[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994-2 p31 later designated J17]
[Also on this page: disability, invented spellings, BEtSS, Sound-Speler, ALC report.

Self-proclaimed experts stumble.

This excerpt is taken from 'Hard sell for the brain dead' by Ian Aitken, The Guardian, 26 February 1994, p22.

... While listening to the Today programme ... I was jerked awake by an exchange between Peter Hobday and Frank Delaney, who is currently presenting a programme called Word of Mouth. Mr Delaney was explaining how his show planned to help young people spell a bit better by conducting ... dictation tests over the air. These tests would concentrate on straightforward words you might encounter in your newspaper.

Declaring these words were often misspelled, he asked Mr Hobday if he could spell the word 'niece'. The latter insisted that he could, spelling it out "n-e-i-c-e". Mr Delaney congratulated him, adding that many people, including himself, tended to spell it n-i-e-c-e.

There was much self-satisfied ho-ho-hoing about this triumph in the war against so-called "falling standards". However I invite Messrs Hobday and Delaney to go to their dictionaries, where they will find the word is spelled n‑i‑e‑c‑e. As for falling standards, the BBC reports that they had scarcely any calls on the subject.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994-2 pp31-32 later designated J17]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles, Pamflet 15 and Cut Spelling by Chris Upward.]

A thot from Chris Upward on th analojy of

Dislexia and Dysability.

This pece is ritn in Cut Spelng.

Among th objections comnly rased to spelng reform is that it wud pandr to childrens laziness. Teachrs and parents ho hav direct experience of lernrs struglng with english spelng mostly no betr. They ar aware how unjust th implication is that litracy problms ar merely th result of laziness. But th dificltis of litracy aquisition in english can certnly demotivate, and public opinion al too esily misinterprets demotivation as laziness.

Argumnts ar therfor needd against th slur of laziness, wher simpl countr-asertions based on persnl experience may not convince. Th analojy of modrn atitudes to disability may sujest a new kind of response. It is now widely acceptd that society must make a concius efrt to enable peple with disabilitis to lead lives as much like th non-disabled as posbl. This means taking delibrat steps to facilitate employmnt, travl and access to premises.

Dyslexia is ofn glosd as a 'specific lernng disability'. But al lernrs ho experience any dificlty at al in lernng to read and rite english, and not only those ho ar formly diagnosed as 'dyslexic', sufr from such 'disability' to som degree. Evryone ho stumbls (and that probbly means most peple at first) over pairs like would/mould, high/height, afraid/affray, because th audio-visul memry dos not at once imprint such arbitry distinctions on th brain, deservs th same considration as peple with othr disabilitis. Failur to mastr litracy skils in english as redily as is don, for instnce, in finish, italian or spanish is no mor a syn of laziness than is th failur of paraplejics to walk. If ramps ar now provided to ese access to weelchairs wher stairs wer previusly insurmountbl, th same considration shud require orthografic ramps to be provided to asist access to litracy. It shud be th mark of a humane and civlized society to make such provision. Its desirebility shud not be at issu, tho its desyn and implmentation ar mor complex matrs.

This argumnt is basicly a variant on th old one for spelng reform to improve educationl and ecnomic eficiency, but it may persuade som oponents ho wer unmoved by th apeal to eficiency. So next time th old 'laziness' cliché is trotd out, wy not try apealng to th social concience of those ho produce it, by getng them to think about th analojy between disability and litracy problms? If they aprove of mesurs to giv th disabled access to bildngs, then they shud also aprove of mesurs to giv those struglng for litracy esir access to th skils of readng and riting.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994-2 p32 later designated J17]
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles, and Personal View by Edward Rondthaler.]


Edward Rondthaler, American Literacy Council.

"Invented spelling" is a term used by educators to describe the various self-made spellings that children use in their first attempts to write. Such spellings are now widely accepted in early schooling because they free children from confusion, frustration, and discouragement.

One child's invitation to a bicycle ride might read:
If yoo kum too see mee yoo kan rid mi bik.
Another child might write the same message:
If u cum Io se me u can ryd my byk.

Our 5- and 6-year-olds use a wide variety of invented spellings - mixtures that are often unintelligible to their classmates, but can usually be deciphered by adults who have learned to take the bewildering inconsistencies of English spelling in stride.

Most children try to write before they try to read. They quickly grasp the idea that letters represent spoken sounds, and struggle to put their thoughts on paper. Children speaking other languages do the same; but since most languages are written phonetically they do not need invented spelling. Our children face a very different situation: many of our words, including some of the most common, are not writen as they sound.

Written English is full of misfits. A child may ask, "How do I spell the oo-sound?" one dare not answer "O-O" because, unfortunately, English spells the oo-sound in many different ways: oa/ue/ew/wo/ough/o/u/oe/ou - as found in the words zoo, true, drew, two, through, do, flu, shoe, you. We have 42 spoken sounds, but we write them in over 400 different ways! Despite claims to the contrary, learning English spelling requires the heroic memorization of countless irregularities.

John Steinbeck, the author, has said, "Learning to read is perhaps the greatest single effort that the human undertakes, and he must do it as a child."

We can do better.
We can sharpen our spelling tools.

