N6. 6pp. On another page: part 2.
[Bob Brown: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View, Pamflet 13.]
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere
Newsletter September 1993 part 1.
Published by the Secretary.
Officers 1993/4.President: Dr Donald G Scragg.
Vice-Presidents: Dr W R Lee OBE, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, Professor John Wells, Dr Valerie Yule.
Chairman: Chris Jolly.
Vice-Chairman & Public Relations Officer: Leo Chapman.
Secretary: Bob Brown.
Treasurer: Alun Bye.
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Upward.
Research Adviser: Dr Gwenllian Thorstad.
Committee Members: Nick Atkinson, Govind Deodhekar, Paul Fletcher, Ron Footer, Jean Hutchins, Frank Jones, Rev Nick Kerr, Stanley Weatherall.
Trustees: Stanley Gibbs, Elsie Oakensen, Dr Donald Scragg.
A G M Report
Real progress by the end of the century?The Society's Annual General Meeting found its officers in bullish mood.
A well-attended AGM took place on 24 April. Combined as usual with elections, and the first meeting of the newly-elected Committee, it also turned out to be something of a marathon - starting at 10:30 and eventually closing at about 5pm.
Everyone was pleased to welcome in person the Treasurer, Alun Bye, whose health had prevented his attendance for several years.
The meeting began with a review of the past year from the Secretary, Bob Brown. He noted that we had produced two issues of the Journal, three NewsLetters and three Personal Views during the year, with plenty more material for further publications when time permits. He drew attention to a large number of active and potential initiatives open to us, reflecting his feeling-shared by many others - that "times are changing". We are being taken more seriously and people seem more willing to listen to our message. The key to seizing the opportunities will be finding enough members willing to help. (The opportunities mentioned are listed in below.)
Chris Upward presented a report as Editor-in-Chief, and was warmly congratulated for his role in achieving significant exposure for the Society. Most notable was his contribution to the authoritative Word Companion to the English Language, which deals with spelling issues accurately, fairly and in considerable detail. In terms of gaining new members and contacts, Chris' article on spelling reform in a Sunday Times supplement in April had tremendous impact. Chris praised Kenneth Ives who has done a remarkable job in editing the Journal from Chicago.
Chris was thanked warmly for his role in coordinating production of the Society's submission to the British National Curriculum Council.
Alun Bye, assisted by Frank Garnett as auditor, presented the Society's accounts in some detail. Our finances continue to be healthy despite increased spending on publications over the last year.
The Committee elections took place next, noting the retirement of Mona Cross and Laurie Fennelly due to advancing years. Both have contributed much to the Society and the Secretary was asked to thank them formally.
A colloquium then took place to provide ideas on how the Society is (or can be) of public benefit. This was to provide input for Bob Brown's work with our solicitor on preparing a new submission to the Charity Commissioners, who have twice rebuffed less formal applications for charitable status in the last year or so.
Our Chairman, Chris Jolly, rounded off the meeting with a summary. Like many others, he too was increasingly confident and positive about the future. He stressed that we cannot act parochially in seeking spelling change. English is a world language and thus not simply our "property." We must continue to extend ourselves internationally. His view of the Sunday Times article was that it demonstrates the strength of our pluralist stance on individual reform schemes. "No-one will ever ask us for a complete system off-the-shelf, so it is right that we should continue to experiment and develop ideas".
The meeting of the new Committee considered a wide range of details. It authorised the new stationery design which is discussed elsewhere in this issue, and a reprint of the Cut Spelling Handbook, which is almost out of stock.
Initiatives actual and potential.Here is a list of the topics presented by Bob Brown to the AGM, some of which are under way, others awaiting someone willing to drive them along.
1. Approches to educational officialdom (continuing)
2. Contacts with educational advisers and influential people on language issues in the Commonwealth Secretariat and the EC (actual and potential, respectively).
3. A research programme aimed at quantifying the benefits of simplified spelling in educational use (active planning).
4. Selling the concept of active spelling change to the Press (planning).
5. Putting across the idea of managed spelling evolution to young people directly (ideas at present).
6. Use of simpler spellings in teaching English as a foreign language (ideas).
7. Possible involvement in the development of varieties of English for special purposes (ideas).
8. Hosting an English Language Forum - as discussed elsewhere - or similar round-table conference on language issues (ideas).
Lecture: Genetic influences on spelling disability.A presentation by Dr Jim Stevenson of London University's Institute of Child Health.
Saturday 16 October 1993 at 10:45 in London.
Dr Stevenson will talk about his work and answer questions. This is a fascinating opportunity to hear about experimental work demonstrating that "linking letters with sound is much more genetically controlled than recognising words as units." As many members as possible are urged to attend.
The talk will be followed by a Committee meeting to which (as usual) all members are invited to attend if they wish.
A Changing Face.
Image update.Bob Brown explains.
Over recent years, a major objective of the Committee has been to improve the image of the Society. We rightfully should be seen as the expert body on spelling matters. But if we are to gain the respect of the people we seek to influence - educational authorities and academics with a voice on literacy issues, as well as teachers and parents - we must be professional, that is, eschew amateurism. This is hopefully reflected in the quality of our public output of late. Another aspect is that to be regarded as a learned Society, we have to look like one!
