SSS Members in the media, October 2005.

Contexts of some Spellbites 2.
On this page: Isobel Raven, Masha Bell, Zé do Rock, Allan Campbell.


[Isobel Raven: see Journal, Newsletter.]

30 Oct 2005. Trafford Publishing.

The Future of Fonics: Spelling and Literacy.

by Isobel Raven.

In a pleasantly informal style, The Future of Fonics examines the search for "easy reading" in the 20th century and the potential of spelling reform to bring about literacy for all.

About the Book.


Twice in the last hundred years, reading education in Ontario took radical shifts in method. Both shifts were purported to be backed by science. Both methods held out the promise of "easy reading". The drudgery of previous methods was to be abandoned, and learning to read was to become a simple and enjoyable procedure.

In an engagingly informal style, the writer of The Future of Fonics examines the course of reading instruction throughout the century. She zeroes in on Ontario, but schools in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and Great Britain share a similar history in reading education. She pays particular attention to the uses of phonics instruction as different philosophies of reading education held sway. Isobel Raven comes to the conclusion that in reading and writing English, phonics has been weighed and found wanting. All methods have left behind a group of students she calls "the struggling average." These students have average ability, and are not candidates for special education. They work as hard as their "happy average" classmates, but plod miserably in their efforts to acquire literacy. Such children are in great danger of becoming part of that 20% of the adult population whose literacy skills are inadequate for success in a knowledge based society.

The author purposes that a reform of English spelling will bring literacy into the reach of the struggling average. It will also benefit the thousands of people learning English as a foreign language.

The Future of Fonics is daring, insightful, and thought-provoking. It is also short. Give it a read.

About the Author.


A crucial experience tutoring Valdet, an eight-year-old Kosovo refugee, transformed this placid retiree into a crusader for spelling reform. Valdet's battles with reading clicked with Isobel Raven's long experience as a first-grade teacher. There she had identified a group of learners she called "the struggling average." These children of average ability, while not candidates for special education, plodded desperately in their efforts to learn to read, unlike their "happy average" classmates.

Five years of university study in philosophy and psychology prepared Ms Raven for the rigors of researching and writing The Future of Fonics. In later years she taught basic literacy skills to adult students. This brought her up against the obstacles English spelling throws in the way of mature learners. Her life as a wife and mother kept her in touch with the concerns of parents for the education of their children.

Isobel Raven now lives in Toronto, Canada, devoting herself to writing, reading, family and friends, and her cat, not necessarily in that order.



[Masha Bell: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflet, Media, Personal View.]

21 Oct 2005. Times Educational Supplement. Talkback: you speak, we listen.

Spelling reform could be easy as shedding A, B or C.

Masha Bell.

The Issue on spelling (Friday magazine, October 7) gave little serious consideration to reform when minor amendments to a few dozen key words would make an enormous difference to children's reading.

The biggest obstacles to the reading progress of pupils in key stage 1 are a mere 230 words which contain graphemes that have several possible pronunciations, as in "read" and "lead". If we amended even just 100 of those, we could turn far more children into successful and enthusiastic readers and writers.

At least 70 of the tricky spellings that obstruct literacy progress and hamper the teaching of basic phonics can be improved by shearing them of their surplus letters, such as "friend, believe, beautiful". In the 17th century this was done to thousands of words such as "inne", "itte", "hadde", "olde", "shoppe".

The main arguments of opponents concentrate on the importance of preserving historical roots and etymological links. Anyone with a smidgen of linguistic ability can see that the words "beef" and "mutton" are related to the French "boeuf" and "mouton". They are just easier to spell and a better guide to English pronunciation, for native children as well as learners of English as a second language.

If "sign" were to lose the "g" that Professor Vivian Cook seems so attached to, it would be no more difficult to see that "sine" is related to "signature" than it is to appreciate the connection between "slept" and "sleep" or "flew" and "fly". If etymological uniformity were really important, we would not be putting up with "speak" and "speech".

If the past tense of "read" lost its superfluous "a", anti-reformers would point out that this would conflate the past tense "read" with the colour "red". So it would, but this is not a good reason for opposing reform. We have roughly 2,000 words that have two or more meanings for one spelling.

If we were brave enough to get rid of all the 522 heterographs (letters that represent different sounds in different words, eg "g" in "get" and "gin") for the 253 words which have them, even the most extreme traditionalists would not miss them for long and we would reduce spelling hassle exponentially.

English speakers tend to think that the Germans and the French are daft to divide nouns into three or two genders, with more than one word for "the" and "a". Still having a formal and informal "you" (Du/Sie, to/vous) seems superfluous. Having different spellings for identical sounding words (homophones) is just as silly. The introduction of heterographs, like that of the apostrophe, and incorporating "ea" into the Chaucerian spellings of "erly", "lern", "hed", "neer" was nothing but a complication to ensure that oiks could not learn to read and write as easily as their masters.

