Also on this page see Nue Speling vershun.
On other pages see Advantages 1, 3, 4.



READING and writing are subjects which the child must learn; they are bound to appear early in his education. At present we cannot teach them in a reasonable way.

In all other subjects we encourage the child to use his reasoning powers, to ask questions. We make good use of his curiosity. In the spelling it is otherwise. When the child asks why a word is spelt in a certain way, we are either ignorant of the answer or, if we do know it, it is beyond the child's comprehension. We discourage such questions, and demand an unreasoning obedience to authority which we should condemn in the teaching of any other subject.

The child has a natural love of order and consistency, a precious quality that is worth cultivating. But early in his education he is taught what is entirely lacking in order and consistency. He learns that "true" is right, but "trueth" is wrong: he must write "speak," but not "speech," "proceed," but not "receed," "sense," but not "fense." He must do so, not because it appeals to his reason, but because his teacher tells him to spell words in this way. The moral effects are serious.

Spelling becomes one of the trials of the child's existence. It assumes an importance quite out of proportion to its real value. It demands attention which is sorely needed for other, intrinsically valuable, matters. Speech helps but little towards the spelling; when the child spells as he speaks, he makes mistakes. The spelling, instead of helping speech, often leads the child to adopt a faulty pronunciation.

When we have a spelling that adequately represents the sounds of speech, the first care of the teacher will be to ensure that the children speak well. They often bring to school a spoken language that is defective in many ways. Their vocabulary is weak, both in the number of words and in the meaning attached to them. Their speech as a whole is rarely clear and pleasing. Their pronunciation contains more or less marked peculiarities of dialect.

The teacher will lead her pupils to breathe well, to articulate distinctly, and to learn the sounds of standard speech. She will tell them stories, read to them, and get them to give connected accounts of whatever interests them. They will learn to listen as well as to speak well. The ear is the gateway to the soul of the child.

All this can be done, and is best done, before the child uses a book or writes a word; and it is the best preparation for reading or writing a rationally spelt language. Let the child also be practised in the tracing of letters, after the Montessori fashion, and the process of reading and writing will follow quite naturally. There will be nothing to blunt the reasoning powers of the child; a sign or pair of signs will correspond to each sound of the speech he has learnt. What he can pronounce he will be able to write; what lie sees written he will be able to read.

At a certain point in his education it will be necessary to introduce him to the old spelling. At first this will seem very strange, and often repulsive; but many of the words will be the same as in the rational spelling (e.g. "bat, bet, bit, but, hot"), others will show little change (e.g. "have" for "hav," "dull" for "dul"), while the rest will usually be clear from the context. He will soon be able to read the old spelling with ease; but it will not then have any bad effect, for his own spelling habits will be too well established to suffer from contact with the old spelling, and he will not be required to memorize the irregularities presented by it, as our poor children are unfortunately compelled to do to-day. If they only had to learn reading, their hardship would not be so great; the grievous burden for them is learning how to write.

The best of recent methods for teaching children to read and to write start on phonetic lines. At first use is made only of words that are regular; since many of the common words are irregular (e.g. "one, two, son, daughter, bread, write"), much ingenuity is required to produce the reading matter. But the evil day is only put off; a time comes when words have to be learnt that obey no rule. Children, who for a time have used only regular words, find difficulty in reconciling themselves to the vagaries of our spelling; and the otherwise salutary connection of sound and sign that had been established becomes a hindrance in acquiring the irrationally spelt words which constitute the greater part of the language they have to use in reading and writing. No wonder that our best teachers are keenly desirous of a reform which would enable them to apply to the whole of the spelling the good methods that can now be applied only to a relatively small number of words.

First published, 1913. Re-issued, 1941.



REEDING and rieting ar subjekts which dhe chield must lurn; dhae ar bound to apeer urly in hiz eduekaeshon. At prezent we kan not teech dhem in a reezonabl wae.

In aul udher subjekts we enkurrej dhe chield to uez hiz reezoning pourz, to aask kwestyonz. We maek good ues ov hiz kueryosity. In dhe speling it iz udherwiez. When dhe chield aasks whie a wurd iz spelt in a surten wae, we ar iedher ignorant ov dhe aanser or, if we duu. noe it, it iz beyond dhe chield'z komprehenshon. We diskurrej such kwestyonz, and demaand an unreezoning obeedyens to authorrity, which we shood kondem in dhe teeching ov eny udher subjekt.

The chield haz a natueral luv ov order and konsistensy, a preshus kwolity dhat iz wurth kultivaeting. But urly in hiz eduekaeshon he iz taut whot iz entierly laking in order and konsistensy. He lurnz dhat "true" iz riet, but " trueth " iz rong ; he must riet "speak," but not "speech," "proceed," but not "receed," "sense," but not " fense." He must duu soe, not bekauz it apeelz to hiz reezon, but bekauz hiz teecher telz him to spel wurdz in dhis wae. Dhe morral efekts ar seeryus.

Speling bekumz wun ov dhe trialz ov dhe chield'z egzistens. It asuemz an importans kwiet out ov proporshon to its real value. It demaandz atenshon which iz sorly needed for udher, intrinsikaly valueabl, materz. Speech helps but litl towordz dhe speling; when dhe chield spelz az he speeks, he maeks mistaeks. Dhe speling, insted ov helping speech, ofen leedz dhe chield to adopt a faulty pronunsyaeshon.

When we hav a speling dhat adekwetly reprezents dhe soundz ov speech, dhe furst kaer ov dhe teecher wil be to enshuur dhat dhe children speek wel. Dhae ofen bring to skuul a spoeken langgwej dhat iz defektiv in meny waez. Dhaer vokabuelary iz week, boeth in dhe number ov wurdz and in dhe meening atacht to dhem. Dhaer speech az a hoel iz raerly kleer and pleezing. Dhaer pronunsyaeshon kontaenz mor or les markt pekuelyarritiz ov dialekt.

Dhe teecher wil leed hur pueplz to breedh wel, to artikuelaet distinktly, and to lurn dhe soundz ov standard speech. She wil tel dhem storiz, reed to dhem, and get dhem to giv konekted akounts ov whotever interests dhem. Dhae wil lurn to lisen az wel az to speek wel. Dhe eer iz dhe gaetwae to dhe soel ov dhe chield.

Aul dhis kan be dun, and iz best dun, befor dhe chield uezez a book or riets a word; and it iz dhe best preparaeshon for reeding or rieting a rashonaly spelt langgwej. Let dhe chield aulsoe be praktist in dhe traesing ov leterz, aafter dhe Montessori fashon, and dhe proeses ov reeding and rieting wil foloe kwiet natueraly. Dhaer wil be nuthing to blunt dhe reezoning pourz ov dhe chield; a sien or paer ov sienz wil korrespond to eech sound ov dhe speech he haz lurnt. Whot he kan pronouns he wil be aebl to riet ; whot he seez riten he wil be aebl to reed.

At a surten point in hiz eduekaeshon it wil be nesesary to introdues him to dhe oeld speling. At furst dhis wil seem very straenj, and ofen repulsiv ; but meny ov dhe wurdz wil be dhe saem az in dhe rashonal speling (e.g. "bat, bet, bit, but, hot"), udherz wil shoe litl chaenj (e.g. "have" for "hav," "dull" for "dul"), whiel dhe rest wil uezhuealy be kleer from dhe kontekst. He wil suun be aebl to reed dhe oeld speling widh eez ; but it wil not dhen hav ony bad efekt, for hiz oen speling habits wil be tuu wel establisht 'to sufer from kontakt widh dhe oeld speling, and he wil not be rekwierd to memoriez dhe ireguelarritiz prezented bie it, az our puur children ar unfortuenetly kompeld to duu todae. If dhae oenly had to lurn reeding, dhaer hardship wood not be soe graet; dhe greevus burden for dhem iz lurning hou to riet.

Dhe best ov reesent methodz for teeching children to reed and riet start on fonetik lienz. At furst ues iz maed oenly ov wurdz dhat ar reguelar ; sins meny ov dhe komon wurdz ar ireguelar (e.g. "one, two, son, daughter, bread, write"), much injenueity iz rekwierd to produes dhe reeding mater. But dhe eevil dae iz oenly poot of; a tiem kumz when wurdz hav to be lurnt dhat obae noe ruul. Children, huu for a tiem hav uezd oenly reguelar wurdz, fiend difikulty in rekonsieling dhemselvz to dhe vagaeriz ov our speling ; and dhe udherwiez saluetary konekshon ov sound and sien dhat haz been establisht bekumz a hindrans in akwiering dhe irashonaly spelt wurdz which konstituet dhe graeter part ov dhe langgwej dhae hav to uez in reeding and rieting. Noe wunder dhat our best teecherz ar keenly dezierus ov a reform which wood enaebl dhem to aplie to dhe hoel ov dhe speling dhe good methodz dhat kan nou be aplied oenly to a relativly smaul number ov wurdz.

Furst publisht, 1913. Reisued, 1941.


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On other pages see Advantages 1, 3, 4.