Various actions have been taken recently by the Committee which, individually, do not represent enormous change. But taken cumulatively they effect a considerable update of our external image.
Some of the actions will already be familiar - more regular Journals and Newsletters (time permitting!), a range of professionally-produced publications that will continue to grow and improve over the next few years, better information for enquirers, and so on. Some other recent initiatives are explained in the rest of this section. Taken with other forthcoming activities, such as a more vigorous press campaign, serious attempts to build a parliamentary interest group, and action in the House of Lords, I have taken to calling this a "relaunch" of the Society. Excuse my hyperbole, but marketing is my profession!
New Vice Presidents.
The sad loss of Professor Abercrombie last year led the Committee into appointing not one but three new Vice Presidents. We are delighted and honoured now to have at our side:
Lord Simon of Glaisdale.
Amongst other facets in a busy life, Lord Simon has been an MP, a minister, a senior judge and latterly a lawlord. He has a very long association with the Society.
Dr W R (Bill) Lee OBE.
Bill Lee is often described as the doyen of the EFL teaching profession, and I hope he will not mind me using this useful handle again! He was the founder chair (and leader until his retirement) of IATEFL, the most significant professional organisation for teachers of English to non-native speakers.
Professor John Wells.
John Wells is the present incumbent of the chair of phonetics at University College London, and thus the direct successor of Daniel Jones and A C Gimson. We are delighted that he has also followed them in supporting the Society.
Dr Valerie Yule.
Val is an Australian psychologist and a lifetime spelling reformer and supporter of the Society. She is now at Monash University in Melbourne.
Leo Chapman is producing a rather more detailed portrait of our President and Vice Presidents, which will appear as a separate publication in due course.
A new Profile.
We are now using a new Profile - or summary of the Society's history, aims and activities, if you prefer - in responding to enquiries about our work, in conjunction with a series of pamphlets explaining about membership and our main publications. Its text is reproduced elsewhere in this Newsletter for the benefit of members. Any comments would be welcome before we produce it in a rather more permanent version.
New style and slogan.
You will have noticed from the mast-head on the front page that we have adopted a new style for the name of the Society. This is primarily for use on letterhead, but it will be carried through to our other publications as opportunity arises. We are indebted to Trevor Sylvester for donating his time in providing the design, and advice on graphics issues.
The masthead and stationery also carry a simple sentence which took much debate to get right. We are now happy that it neatly encapsulates what we are about. [See top of this page.]
The English Language Forum.Various members, your Secretary included, feel that the time may be ripe for a bold initiative - a "round table" international conference of all having an interest in the future development of the English language. Spelling would be just one aspect of a meeting designed to test the willingness to consider language planning. Increasingly I am persuaded by the view that spelling change may not necessarily be considered in isolation.
This idea is in its infancy. A more detailed picture of how we might take the initiative in bringing a wide range of organisations together must wait for a later Newsletter in seeking members' comments.
Help wanted!Your Secretary admits elsewhere to sinking under the load of all that needs doing. Can you help? Specifically the Society presently seeks two volunteers to undertake some aspects of the Secretary's duties, working under Bob Brown's direction:
Publications & Mailing Secretary.
This would involve holding stocks of standing and back-issue publications - so you would need some space for storage - and taking delivery of Journals, Newsletters, etc. from the printer. The main task would be to handle regular bulk mailings, using address labels provided by the Secretary. You would also send information to enquirers, and initial packs to new joiners.
Events & Speaker Organiser.
This would involve invitations to speakers, and looking after the practical arrangements for meetings. At the moment we have far more possibilities for lectures and other events than the Secretary has time to organise himself. In principle, we would like to get into having more frequent meetings than quarterly, and also special events such as all-day seminars or even conferences spread over several days. We would also like to attend more exhibitions and conferences to "display our wares," but lack the time to do so at present.
The duties for this post would be light as first but it can become whatever the holder wants to make of it. The position would involve close contact with the Secretary and PRO.
Please contact Bob Brown if you can help.
Cut Spelling, 2nd edition.
A second edition of the Cut Spelling Handbook is in preparation at present, as we have now distributed or sold all copies of the first printing.
Members will be informed when it is available. It will then also be sent automatically to members who have joined since we ran out of the first printing.
We were sorry to hear of the death in September 1991 of veteran American spelling reformer Traugott Rohner.
A magazine in a simplified spelling?
Australian member Carole Knight is keen on having some regular magazine or newsletter produced in a simplified spelling, for distribution (sale?) both within and outside the Society. If any member wants to produce such a publication, the Society would be pleased to assist. Contact the Secretary in the first instance if you think this is a good idea, and want to help.
Bob Brown apologises to members for not being able to publish this Newsletter earlier, due to extreme pressure of work in his daytime employment.
16 October 1993, 29 January 1994, 23 April 1994 (AGM)
These are all committee meetings but members are welcome to attend.
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On another page: part 2.