Sadly, this is now detrimental to the educational progress of more privileged learners too. No one can, for example, memorise, without spending a great deal of time, which longer words are spelt with a doubled consonant, as in "arrow" or "dilemma" and which apparently similar ones, such as "baron" and "lemon", are not. Children are taught that when a short word gains a suffix, its final consonant must be - doubled ("tinny", "hatter") to keep the preceding vowel short, and because this helps to distinguish them from the likes of "tiny" and "hater".

Unfortunately, in longer words this rule applies to just 400 out of 800 words; and 200 others have doubled consonants for no apparent reason, as in "apparent" and "accommodation", both of which get by without doubling in more Latin-based Spanish. Unpredictable doublings are the most common reason for English spelling mistakes. Fixing this would be easy; simply decide that regular, rule-governed consonant doubling is acceptable.

We have been collectively brainwashed into thinking that the way English has been spelt for the past 250 years is somehow right, but we are obeying the spelling choices of one arrogant individual with an overblown reverence for Greek and Latin. Before Samuel Johnson arbitrated on English spelling, it had changed constantly, particularly between 1400 and 1700. Unfortunately, few of the changes were systematic or aimed at making English spelling more learner-friendly. We should at least consider undoing some of the damage.

Masha Bell is the author of Understanding English Spelling, Pegasus Elliott Mackenzie Publishers, £12.99 (reviewed in The TES on July 9, 2004)



20 Oct 2005. 'Death of dyslexia conference', London. www.cemcentre.org [Excerpts.]

Workshop: 'Hurdles on the road to literacy'

by Masha Bell.

What I hope to achieve today is

a) Help you understand what makes learning to read and write English so difficult, irrespective of whether a pupil has been diagnosed as dyslexic or not, and

b) Briefly explain two quite different methods of helping learners cope better.


In conclusion, the inconsistencies of English spelling make learning to read more difficult than need be, and much more difficult than most European languages. We could make at least the foundation stage of literacy acquisition much easier than it is now by making just two simple amendments (cutting surplus letters and consistent spelling of the short U-sound) to no more than 100 high frequency words. Using simpler respellings alongside partially undecodable words may also help raise standards a little. What we all need to appreciate is that our children's literacy problems stem predominantly from the way we spell.



[Zé do Rock: see Journals, Newsletters, Personal View.]

20 Oct 2005.

Zé do Rock wins another prize.

the secretary of culture of the citty of munich just calld me to say that i wun the ernst hoferichter prize, for travvel litrature. it meens 5000 euro in my acount.

it is my 5th prize - for my 3 books, all ritten in simplifyed spelling. simplifyed spelling isnt as bad as so menny members think it is.

my ferst book was calld "fom winde ferfeelt" ("missd by the wind", a pun with "gon with the wind"). at gustav kiepenheuer verlag, leipzig. ferst edition bi edition diá, berlin, 1995. páperbak piper verlag (something lík 11th edition), münchen. transláted into "brazilish" in 1998, at LPM, Porto Alegre, with the títel "zé do rock - o erói sem nem um h" - "zé do rock - the héro without eny h".

this néds mábe an explanátion: thair was a classical of the brazilian litrature (in the 20s of the 20th century) calld "macunaima - o herói sem nenhum caráter" (macunaima - the héro without eny caracter), written in a very realistic "brazilian" - not in the speling, but in the sintax and vocâbulary. since in brazil the h in "herái" is silent, i took the h off.

thair is an english version too. written in RITE and bits of it in IPI. but now i'm rewríting a part of it in HS. the títel in english is EEZY RITER. for the english version thair isnt a publisher yet.

the orijinal german version is writen in progresiv ultradoitsh, ie i start with normal german speling and befor evry chapter i introdùs a new speling chánj and wrít acordingly. it is an acount about mi hichhìking trip around the werld, that took me 13 yérs, thru 117 cuntries and gáv me a lot of trubel with robers, polése and wimen.

the second book is cauld "UFO in der küche" (UFO in the kichen), at Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Leipzig, 1998. páperbak at piper verlag, münchen. it is an autobiografical síense-fiction, evrything hapens in the yér 2019 - it was a hard yér for me.

the b¨k is an acount of a ríter hö is kidnapd bi a UFO, for an experiment, and wen he cums bak it is the yér 2019. not much chánjd really, exept that éven a líta nvés yérs of study to be úsed. evrything is teribly complicáted and nuthing werks. then the writa discovers that there is another one of him, who wasnt kidnaped and got 20 years older and famous becaus he kidnaped the famous literature critic marshall rauch-rampenliczky (a pun with a very famous TV literature critic who has a strong polish accent and makes a very severe impression, marcel reich-ranicki). this older version of him lives in prison in great luxury and has even a talk show from the prison.

