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Why the difference?


Italian is one of the many languages that has had its spelling modernised, so that you spell words as you hear them and read them as you spell them.  Many other European countries have also modernised their languages in the last century.  A simple spelling system is called a ‘shallow orthography’.

English, however, has not done so systematically over the past 600 years.

So English people don't spell by sticking to rules as the Italians do.  We train ourselves to remember the spelling from dictionaries, memorising the look of the word like a photograph.  And, because nearly 4000 of our spellings are quirky, we take a long time to learn to spell ‘properly’.  If ‘head’, ‘said’ and ‘friend’ (which rhyme with ‘bed’ and ‘send’) were spelt logically, we would have learnt the spelling much faster - we would have learnt ‘hed’, ‘sed’ and ‘frend’ in no time.  A complicated spelling system, such as English uses, is called a ‘deep orthography’.

© SSS. updated 2006.02.24    The Simplified Spelling Society