration on the conventions of written English. Twenty-seven times, the White House memo misspelled “attacker” or “attackers” as “attaker” or “attakers.” San Bernardino lost its second “r.” “Denmark” became “Denmakr.” [Syndicated to Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, The Chippewa Herald]
In a post written during my bewildering one-week visit to Chongqing I mentioned that my traveling companion had taken several courses in Chinese in college, but not one single time did she turn out to be able to read anything in the Chinese script that helped us get around.
[paywall] THE criticisms surrounding the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority’s Year 9 literacy test based on a text message employing emojis are well deserved. As argued by the Editorial in yesterday’s Courier-Mail: “If we want to dumb down the next generation this is the right way to go.” In addition to being simplistic and more suited to testing primary school children and not Year 9, the emoji test requires minimal comprehension skills. And the sad reality is that the latest incident is only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to being simplistic and more suited to testing primary school children and not Year 9, the emoji test requires minimal comprehension skills.
Only 19 per cent of pupils in Class Five in the country can spell the word "cough" while only 31 per cent in the same class can spell the word "umbrella", a conference heard Monday.
In 2011 the schools minister trumpeted the benefits of phonics teaching. But a quarter of seven-year-olds’ literacy skills still haven’t made the cut
ack in 2005, the BBC reported David Cameron (you’ll remember him), then shadow education secretary, saying: “The biggest problem facing education today is the fact that one in five 11-year-olds leaves primary school unable to read properly.” Moving forward to 2011, I was at the launch of the Reading Agency’s summer reading challenge, an initiative that encourages children to read books during the summer holidays. One of the speakers was Nick Gibb, then, as now, schools minister. He told us about phonics and said the phonics teaching being rolled out in schools in England would “eradicate illiteracy”.
Australia's six-year-olds will likely have to show off their counting skills, name shapes and sound out words under a "light touch" test to check their schooling progress
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has appointed a five-person panel to develop the new assessments for Year 1 students. They'll report back to the nation's education ministers in the middle of 2017. Senator Birmingham has been pushing for the skills tests after several studies, including international comparisons, found Australian children were falling behind.
Do Australians spell more like Brits or Yanks? And why does this matter to your SEO? In this guest post, Matthew Bakmaz explains how to better target your customers through spelling
In one of his career’s most memorable moments, Arnold Schwarzenegger assuaged the fears of a room full of medically astute kindergarten students concerned about his headache by telling them “It’s not a tumor”. While this may have been true for detective John Kimble, it appears that it is not the case for Australians today. Using Hitwise data, we have found that Australians are more likely to use the term ‘tumor’ than they are to use the term ‘tumour’ in their search behaviour.
English student Holly Platt-Higgins on why she didn’t read a book cover to cover until the age of 14 and how she discovered literature
As soon as I told family and friends that I was applying to read English at university, I had a stream of concerned comments including ‘but you can’t read’, ‘but you couldn’t spell your own name until you were about 12’, and my sister’s personal favourite, ‘but you’re a leckie-loser’. I suppose I learnt to find the comedy in it – all of these things were true but they didn’t seem to matter. I love my subject, I was determined to study it in the most intense and rewarding environment available to me and, although I can’t spell ‘elixir’ or ‘ephemeral’ or ‘sanguine’, I know what these words mean, I know what they make me feel and on a personal level, and that’s enough. Dyslexia is something other people notice about me – they notice it takes me a long time to read a page and that I haven’t spelt word correctly or that I’ve used a comma in the wrong place – but I don’t. I do not know how not be dyslexic.
Make no mistake - raising global literacy levels is a formidable challenge. Today, nearly 17% of the world’s adult population is still not literate. Low literacy and limited language proficiency among parents is the strongest predictor of a child’s ability to thrive academically. With some 775 million adults lacking minimum literacy skills, children are placed in an increasingly untenable position - to act beyond their years and help their families navigate the world. In a year that will continue 2016’s trend of being marked by huge patterns of human migration across the world, the challenge that falls on the shoulders of educationalists is to marry speed and practicality in tackling literacy in a changing world.
Mr Adebisi Adegbuyi, Nigeria’s Post-Master General, has blamed the mass failure in English Language, at both local and international examinations, on the advent of mobile communication systems. “ It is worrisome that students cannot spell words correctly; they are more used to short codes and symbols they use in sending Short Message Service (SMS) on their mobile phones,” Adegbuyi said in Jos, on Thursday.
Ruminations from ‘Elizabeth Snyder, Judge’
Absolute power can be intoxicating. And frightening. As one of the Kenosha Rotary Club volunteers who served as a judge and word pronouncer Monday night at Kenosha Unified School District’s middle school spelling bee, I was told — right there in the official rules — that judges “are in complete control of the competition and their decision is final on all questions.” Luckily, we didn’t have to render any controversial rulings over the more than three hours that students spelled words like pertinacity, castellated, ague and spelt. Yes, spelt. It’s a word; look it up.
Mr. Dewey created the Dewey Decimal System for libraries when he was a 21-year-old student at Amherst College in Massachusetts. But another big venture on his part was to simply the spelling of the English language.
