SS8. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]

Founded 1908
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere


simpl speling March 1999 part 1.

Editor: Allan Campbell.

A greater voice?

The committee's action (lead story) in seeking rank-and-file opinion on a strategy could be a forerunner to greater member participation in the Society's decision making.

Committee polls members on strategy.

The Society's committee, at its January meeting, decided to seek members' views on the direction the Society should take in its campaign for spelling change.

On a voting paper being sent to them with this issue of Simpl Speling, members are asked to state their preference for one of three choices:
This is the first time, at least in recent years, in which the committee has sought the guidance of members in this way.

Results will be tabled at the AGM, where it is hoped a decision will be made, so the Society's resources are not dissipated by trying to work in a number of directions at once.

Knowing the views of the membership will also be helpful to those on the committee who write letters to newspaper editors in the name of the Society or have to reply to inquiries about its aims.

Those who regard reform as impossible or extremely unlikely, like David Crystal in his Encyclopedia of the English Language, 'invariably cite as one perceived cause for this the fact that aspiring reformers themselves cannot agree on any of the many proposals they have devised,' Masha Bell, the Society's secretary, commented.

'Perhaps the SSS as a whole is far more united than we are thought to be by outsiders,' she added.

AGM. The Annual General Meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society

will be held at our new venue for meetings at 10:45am, Saturday, April 24, 1999.

Masha Bell will speak on: What I've learned about the Society and spelling reform since becoming secretary, and some thoughts about our future.

A committee meeting, open to all members, will follow.


Jokes deadline extended

Valerie Yule reports there has been only one entrant to the spelling jokes competition for International Spelling Day. She has extended the deadline until June 30. For other details, see the November 1998 Simpl Speling.



This 'n' that from here 'n' there

Columnist's sympathetic view of ISD.
Terry Lane (in his Post Script column).

Yesterday was International Spelling Day. U probably missed it, but U can put it in your diary for next year.

Why October 9? Dr Valerie Yule, the tireless evangelist for spelling reform, emailed me with an explanation of why this day arouses optimism in the brests of much-ridiculed and vilified spelling reformers everywhere.

[Then follows the history of Hangul see SSNov98. - Ed.]

How marvelous for the English writing system to be also celebrated and made as useful as possible!

True enuf, but U probably need a wise and good absolute monarch to get the reform moving. Left to a committee of pedants the prospects are not encouraging.

Dr Yule's website on spelling reform [See Links page.]

George Bernard Shaw said he knew that people being incorrigibly brain lazy just laugh at spelling reformers as silly cranks.

But that didn't stop him providing in his will that, for 21 years after his deth, income from his royalties was to go to the creation and promotion of a new fonetic alphabet containing at least 40 letters, 'one symbol for each sound'.

Just for the record, I am not a committed spelling reformer, so I would ask the brain lazy not to abuse me.

But why should we not keep an open mind on the matter? I am making a note in my diary to take Spelling Day seriously next year.

- The Age, Melbourne.



'Spell for the dole' proposal in Australia.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that people on the dole who can't read or write properly must do literacy courses or lose the dole. The media have termed his proposal 'Spell for the dole.'

There has been a great deal of money spent on literacy courses in Australia, with effects varying, according to who is reporting them. A college offering a course, for example, would receive $3200 for every literacy student referred to it by a job center who turned up - but was not getting the students because they were not turning up.

The responses to this initiative are predictable according to who responds. The Right say: 'So they jolly well should learn to read and write.' The Left say: 'They shouldn't be humiliated by being forced to learn. It's a Rightist plot.'

Teachers say, 'We need more money and teachers.' If I say, have a close and public look at how they are being taught to read and write - first when they fail at school, and then when they face adult literacy tuition - and second, what they are given to read to make them want to read - or not want to.

So, I'm adding my voice to the racket. Will it be heard? As soon as my 30min literacy video is remade - slow job - I'm going to sock it to them. ('ABC Go! Help yourself to read and spell.')

Valerie Yule. [Valerie Yule: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Personal View Anthology, Bulletins, Web links.]



Workplace literacy skills low.

A survey published at the end of 1997 by the New Zealand Ministry of Education found 40% of employed people and 75% of unemployed people to be below the minimum level of literacy competence for everyday life and work.

Workbase, the National Centre for Workplace Literacy and Language, has worked with the ministry to make further data available from the survey, part of the International Adult Literacy Survey in 20 OECD countries.

The new data from New Zealand's participation confirms literacy and numeracy skills are important contributors to labor market status, Workbase says.

The OECD strongly suggests the workplace be a focus for literacy skill development in the future. It provides an environment requiring literacy skills to be used regularly, unlike the home life of many adults.

'Findings from these national surveys prove literacy can no longer be considered a third world issue,' says Liz Moore, executive director of Workbase. 'Industrialized countries are seriously disadvantaged by low literacy. There are very few jobs today where U don't have to read and write.

'The data from the survey should provide impetus for prioritizing literacy and English language training in workforce training strategies.'



Nen the wiser?

Steve Brayshaw (Northamptonshire County Council).

Q. Where does the River Nene, pronounced Neen (Wisbech) become the River Neen, pronounced Nen (Northampton)?

A. As Nene Valley project manager and an incomer to Northants, I've had to grapple with this knotty problem. At public meetings I ask for a show of hands to decide on pronunciation in order to avoid offending the assembled masses. At Northampton Nen is always the winner; at Peterborough it is always Neen; a vote at Oundle or Higham Ferrers is less conclusive; at Thrapston confusion reins.

The spelling has changed over time with the old cartographers naming the river variously as Nene, Nen, Nenne, Niene and Neen.

A definitive transition point? Painstaking consultation leads to the Nine Arches Bridge linking Thrapston and Islip. Nen is favored upstream and Neen downstream.

- Notes & Queries feature, The Guardian.



A good year for the ALC.

Joe Little. [See Journal, Newsletters, Web link to ALC.]

In 1998, the American Literacy Council transformed Sound-Spell (aka Spell-Well) into a seamless Windows 95 literacy tool, a big breakthru. Tho it arrived too late for Christmas, there were many happy faces last year. Here are a few:

William Perry, a veteran resident of Harlem with war-related learning disabilities, continued to visit the State University of New York College of Optometry to use Sound-Spell. He called us each month regarding the availability of the W95 version for home use. His persistence paid off with our installation of a new version on his laptop, which he now uses to demonstrate Sound-Spell for frends and family with similar disabilities. He is a walking talking billboard for the program.

Sumaya Jackson and Tommy Hipper are the stars of ALC's public service announcement, premiered on the QVC home shopping TV network in late December. The 30sec PSA, titled Bomb Tomb Comb, features Sumaya and Tommy puzzling over the spelling of these and other common words. Seconds later, Sumaya links this spelling illogic with illiteracy and Tommy suggests viewers contact ALC for more information. QVC, which donated 17 airings to us, is the largest electronic retailer in the US and reaches 67 million homes. Thus, our PSA, produced pro bono by a professional team headed by Monica Anderson of Black Watch Productions, reached millions of homes with our literacy message.

As a result, interest is way up.

Ryan Rancatore, 14, lives in Foster City, California, and will have his award-winning poem, Writer's Block, featured in the new W95 version of Sound-Spell. Why? Because of collaboration with ALC, the America Library of Poetry, which with ALC, the America Library of Poetry, which sponsored a regional poetry contest and published the results as a handsome 268-page collection, donated $500 of its profits to ALC, and featured a one-page plug for Sound-Spell early in the book.

Joel Davis, chief editor at the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, compiled a list of AHD variant (simplified) spellings and donated it to ALC. This list is on our website, serving as a plug for AHD) and, together with our Random House Websters College Dictionary variant spellings list, has led to a modest spelling simplification at a mainstream periodical, and is informing a preferred spellings update in the US Government Printing Office Style Manual. This manual has inspired the retirement of once preferred spellings (eg, axe, theatre, programme, gaol, phantasy, catalogue and hiccough). These dictionary lists and style manual are forces for simple literacy.



What one member remembers.

When Parliament voted to simplify spelling!

Tom Lang,

My interest in spelling reform dates back some 50 years. There were lively debates in the British House of Commons in 1949 and 1953 when Mont Follick, MP, introduced private member's bills in favor of some simplification of English spelling.

Surprisingly, the second bill passed the committee stage, but Mont Follick agreed to withdraw it, following assurances that the Government would show interest and goodwill for any proposal designed to investigate possible improvements in the field of education.*

It seems that the only practical progress resulting was the experiment using ita (Initial Teaching Alphabet) in a number of schools. This experiment had limited success, however, and now is largely forgotten.

For some years I was a member of the Fonetic Alfabet Association, which focused mainly on the Shaw alphabet competition. The alphabet which resulted (known as Shavian) was new, comprising 48 letters which resembled shorthand symbols. This revolutionary alphabet gained little support, and faded away quickly. I lost touch with the FAA, probably due to my various moves around England. I suppose it was disbanded.

Also, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dr Godfrey Dewey, the then secretary of the Simpler Spelling Association of New York, between 1960 and 1970. I admired the SSA fonetic system of 41 letters (26 existing plus 15 new ones) but I agreed with him that 'while it Is eminently suitable for fonetic purposes right now, in textbooks or dictionaries, unfortunately any thought of bringing new characters into general use in tens of thousands of printing plants and tens of millions of typewriters belongs to a period two or three generations in the future.'

Dr Dewey advocated World English Spelling, a fonetic System based on the existing alphabet plus a number of digraphs.

Since Joining the SSS I have found several interesting correspondents. I feel that any system requiring extensive changes in spelling stands no chance of gaining general acceptance. So I look forward to further discussions within the Society, which hopefully will enable us to reach a consensus as to the best system to recommend.

I am pleased to see that micro-reform will be on the agenda for the 1999 AGM.** I suggest the AGM should carefully consider the 'long short' list of Random House Websters College Dictionary variant spellings. This list can be obtained from Joe Little, American Literacy Council, USA. [See Links page.]

* See Maurice Harrison, The use of Simplified Spelling in teaching infants to read and write. Pamflet 9 and A History of the Society up to 1970, Pamflet 11.
** For update, see AGM news.



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