SS13. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere.
simpl speling November 2000 part 1.
Editor: Alan Campbell.
Keeping on.Testing a caution made here in March, the German experience shows it's never plain sailing.
That and the news from England and New Zealand should remind us the work's to be tackled, and we can't let up.
Promising start to millennium.
Media contacts lead to publicity and new members.
The millennium has started well for the Society, with hope that two parliamentary submissions might bear some fruit, and with more people in England and New Zealand knowing about its cause than a year ago. Chair Chris Jolly was moved to say there had been publicity on a scale he has not known before in his 20 years' membership.
There have been an unusual number of radio and TV interviews and articles and letters in newspapers.
Allan Campbell reports.
Before he addressed the Society's AGM (SSJuly00) member Ken Spencer was interviewed on LBC radio, London, on which he painted a vivid picture of the problems of English spelling. It was to be the first of a number of members' media activities. Secretary Masha Bell's contact with Judith Judd, education writer of The Independent, and letter to The Times led to radio interviews, further letters, and new members.
After a fone call she sent a copy of the parliamentary submission on early years education to Judd, who published an article on it. This led to BBC4 seeking an interview.
- Professor John Wells, a vice-president, put the case for spelling
reform in a live broadcast a week later on the You and Yours program. Chair
Chris Jolly commented he was outstanding, and Masha described his performance as
In the Times letter Masha was responding to a report of French authorities rejecting a request at a Paris conference of teachers of French, seeking changes in French spelling.
- Chris Jolly spoke on the Justin Lee program on BBC Radio Devon for about
5 min in August. A Pole had asked about the difficulties of English spelling. The
station found Chris thru the Society's website. He was interviewed as a 'warm-up' to
listeners foning in their views. The interview focused on the difficulties of
learning English spelling, and examples of words to reform.
- Committee member Tony Burns was interviewed by BBC4, on Today breakfast
program. [See 2003 article.]
- Masha taped an interview for BBC Radio Belfast's Sound Education.
Masha also spotted a report in The Independent about the Conservative health spokesman drawing attention to the poor English of some foreign doctors working in Britain. Her reply to this, that even educated people such as doctors have trouble with English because of its difficult spelling, led to spate of letters in that paper, including those from John Gledhill, Ron Footer, and Doug Everingham (Queensland). Ron was particularly pleased as part of his was published in Rite spelling.
In addition the Society's Langscape project submission was published, Nick Kerr had a letter in his local paper, and Jean Hutchins initiated spelling discussion in a dyslexia email group of 400 members, resulting in a new member.
¶ Membership secretary John Gledhill told the committee last month 22 people had inquired since mid-July, sparked by Masha's Independent item (2); her Times letter (9); You and Yours (3); SSS web site (3); personal contacts (2). Five of the inquirers have joined.
Keeping up the publicity.It is hoped to maintain the rising publicity in England and New Zealand
The Society is preparing to issue a statement when the Education subcommittee reports to the House of Commons, and has an open letter for David Blunkett, State Secretary for Education, on his '600 words' that secondary school pupils will be expected to know.
Chris Jolly speaks to the Books section of the National Union of Journalists this month. An SSS item in their newsletter precedes this.
In New Zealand releases are ready to follow the select committee's report to parliament. Member Zé do Rock is visiting this month, and is available to speak on German spelling. Chris Upward has also, by request, written an article on 'American spelling' for the English teachers' journal.
This 'n' that from here 'n' there
'American spellings' issue raises the profile.Spelling's somewhat higher profile in New Zealand this year began with the New Zealand Association for the Teaching of English (NZATE) saying it was looking at allowing 'American spellings' in high schools.
Some newspaper columnists had their say, mainly doubting or opposing, including those in The Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, The Press, Christchurch (American spellings do 'u ' no favor), and The New Zealand Herald, Auckland ('We fuddies howl and twist. We should instead nod in contentment. The Americans are saving English; we can go to our graves untroubled by the need to learn another language').
Phil Coogan, NZATE president, was pleased to receive a copy of the JSSS J21 1997/1 article, American Spelling for British Schools? He sent a copy with a reply to a columnist in The Listener, a hi-brow radio and TV magazine, who discussed the topic over two successive issues, referring to both the Society and JSSS. I responded to all the columnists.