“Before you cross the strict, use your ase”. Understand that? Not likely, because even Manglish is getting mangled in Malaysia. In case you’re wondering what the sentence means, it was a student wanting to say: “Before you cross the street, use your eyes.” There are other examples. “The school are so many teacher and friend. I can read the book in this school.” “We in deed very conscent of student safety...” and “It is beyond our limit as it held at outside of campus”. The last two were excerpts from a press release from the student representative council of a local university.
The coexistence of pinyin and Chinese characters highlights the role of emotion in language decisions
FEW people live to 111. Fewer still leave as big a mark on linguistic lives as Zhou Youguang, who died on January 14th. Mr Zhou was the chief architect of pinyin, the system that the Chinese use to write Mandarin in the roman alphabet. Pinyin has not, of course, replaced the Chinese characters. Rather, it is used as a gateway to literacy, giving young children a systematic way to learn the sounds of the thousands of characters required to be literate in Chinese. Pinyin is also used by most Chinese people to input Chinese characters into computers: type a word like wo (meaning “I”) and the proper character appears; if several characters share the same sound (which is common in Chinese), users choose from a short menu of these homophonic characters.
This is the story of how an “amateur” with courage and passion can change a huge nation and enhance the lives of many millions of ordinary people. Zhou Youguang, father of Pinyin, died last Saturday in Beijing. He was 111 (one hundred and eleven)! Here is his story. We can learn a lot from it.
Zhou Youguang, a onetime Wall Street banker from China who developed Pinyin, a Romanized writing system that has helped more than 1 billion Chinese and countless foreigners learn Mandarin, died Jan. 14 in Beijing, one day after celebrating his 111th birthday. State-run media outlets in China confirmed his death but did not provide additional details. In addition to his contributions to language, Mr. Zhou also survived three years of exile and forced labor to become one of his country’s most outspoken dissidents. Mr. Zhou’s writing system, formally known as Hanyu Pinyin — or “putting sounds together,” as its name is sometimes translated — had a transformative effect on Chinese society.
Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang, who created the writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet, has died aged 111
"We spent three years developing Pinyin. People made fun of us, joking that it had taken us a long time to deal with just 26 letters," he told the BBC in 2012. Before Pinyin was developed, 85% of Chinese people could not read, now almost all can.
Zhou Youguang, the inventor of a system to convert Chinese characters into words with the Roman alphabet, died Saturday at the age of 111. Since his system was introduced nearly six decades ago, few innovations have done more to boost literacy rates in China and bridge the divide between the country and the West.
“Spelling is diffcolt, chalangin, er, hard!” — Anonymous
[limited access] Seemingly there is a reform movement underway to change the English language as we know it and to reform the spelling of difficult English words to be spelled more phonetically. Instead of spelling the word enough as we do there would instead be preferred spellings of something like “enuff.” Where were these people back when most of us spent arduous nights at home learning how to spell words that made absolutely no sense at all in their correct spelling?
Zhou Youguang, known as the father of Pinyin for creating the system of Romanized Chinese writing that has become the international standard since its introduction some 60 years ago, died on Saturday in Beijing, Chinese state media reported. He was 111.
Zhou’s Pinyin system of Chinese has virtually become the global standard
[subscription] Zhou Youguang, a linguist considered the father of modern China’s Pinyin Romanization system, died Saturday at the age of 111.
The Guardian, or as it is more affectionately known to its readers, The Grauniad, seems to think that it takes a native Russian speaker to write 'f' as 'ph'
Any English person with a good education would, on hearing over the telephone the business name 'Alfa', write it down as 'Alpha'. That is the normal English spelling, not only in England, but in many countries. It is the favoured spelling of 'Alpha and Omega' in the Bible. In the respected opinion of my good friend Google the 'ph' version is more common than the 'f' version.
Today I’m obsessed with the difference between typos and misspellings. Why? Because the storm of tweets sent out by our president-elect reveals an unusual number of orthographic oddities.
Do YOU have spelling OCD? Only the most pedantic of English language perfectionists will score full marks on this tricky test
• A new quiz from Playbuzz claims those who score full marks have spelling OCD • Users will be asked to select the correct spelling of a word from 2-3 options • Those who score 13 or above are said to be obsessive when it comes to spelling
We all know someone who is a real stickler for spelling and grammar happy to point out the smallest mistakes to their friends and family. However, this quiz is set to determine those who can spot a misspelled word from those who are obsessive about spelling. Devised by Playbuzz, the latest quiz claims that those who score full marks have 'spelling OCD'.
URDU orthography, or imla, has long been a bone of contention. And the root cause is the lack of standardisation and unification. For certain words Urdu lacks, let’s face it, orthographic standards that can be agreed upon by all and sundry. As a result one can find common words spelt differently in different publications and it can be confusing and frustrating for students. The main culprits, I am sorry to say, are Urdu newspapers and magazines. The editorial staff of most of the Urdu newspapers and magazines is generally indifferent to key issues relating to language, such as orthography and usage.
Whenever I declared that I was born in a non-English speaking country and lived there until middle school, I frequently got the response, "But, your English is so good!" As if speaking in English was the only mark of intelligence or education.