SS12. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]

Founded 1908
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere.

simpl speling July 2000 part 1.

Editor: Alan Campbell.

Just doing it.

Are members becoming more active? Submissions to parliaments, seeking a new RITE form, organizing ISD, approaching a dictionary, addressing regular and TESOL teachers all indicate they may be. We welcome more news of member activity.

Further representations to Commons.

Gwenllian Thorstad, a Society committee member, has attended meetings of the Education Subcommittee of the House of Commons as an observer, and has made written representations to it.
She reported to the Society's AGM that the subcommittee had so far invited oral evidence relating only to the provision of preschool education, since the setting up of nursery classes at primary schools was making survival difficult for many nursery schools, and there was a shortage of properly trained nursery teachers. The subcommittee had not yet called for any evidence on the content of early years education, the area in which the Society's submission could be expected to be discussed.

Since the AGM she has reported she had attended a further meeting, at which the chairman said the MPs had been to Denmark, where formal education starts at 7, but where there is a 20% illiteracy problem. This, Gwen said, was because of the inconsistent spelling, as in English.

In letters Gwen has told the subcommittee that the irregularity of English orthografy retards the acquisition of literacy skills in children and adults.

She said difficulty in reading English was already apparent at age 7 years, when at least 15% have been found to be retarded. Even good readers could not read all words at once, and it took the average child 10 years - age 5 to 15 - to attain an average standard of literacy in English in order to read all newspapers, longer than in other European languages.

Nine-year-old English children, particularly the good readers, were aware of the problems with spelling. When asked their opinions on the spelling of the first 100 key words, they all agreed with predictable invariant spellings (eg, had), but disagreed with most short predictable variant words (eg, wanting woz for was), and with all unpredictable words (eg, wanting ov for of).

Gwen has also asked that attention be given to the provision of remedial teaching for those with a specific learning difficulty (SpLD), and said a reading curriculum that is too advanced for 5-year-olds should not be used with 4-year-olds, as has been suggested.

The New Zealand parliamentary select committee on education and science is not expected to begin hearings for its inquiry into the teaching of reading until later this month at the earliest.

Teachers receptive to member's talk.

After overcoming initial nervousness, southernmost SSS member Barbara Harrison enjoyed the chance last month to talk about spelling reform to a group of 15 fellow teachers in Invercargill, New Zealand.

She found they were very interested in the work of the Society, tho most had not heard of it. She explained the need for reform and gave some examples. The audience agreed about the need to change they to thay.

She showed them copies of the Journal and Simpl Speling, and quoted some paragrafs from the original pamflets new members receive. She wrote on a board all the various ways of spelling the ee sound, and talked about surplus letters and silent letters. 'I guess I had a willing audience because they all have the same frustrations,' she says.

This 'n' that from here 'n' there.

The search is on for RITE.

Dominating the Society's email group discussions for the past half year has been RITE (Reducing Irregularities in Traditional English) spelling. The idea takes on board the decision of Society members in 1999 to support gradual rather than wholesale change. The aim is to develop a system based on traditional spelling (TS) but gradually improving it.

Masha Bell says she got the idea that has led to RITE (or RITEspel as some prefer) from the way other languages have been improved. Suggestions for a radical transformation of English spelling 'seemed a bit over the top' to her. After the membership ballot that favored a staged change, Zé do Rock contacted her to ask: What next? They exchanged some long emails and found they agreed on an overall reform strategy.

While Masha wanted to establish the extent to which core English vocabulary was regular and irregular before formulating any reform proposals, Zé was keen to keep the momentum going. They decided he should organize the ballots in the email group for the reform proposals.

Since then the group has been talking, putting forward proposals for change, and voting, with Zé counting the results. Zé has been compiling options for voting, while Masha has tried to provide word lists of both regular and irregular spellings for each change under consideration.

An aim is for the group, and then the Society, to eventually adopt RITE as its in-house style, to show that members can agree on a system, and also to give the world one system that will not be too far from what they are used to, but which reduces many of the present spelling problems.

Using RITE, Zé wrote: 'The mane advantage of RITE is its legibility (and so its salability), the fact that u can rite in it evryday and u dont make peeple angry. If we cant sho that, the RITE apeel wil be gon.'

Ron Footer, another proponent, says: 'If we spel RITE heer and for all SSS corespondence and giv examples with our submissions thair is a chance we wil get sumwhere.'

Masha added: 'Peeple can be reassured that the English spelling sistem, as it is taut tu children now, the sistem that addults alreddy no, wil not be interfeerd with.'

Some possible measures for making English spelling more regular which the group has considered are: 1) Cutting redundant letters; 2) consistent use of the short vowels a e, i, o, u, and also long ee and oo; 3) using 'magic e' consistently with long a, i, o, u before a single consonant; 4) spelling unstressed final i consistently as -y; 5) consistent use of f for /f/, x for /ks/ and z for /z/; 6) consistent consonant doubling.

Pete Boardman concludes: 'We hav much work tu du befor we hav a sistem of spelling tu offer the public. But we now hav an aproach that continnues tu motivate that work by the prommis it offers of suxess in the long run, where there was nun in the past. The best part of RITE is that it welcums the contributions of douting Thomases.'

Literacy a high priority.

