SS11. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere.
simpl speling March 2000 part 1.
Editor: Alan Campbell.
Taking off?From reports on this and the next page, it could seem the arrival of the new millennium heralds a take-off point in our campaign. The item on possible newspaper demands should keep our feet firmly on the ground.
AGM.The Annual General Meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society will be held at 10:45am, Saturday, May 6, 2000.
Ken Spencer, a member, and Lecturer in Educational Media and Technology at the Institute for Learning, University of Hull, will speak on The Damage Done: orthografic transparency and literacy failure. Subtitle: Is English a Dyslexic Language?
A committee meeting, open to all members, will follow. All members are invited.
Society engages MPs on two fronts.The advent of the new Millennium marked two different moves by the Society on opposite sides of the world to engage politicians in the campaign
In England secretary Masha Bell sent her well-researched 5000-word submission to the parliamentary select committee looking at reasons for low literacy rates at UK schools, when compared to continental scores.
New Zealand representative Allan Campbell wrote to the Minister of Education, and associate ministers, asking the new government to initiate international action for a review of spelling.
Masha's submission used as a reference point the 45 high-frequency words of List One in the Literacy Hour guidelines for English schools. Six official 'Early Learning Goals for Language and Literacy' are other bases.
The submission says English has a far greater number of simple essential high-frequency words with fonetically implausible spellings than virtually all other European languages.
Some points from the submission:
- Learners of other European languages do not have as much irregularity to cope with.
- English literacy teachers need far more specialized training than teachers in other languages.
- English literacy teaming comes down to having to suspend logic and to just remember.
- Literacy Hour so far has not produced any significant improvements in children's writing in national tests.
- It takes many years to attain competence in English spelling.
- Poor spelling standards in all English-speaking countries are due more to unpredictability of English spellings than to insufficient grasp of tonics, or inadequate teaching.
- English spelling ensures a high failure rate in teaming literacy and so needs much more remedial intervention.
NZ asked to take lead.The Society's New Zealand representative Allan Campbell has written to the Minister of Education in the new government Trevor Mallard, and his three associate ministers, and the education spokesman for the cross-bench Green Party.
He asked, with supporting argument, that New Zealand take the lead by inviting other English-speaking nations and international bodies to meet and begin to organize a spelling review.
As a short-term measure he suggested 'American spellings' be permitted in schools.
Coincidentally, the NZ Association for the Teaching of English - a group of high-school teachers - announced it was polling its members on a proposal to allow 'American spellings' in school work, and the Qualifications Authority, which over- sees public examinations, said it would monitor the proposal. Allan has written to these two bodies, and enclosed copies of an article on 'American spellings' for British schools, from JSSS J21 1997/1. The NZATE president was very appreciative of this. Primary reading teachers are also to debate the issue at their annual meeting in June.
¶ Independently, a Society member, Tom Shanks, has been lobbying another government minister, who is his local MP and a fellow party member.
This 'n' that from here 'n' there.
Older people better spellers.A survey carried out in Britain by Oxford English Dictionaries has found that older people are significantly better at spelling 10 frequently rnisspelt words than those who had recently left school or university. Almost 20% of people contacted by the researchers said they didn't know how to spell.
Researchers found spelling ability improved little after 16, suggesting it is best learned at school.
'Linkwords and sounds'.A Massey University study commissioned by the New Zealand Education Ministry found the reading recovery program, designed by Marie Clay for children who have failed to benefit after a year's formal reading instruction, often resulted in low self-esteem and produced little long-term improvement in reading ability.
One of the researchers, Professor James Chapman, said the program should focus more on linking words and sounds rather than the meaning and the context of sentences.
[Zé do Rock: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View.]
German changes taking hold.
The German language reform is bedding in. The print media began to follow the new rules on August 1 last year. Most schools and government offices adopted them after the Constitutional Court rejected a legal challenge in 1998.
In June 1999 the newspaper Die Zeit, one of the big three, switched. But not in everything. It published a special supplement explaining it, and saying 'Take what u think is good and forget about the rest.'
The wire services, newspapers, and magazines switched to the new spelling jointly on August 1 1999. They published notices advising readers of the impending changes. Special courses were given to train journalists, and spell-checking programs in newsroom computers were modified. Book publishers are changing gradually, as they are afraid if they don't students and pupils, to avoid confusion, won't read their books.
So far the anti-reform campaigners have achieved only one real victory. The small, northern state of Schleswig-Holstein held a referendum, where the reform lost 45% to 55%. The local government tried to ignore the result, since it would mean extra costs (old books can't be found; publishers would charge to republish them). The anti-reformers tried unsuccessfully to have referendums in other states.
Schleswig-Holstein is slowly 'going back' to the new spelling, arguing that they have to spell as the rest of the republic, and the newspapers there are using the new spelling. Parents have stopped complaining; only the most fanatic anti-reformers are still trying to save what they can.
Opponents of change hoped that, once the public saw the new spellings and grammar in newspapers and magazines, they would resist them and join the campaign to revert to previous usage. Supporters hoped the public would adopt them.