the system used was wunschdeutsch. i asked 20 000 people in my show-readings which spelling changes dey woul approve and which dey woul not. wunschdeutsch means super literarily "wish-german", ie "favorite german" or "democratic german". whail ultradoitsh is nearly fonetic, wunschdeutsch has a bit minus change dan HS.

voices da press:


zé do rock is radically comic, unresponsably silly, anarchically vital - süddeutsche zeitung

dis book has a hell of a spid, but is veri senseless. after you red it, you dont get waisa, but at liest you had your fun - the animal watch

an absurd satire dat dus not fir eniding - an aunt af the autor, who wanted to stei anonimous

the trid book is called "deutsch gutt sonst geld zuruck" (someding laike "german gud, odawais moni bak"). it is an antologie de reale storis, invented storis and esseis. it is written in 2 linguas, siegfriedisch e kauderdeutsh. siegfriedisch is a purely germanic german, e den you discovre haw dificulte dis is e haw ungerman german is. so meni dings have to bi renamed, iven moste food. "zwiebel" (onion) pro example comes da latin "cipolla", so it has to bi renamed to "hawling vegetable" (heulgemüse). "tisch" (table) comes da latin "discus" (laik inglishe "dish"), so it is renamed "Essbrett" (iet-bord) or "Ritzbrett" (wrait-bord). "schreiben" da latino "scribere" bli (becomes) germanik agenn: ritzen. "Taxi" is "Zahlwagen" (pay-car)and "Bus" is Vieleleutewagen (Menipoplecar). Iven propa names ar germanized, President Clinton bli "Landeshäuptling Kleinzaun" (land-chiftein little-fence (german zaun and inglishe town ar relatives)) e Poland is caled "Räuberland" (robberland). your nam wu bi "Starke Jul" (Yule being olde germanico can stei as it is, or almost).

hu is uset tu a desente lingua e tu politico corectitee shud no lecte mai buks. i not uni da worstis, ma mai stil is no la tipe de lingua dat a pastor wud use.

el otre lingua da buk is kauderdeutsh, dat is exactli la contrar: a totali indeutshizet deutsh, un internasionalizet e simplifit deutsh. it a bit plu deutsh dan IPI, dat ik use nau, ma ha la same spirit: viva multiculti.

pople ki ha lect it ha sei it was mai beste buk, ma no mucho pople ha lect it. solo lingua gagas cud comprend it. ik exagerad la dose. publishet bai kunstmann verlag, münchen, 2002.

et i scribed dozenas articles pro la mega deutshe jurnales. naturali alu in reformet spelu (aldou never IPI - i just scribed unu ma delivad it tu lat).

la prizes:


förderpreis der stadt münchen 1996
stipendium schloss wiepersdorf 1996
satirepreis "pfefferbeisser" - schlachthof münchen 2001
stipendium des märkischen kreises 2002
ernst hoferichter preis - stadt münchen - 2005

la word "stipendium" translate normali as "scoliship", mas it actuali a pris.



[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]

10 Oct 2005. Christchurch Press.

Call for New Zealand to lead spelling reform.

by Amanda Warren.

A spelling reform group is renewing calls for a parliamentary review into how children learn to spell.

Spell 4 Literacy wants English spelling overhauled internationally to make it easier to learn.

The group, the New Zealand branch of the international Simplified Spelling Society, is about to launch a campaign for a parliamentary review into the teaching of spelling in New Zealand schools.

It will be the fourth such attempt to effect change, after three unsuccessful applications to the education and science select committee.

Convener Allan Campbell said he hoped continued pressure on the Government would result in action.

Campbell attracted publicity this year when he went to the United States to protest outside the national spelling bee competition in a bid to call attention to the spelling reform cause.

He said too many children were struggling to learn to spell and it took English learners on average much longer to grasp spelling than learner of other languages.

"We want our spelling improved, and when I say improved I mean changed to the degree where kids don't have to struggle to learn to read and write," Campbell said.

In response to critics who said it would be too difficult to change the way the English languages was spelt, Campbell said: "well, you've got to start somewhere."

He believed New Zealand , being a small country where new ideas were more easily introduced was perfectly placed to lead international change.

While the group had no firm idea on what spelling system should be introduced, most preferred a more phonetic system.

"The main thing is it should be consistent," Campbell said.

Remedial spelling expert Craig Jackson, also a member of the spelling reform group, has developed a programme to help poor spellers by encouraging phonetic spelling in the first instance.

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