The New South Wales State Government had made literacy one of its highest priorities and the effort was showing in improved results, according to John Aquilina, the state's Minister for Education and Training. 'NSW is doing more than any other state to improve basic skills thru a comprehensive $A280m assistance and testing program,' he said. A national survey in March showed the literacy results of young people in NSW were the best in the country, he said.

Opponents said NSW was top because it was the richest state, and reading ability often paralleled economic wellbeing. They also pointed out the lower socioeconomic groups and indigenous people in NSW, as elsewhere, were still not doing well in literacy.

Federal Education Minister David Kemp said the survey results showed that 86.9% of Australian year 3 pupils achieved the agreed minimum national standard. They also showed between 9% and 28% of year 3 students across Australia below the standard.

Teachers warned against complacency. Orange High School Teachers Federation said literacy continues to be a problem. One school had lost 30% of the time of a teacher specializing in remedial programs because its results had improved. So it has banned English language and literacy testing.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Howard announced a $A27m strategy to improve literacy, numeracy, and school attendance among the nation's Aborigines.

Talk to Thai TESOL teachers.

Society member Ian Martin gave a presentation titled Spelling Reform - Implications for teachers of English as a foreign language to the 20th annual Thailand TESOL international conference in January.

He hopes to create a greater awareness of spelling reform among TESOL/TEFL teachers and will give another presentation at the next Thai TESOL conference in Bangkok next January.

2000 spelling bee champion.

George Abraham Thampy of Maryland Heights, Mo, has won the 2000 championship trofy after correctly spelling demarche in Round 15 of the 73rd annual Scripps Howard US National Spelling Bee.

[Ron Footer: see Newsletters.]

What one member has been doing.

Spelling confusion aired in the mess.

Ron Footer, UK.
I do not remember having much trouble with spelling at school except for the regular spelling tests. In these, out of 20 or so words, I normally got only one or two right.
In this, I had the company of most of the class. The words tested were ones I rarely used. At the time I thought nothing was wrong except my school mates and me. However, looking back, I realize the words were carefully chosen because of their confused spelling.

My next encounters with spelling were with the local staff at various places thruout the world where I worked. The pronunciation and spelling I encountered brought home to me the confusion caused by English spelling.

It was a frequent topic at the mess meals. Someone would ask something like: 'Do you know what Francois said today?' or 'Do you know how Abdullah spelt [say] lose?' A discussion would follow on how we should handle these mistakes. Should we say nothing or should we point out the errors? Many thought it unkind to do anything. I used to say I thought we should tell but point out the fault was the spelling and not theirs. Some thought this was close to sacrilege.

I could fill this publication with examples. Here is one from my laundry list in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Under Wear, Under Shirt, Handkerchief, Pejama, Cocks.

Can the writer be blamed? I think not. I spent many hours apologizing for English spelling.

My other association with spelling whilst working overseas was with cut spelling. Yes, cut spelling. We called it telegrafese. We used it because there was a shortage of line capacity. Often only one cable, working at speeds slower than 50 words a minute, existed between some continents.

So all service telegrams and service notes were sent in cut spelling. Valerie Yule and Chris Upward were not the first!

The manager often spent most of his day working out a good way of shortening words for a service telegram to head office. This went on until that wonderful day in 1968 when the first communications satellite was launched. Suddenly we had all the capacity we wanted. Not long after this a service telegram from head office instructed that because of the odd error in translating telegrafese, its use was no longer permitted.

My next encounter with spelling was in my local public library. I was looking for reference books for my daughter's school projects. I came across a mention of the SSS. My thoughts immediately went back to my encounters with spelling difficulties overseas. What a good idea, I thought.

I wrote to them. I received a reply from Chris Upward. I became a member. This was in 1991. The talented Bob Brown was secretary. It was also the year the Society published New Spelling 90. I read this from cover to cover. I thought it was the answer. How could it fail? Here was a simple but logical and consistent way of spelling English. It had to work. It would be so much easier for learners. I started to promote it.

As I did so I met the resistance to losing touch with traditional spelling that I had read about. Add the fact the SSS had no official scheme, and that no two members seemed to agree, and I believed I was wasting valuable time.

Then, at his last meeting, in May 1996, Bob mentioned email. He said: 'I suggest for consideration a radical option to dematerialize the Society as an organization holding meetings and to reconvene as an internet-based pressure and expertise group.'

This made me decide to give email a try. Certainly it was an improvement. It was possible to exchange ideas about spelling. However, it did not alter the fact that generally the world thought: Traditional spelling is bad, but reformed spelling is worse.

About to give up, I received an email communication that made me change my mind. It suggested improving spelling without moving too far from traditional spelling. It did not take long to realize that, first, this was possible and, second, it stood a good chance. Other members were seeing it too.

So things began to change. A spelling system was being developed by the members instead of by an individual. This system, called RITE Spelling, was mor logical and consistent than traditional spelling but was not too far from it tu cause instant rejection.

I hope stage 1 of RITE spelling wil be finalized and used exclusively in-house and then tu promote spelling reform. I hope that by having such a system the SSS membership wil grow by hundreds and then by thousands.

Then it wil only be a matter of time before RITE spelling wil be accepted officially thruout the werld. Lerners of English wil be able to reed thair first books without encountering enny spelling confusion. No longer wil kids cum home crying and saying tu thair parents: Why is it p-l-a-y and d-a-y but t-h-e-y? Why isn't it t-h-a-y?

Becos it wil be t-h-a-y.

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On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).