The reform changes 0.6% of words. Most items wouldn't be discussed in English: reducing the 54 comma rules to nine, more regularity in writing together/separate (Auto fahren, radfahren = to drive a car, to 'drive' a bike - now Auto fahren, Rad fahren), capital/lower case - before in bezug auf (in elation to), now in Bezug auf. The ß becomes ss in most cases. But on the internet everybody spells ss anyway.
Originally only lower case for nouns was sought, but protests were too loud. Most people want to eliminate capitals, but the authorities didn't poll the people; they just heard the protests. Among the protesting experts are many who don't want to lose status: if the old way is simplified, they'd lose their special knowledge.
Anti-reformers are convinced most Germans aren't interested in changing the way they write. A survey of 1100 Germans found 45% planning to ignore the changes, with only 16% planning to adopt them right away. The rest said they expected to do so eventually.
- Zé is on Bavarian TV for four months at present in a series on the reform. He leads and finishes each 15min program. He criticizes the anti-reformers, but also some of the reform compromises.
[Doug Everingham: see Journals, Newsletters, Bulletins.]
What one member has been doing.
Wide-ranging involvement over many years.
I spent early school years in three schools that used vastly different methods. Fonics well applied at one stimulated my interest. At high school in the 1930s I came across spelling reform books in a library and thought reform would save much failure and frustration for learners.A frend about 1942 showed me Hogben's Interglossa, an Esperanto substitute based on word roots already used as parts of technical terms. I eventually contributed articles to The International Language Review, edited by Floyd Hardin, of Denver, Colorado, discussing various auxiliary language projects, and helped a few contributors to develop their proposals (Intersistemal, Unolok, Concorde).
About that time I was attracted to Basic English and Neurath's Isotype, a system of pictorial symbols for sirnplifying grafs, public signs, and other communications. I became the chief collaborator in Sydney with Charles Bliss, inventor of Bliss symbols (an interlingual pictografy), and his wife. They later published a spelling reform proposal of Walter Gassner which allowed a range of alternative spellings for some fonemes so that no new homografs needed to be created by using the reforms (eg, bo boe boh for bo beau bow).
In 1966 as Australia launched decimal coinage I published a pamflet on a 66 Spelingz Skeem under a penname like Psychse T Cykhss. It proposed 66 varieties of spellings for our 40-44 fonemes, a fuller coverage of the Gassner concept. Frank Laubach, founder of the Laubach Institute providing alfabets for languages, wrote 'U are a genius'. I soon realized why he was so impressed. He had proposed something very similar.
Harry Lindgren's Spelling Reform: A New Approach appeared in 1969. I saw it a few years later and abandoned my '66 project as too radical. I persuaded Harry to launch his Spelling Action Society on 'SR1 Day', SeptembeR I 'seventy-one. He chose the name to share the initials SAS with the airline of his ancestral Scandinavia. He became president. I was secretary and compiled an index to his book.
When his helth declined Garry Jimmieson, a teacher in my then home city Rockhamptor took over for a time as editor of our newsletter Spelling Action. When he found it too demanding I became editor. I stopped publication when the society was dwindling.
As a federal opposition backbencher about 1970 I asked the education minister about possibilities for spelling reform. He consulted some experts. Most of them advised only a minimal change like f for ph would be likely to succeed. I wrote often to editors and others.
I persevered with Lindgren's SR1 (e for the clear short vowel sound, as in hemorrhage, led) in private and much official correspondence, and in the first booklet published, on community helth policy, by my department when I was Australian Minister for Health, 1972-75. Had I known a cabinet colleague had renamed his Department of Labour and Industry with Labor I would have dared rename mine Department of Helth. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam knew of my interest and wrote to me once or twice as 'Dug', signing himself 'Gof'.
Chris Upward, pioneer of Cut Spelling, thought SR1 and CS could try to merge or compromise. I saw this as defeating the prime object of writing: to encode fonemes. After some arguments by Zé do Rock, Chris, Valerie Yule, and others I accepted that
In recent months I've shelved for a time my decades-long project of drafting a simplified interlingual English (taking leads from pidjins and Hogben's Essential World English) to concentrate on the RITE project of the SSS email group (Reducing Irregularities in Time-warped English is one version of RITE).
1. morfemes, and some rules that may later be better replaced, are deeply ingrained in writing habits and should have some recognition in early reform stages; and
2. enuff grossly troublesome glyfs like ough should be tackled in a first stage to stir public concern.
I've suggested there that we draft a law, preferably in more than one country, to set up an expert group to recommend a first stage RITE. This may be more successful than earlier attempts in Britain which narrowly failed to gain majority support, perhaps in part because they called for degrees of compulsion.
I agree with most proposals that have majority support of the SSS group. I see them moving towards
1. a lexicon which will include all 'WRONG' (currently dictionary-listed) words as well as one or more alternative versions which better follow spelling trends, distinguishing current from possible, and in each case differentiated from merely recognizable or tolerated versions by print style and size.
2. a commitment to recognize a wider range of spellings (like existing aerie, aery, eyrie, eyry, manoeuvre, maneuver) and let usage determine which among them prevail with no official compulsion but encouragement of public and private style guide manual and dictionary publishers to indicate preferences for RITE spellings, as Webster did in introducing most Americanisms.
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On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).