How? By taking the hodgepodge out of our children's invented spellings. Right from the start we can teach them a simple, logical, systematic, 26-letter, no-diacritic, "invented spelling" JSSS that is phonetic, rational, and applicable to all words. This will forestall a child's need to invent spellings haphazardly. Many of the words will be exactly like our present spelling. Others will change just enough to be compatible with spoken sounds. The child's first attempts at writing will then be rational and logical rather than confused and topsy-turvy. As pupils progress they will, of necessity, begin to use more and more standard spellings. Meanwhile the logic of phonetic will give educators a solid foundation on which to build better and better ways to expedite the transfer to standard.

One way with good potential: Children with access to computers may now use a program that lets them type a word normally if they are sure of its spelling. If not, they may type it phonetically, logically, as it sounds. If the phonetic spelling differs from standard spelling the computer will automatically correct it. Both spellings - standard and phonetic - appear in colors on the screen so the child can see the difference and begin to memorize the spelling of words not written as they sound. Computer teaching, of course, saves valuable classroom time. Pupils appreciate its privacy and patience. It builds confidence, sends strong signals to memory, and opens up a vocabulary far in excess of even the longest "word list". Teaching the correct spelling of a new word at the very moment it is needed opens up enticing possibilities.

Ending the child-invented hodgepodge does not encroach on modern methods of teaching. It just fine-tunes them. It brings them closer to the way writing and reading are taught in other languages - where spelling difficulties are rare. It is a step forward that should be welcomed by educators and parents alike.

Greater progress toward literacy for all can be expected when the spelling used by beginners is uniform and tied to orderly ways of memorizing our normal but often frustrating spelling. The U.S. stands near the top in dollars-per-pupil spent for education. But the UN tells us that we've slipped to 49th place in literacy.

We must erase that disgrace.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J17, 1994/2 p33 later designated J17]
[See Journal items about BEtSS.]


Annual Meeting, May 1994.

A 23-minute video tape on BEtSS and the need for spelling reform has been produced. It has sound and can be shown on a TV set with the aid of a VCR. this was presented to a meeting of the program committee of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, where it was well received.

Officers elected for two year terms were: Charles Kleber, President; James Campbell, Chairman of the Board; Abe Citron, Vice President; Rollin Marquis, Secretary; and Michael Brice, Treasurer.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994-2 p34 later designated J17]


Jeffrey J. Strange and John B. Black. Teachers College, Columbia University

The overall pattern of results found in this study leads us to conclude that the use of Sound-Speler and Fonetic English led to modest yet meaningful differences in the acquisition of selected literacy skills by beginning-to-intermediate level students of English as a second language. The mean performance of students in a group using Sound-Speler was higher than that in a control group on measures of vocabulary, phonetic analysis, writing productivity and reading. On each of these measures, the advantage of the Sound-Speler group was present for students in both the top and bottom halves of a Literacy Skills Index devised to gauge pre-existing levels of targeted proficiencies in English. Statistical analyses showed the advantage of the Sound-Speler group to be reliable or marginally reliable in each case except for reading comprehension.

No reliable differences were found on measures of spelling. However, our analysis suggests that control group students spontaneously employed resources available in the classroom to effectively mitigate the potential advantages that Sound-Speler may bring to the process of learning to spell. As such resources are not characteristic of many learning environments, the lack of differences found here may not extend to other contexts in which Sound-Speler is likely to be used. It is also worth noting that the kind of spelling test used here may not have been sensitive to some of the phonetically-based spelling gains potentially supported by Sound-Speler. Finally, Sound-Speler students reported more positive attitudes toward the computer program as a learning tool than did students in the control group.

On the whole, these results show Sound-Speler to be a promising tool when used to facilitate the acquisition of literacy skills. While the curriculum used in the present study emphasized meaning-based learning activities, the promise of Sound-Speler is accentuated by its versatility. Particularly, its design as a flexible support tool makes it susceptible to use in both meaning-oriented and code-oriented learning activities, thus rendering it adaptable to diverse teaching philosophies and learning needs. As Sound-Speler is designed to present the standard English sound-symbol system at the same time it introduces the simplified one, it also circumvents problems of transition experienced by learners of other simplified spelling systems - notably, the initial teaching alphabet.

In pursuing further use, study and development of Sound-Speler, our analysis suggests several areas in which refinements can be made. These pertain to: (a) a fuller understanding of the processes thru which Sound-Speler supports the acquisition of various subskills, and how these processes may differ for native and non-native as well as primary and adult students of English, (b) a thoro analysis of the areas in which the simplified spelling system may interfere with the acquisition of various literacy skills, (c) a systematic approach to the development of curricula using Sound-Speler, (d) alternative means of assessing some of the targeted literacy skills, and (e) improvements in the editing and file-handling functions of Sound-Speler. Finally, developments in each of these areas will need to be rethought in light of the sound component that is currently being implemented in Sound-Speler.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994/2 p34 later designated J17]
[See Journal items about alc.]


Annual Report for 1993, Ken Ives.

Media publicity achieved in 1993 was in 9 places, from the New York Times to the Stuart FL, News. Group demonstrations of its Sound-Speler were to 9 groups, including testing representatives at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton NJ, and the IBM/Eduquest Educational Soltware Conference, in Pearl River NJ.

Sales of its Sound-Speler programs, and compensation for tutor training sessions came to over $6,000. In addition, 63 people contributed to the support of ALC activities. They live in 24 states, DC, and two foreign countries.

The new "Voice SoundSpeler" under development by Edward Lias, was demonstrated by him.

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