The Society's submission to the Select Committee on Education and Science's inquiry into the teaching of reading, was heard in August. Tom Shanks (Oamaru), new member Chrissy Parker and I (both Christchurch) shared the presentation. It was a new experience for us all.
We were heard attentively, were asked a few questions, and were later requested to send documentary evidence that simpler spelling led to greater literacy in other languages.
We have sent copies of Gwen Thorstad's 1991 English-Italian study, Chris Upward's review of Harris and Hatano's Learning to Read and Write (JSSS27); two Ken Spencer articles from The Guardian and Simpl Speling; per favor of Ken, the research articles he quoted: Oney and Goldman: Decoding and comprehension skills in Turkish and English; and Landerl, Wimmer, and Frith: The impact of orthographic consistency on dyslexia; A cultural effect on brain function, from Nature Neuroscience, January 2000, researching the demands different orthografies make on the brain.
Copies of the submission have gone to NZATE ('Many thanks for sending me that lucid, compelling submission'); NZ Reading Assn; NZ Educational Institute, the primary teachers' union; and the managing director of Independent Newspapers Ltd, our major newspaper chain.
A local channel and a national TV news ran our presentation, with comments from other parties.
A Press columnist, Joe Bennett, picked it up and laid into us 'Simplies'. His article drew responses for two weeks not only from us locals (split about 60/40 with him), but also from 'Simplies' Masha Bell, Nick Kerr, Valerie Yule, and Doug Everingham.
Thanks, Joe: without your help the publicity may have died with the TV items!
Ballot result.In the recent members' poll on the direction the Society should take, 82 people voted.
1. Debating society only - 1
2. Pragmatic, agreed set of suggestions - 35
3. Agreed complete scheme - 13
4. Range of solutions - 20
5. Other - 13
(Three further votes were received after the closing date.)
The committee at its October meeting took no action on the result.
English spelling blamed in another literacy study.Professor S J Prais, senior research fellow at the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, London, has sent the Society a draft of his major research report Social Disparities and the Teaching of literacy: reflections following visits to Swiss and English schools to compare attainments and teaching methods in language and literacy.
It blames English spelling irregularity for much of the poorer performance of English children, and hints strongly at the desirability of spelling reform.
- A meeting was held recently between the American Literacy Council (ALC) and Better Education thru Simplified Spelling (BEtSS). Nothing of consequence is reported to have come from it.
- In three books on ergonomics, published in 1998, 1999, and 2000, ex-SSS member Dan MacLeod uses improved spellings, such as tho, altho, thru, thruout, tendonitis (for tendinitis).
- Tatarstan, one of Russia's republics, has dropped Cyrillic in favor of the Roman alfabet, in part because it wants closer ties with Europe. The Roman alfabet will be used in schools for written work in the local Tatar language, and the transition is expected to take 10 years. Tatarstan.- 750km east of Moscow, has a population of 4 million.
- The government of Maharashtra state (capital Mumbai - Bombay) in India has state government policy of teaching only the local language, Marathi. West Bengal, on the opposite coast of the subcontinent, has reintroduced the teaching of English in schools. In the 1980s it had scrapped English and insisted on teaching the local language, Bengali. Punjab and Kerala have also introduced English as a subject at grade 1 level. Delhi state is soon to follow. Populists decry English as a symbol of elitism. But millions of Indians have found that with the emergence of the internet and globalized markets, English is a key to opportunity and prosperity. The official national language, Hindi, is spoken by about 400 million people; English by about 60 million.
- James Murdoch, son of Rupert and head of Asia Star TV, said in a speech at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, that so-called global media groups had not recognized the need to use local dominant languages - Mandarin, English, Hindi, and Spanish - to compete in the global market place. Media companies were mistaken if they thought English would be the future default language.
Eminent member dies.Mona Cross, a long-serving member of the Society, has died in Northampton. She joined in 1962, and worked in a number of capacities, including editor of the SSS Newsletter, forerunner of the Journal.
Some members have attributed the survival of the Society thru some very difficult times in the late 70s and early 80s to her. Chris Upward comments: 'She was a voice of courtesy and calm, when other voices around her were raised and excited'.
She produced the Newsletter until 1985. She regularly attended meetings thru the 1980s, tho her hearing was poor and travel to London was becoming increasingly arduous. Before she retired she was headteacher of a village school that used ita.
Back to the top.
On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement).