Spelling Standards

MSNBC has an interesting feature entitled “Time to Change How We Spell Wurdz?” I find this article interesting for a couple of reasons.

First of all, something I learned a long time ago stuck with me, that being that we should communicate in ways that make us understood to the most people. That means, for example, that if two equally qualified people go for a job interview and only one of them speaks standard English, he or she will probably be the one to get that job. I think the reasoning behind this point of view is sound.

Secondly, it seems to me that people who have a hard time with spelling have a hard time with anything written anyway, so I don’t see how going with non-standard spelling would really help.

Alan Mole is the ‘”president of the American Literacy Council, which favors an end to “illogical spelling.” The group says English has 42 sounds spelled in a bewildering 400 ways.”‘ One of the arguments Mole used in the article is that:

In languages with phonetically spelled words, like German or Spanish, children learn to spell in weeks instead of months or years as is sometimes the case with English…

While I can’t argue the fact that the fact that “bomb,”comb” and “tomb” don’t rhyme is sort of hard to comprehend, I think that languages whose words are spelled phonetically DO have standard spelling. The standard just happens to be phonetic. And instead of learning the standard, the kids would have to learn phonics, which in my opinion might be better, but it might not be easier.

I realize that a lot of really important people have disagreed with my point of view: Andrew Carnegie, Teddy Roosevelt and Melville Dewey, to name a few. Even Mark Twain was in favor of simplifying our spelling system. But it doesn’t look like such a change will be happening in the near future. According to the MSNBC article:

But for aul th hi-proefiel and skolarly eforts, the iedeea of funy-luuking but simpler spelingz didn’t captivaet the masez then — or now.“I think that the average person simply did not see this as a needed change or a necessary change or something that was … going to change their lives for the better,” said Marilyn Cocchiola Holt, manager of the Pennsylvania department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Personally, I’m glad to hear that. As Donald Bear, director of the E. L. Cord Foundation Center for Literacy and Learning at the University of Nevada, Reno, states:

…to simplify spelling would probably make it more difficult because words get meaning from their prefixes, suffixes and roots. Students come to understand how meaning is preserved in the way words are spelled…

I would hate to lose the knowledge of our language’s history or, worse yet, have such language limited to an educated few. And as for Alan Mole’s idea that “lurning English reqierz roet memory rather than lojic,” I would respond that the system IS logical.

Once you understand the history.  We ought to at least give our kids that chance.



2 Responses to “Spelling Standards”

  1. 1 squidgyegg July 7, 2006 at 11:12 pm

    Why would you want to change spellings like that!? I felt uneducated just reading that short excerpt. It didn’t look very phonetic anyway…

  2. 2 Becky July 8, 2006 at 1:29 am

    You’ve got me, squidgyegg. I like things the way they are!

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