SS7. 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 November 1998 part 1.

Editor: Allan Campbell.

[Valerie Yule: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Personal View Anthology, Bulletins, Web links.]

Member moves to establish International Spelling Day.

Valerie Yule.

For a long time an advocate of an annual spelling day to focus on the need for orthographic change, Society vice-president Valerie Yule made a 'unilateral declaration' of October 9 1998 as International Spelling Day to coincide with South Korea's Great Letters Day (below).

She suggested a number of activities to mark the day, including starting a week of spelling-spotting and spelling-watching for students in schools, and for the public in newspapers.

A columnist in the Melbourne Age newspaper wrote sympathetically of the occasion, and promised to enter it in his diary for next year.

Valerie is asking the Society to pick up the plan for October 1999.

Spelling jokes competition.

The 1998 international competition for Spelling Day is for the best collection of spelling jokes.

Collect cartoons, limericks, quips, riddles, anecdotes, drawings, or make up your own.

Prizes: Individual collections - Booklets on spelling games, and spelling cartoon memo books.

Best school collection - A take-home Teach Yourself to Read and Spell half-hour cartoon video.

The usual competition rules apply.
All contributions without a prior copyright may be included in a Spelling Joke Book being compiled in aid of literacy innovations.
Send your entry to: The Spelling Jokes Competition to Valerie Yule.
Closing date: February 9, 1999.

Why Koreans honor their spelling.

Valerie Yule, Australia.

King Sejong the Great, fourth monarch of the Yi dynasty of the Chosen Kingdom in Korea hundreds of years ago, ordered his scholars to find a simple method of writing Korean so that even the common people could express their thoughts in writing. They looked overseas, found nothing they thought good enuf, and so, typically Korean, invented their own. It was promulgated in 1493 - a set of 11 vowels and 17 consonants now simplified further to 10 vowels and 14 consonants. The letters are arranged into syllables, which then block into words that look like simple Chinese characters. (When the king died the mandarins revoked it, reverting to Chinese writing, on the grounds that Hangul enabled the common people to read and write.)

Under Japanese occupation, using the Hangul system instead of Japanese became a major tool in expressing Korean nationalism. After liberation, Hangul Day became part of the celebrations, with an annual national holiday. It is no longer a holiday, but is still celebrated with distinguished guests and scholars commemorating the Hangul system and conferring on ways to keep it as useful as possible.

The Hangul alphabet is acclaimed one of the world's great literary achievements and the most remarkable fonetic alphabet ever produced.

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

Drop in number of fluent Maori speakers.

Marking the tenth anniversary of Maori being legislated an official New Zealand language, Maori language commissioner Timoti Karetu said in that time the number of fluent Maori speakers of the language had declined from 18% to about 8%.

However, the numbers learning it had grown, as a result of kohanga reo (language nest) preschools and kura kaupapa (culture and language schools).

¶ Samoan, second most widely spoken Polynesian language in New Zealand, has become a School Certificate (O level) subject. - Ed.

Poll supports need for language authority.

A weekly program on BBC Radio 4, called Straw Poll, discusses various topics and then takes the views of listeners. At the end of July the subject was A language authority is essential. A later program gave the result:

Agree it is essential 85%; disagree 15%.

Ron Footer. [See Newsletters .]

Globish - global English

Madhukar N Gogate, of Pune, India, has proposed Globish as an informal global auxiliary language using 2000 fonetically spelt English words. It would not challenge the supremacy of normal English.
[See Journals, Newsletters.]

Britons reluctant linguists

According to the London Daily Telegraph a 12-month study by academics, diplomats, and business people will try to determine whether Britons' reluctance to master languages is the result of arrogance or ignorance. England came bottom of a league table of European teenagers' proficiency in foreign languages.

Core subjects being squeezed

Because of the crowded curriculum, New Zealand secondary school students may become generalists in everything, experts in nothing.

Schools say that as more subjects are squeezed into the time-table, core skills such as literacy and numeracy are at risk.

Next year technology is compulsory for students until the end of fourth form (year 10), and schools are cutting back on English, maths, or optional subjects to fit it in, teachers say.

[German spelling and its reforms: see Journals.]

Coping with the German reforms:

Subtle shifts still spark strife.

'Drat this German tongue. I shall never be able to learn it,' wrote American author Mark Twain on his first visit to Germany in 1878.

For anyone, native or foreigner, who has thrown up their hands in similar despair at the complexities of the German language, there may now be some hope.

The sweeping overhaul Twain proposed to 'the awful German language' in his 1880 book, A Tramp Abroad is not yet in the offing, but Germany's highest court has ruled that controversial plans to reform German grammar and spelling were in line with the constitution and could go ahead.

The changes proposed are subtle shifts in comparison to Twain's suggestions, but they have still managed to spark months of heated controversy in the German-speaking world.

Many have denounced the recht-schreibrefrom - literally proper writing reform - as practically sacrilegious, while others have called it simply unnecessary.

The changes became the norm in German schools with the start of the new school year in August, and the civil service will follow a year later. Old rules will be allowed to remain in use elsewhere until 2005.

Advocates say it simplifies and standardizes many ancient rules of grammar and spelling in the language, making it easier for both natives and foreigners to master.

Many of the spelling changes involve the 'Germanization' of borrowed foreign words. Thus Mayonnaise becomes Majonaese, and Ketchup is reborn as Ketschup.

The mass-circulation Bild newspaper reassured readers there was no need to panic over the proposed changes because only 185 words were changing out of a total of some 12,000.


Difficult for some.

Critics of the new German language reform (including spelling) complain the new rules, intended to simplify the way German is written, actually make things more complicated, and were still pushing, on the eve of implementation, to delay them.

Many government bureaucrats were reluctant to start writing the new way at work. Some states said they were not ready with new forms and computer programs, and would need to delay the switch.

But Gabriele Behler, of the state culture and education ministers' conference insisted the new rules are clearer and better. They made writing snappier by eliminating many comma rules. 'The man who came to dinner' would, for example, no longer need a comma after man.

They also separated many strung-together compound words - remainsitting becomes remain sitting - and introduced more Germanized words, like Kommunikee for Kommunique.

The Austrians and Swiss generally accept them, but many leading authors and ordinary citizens object.

Altho reprinted school texts have the new writing, many authors have demanded excerpts from their works remain as first written.

Glasgow Herald.

Jean Wilkinson, USA writes.

Why wrestle with wrestle?

I was listening to a 13-year-old and his father discussing the abbreviation of the World Wrestling Federation. They decided it was WWF, but my mind said WRF. What's the w doing there? Why are there so many wr words in English?

I dug into my dictionary. It traces wrestle back to wer--, an apparent syllable in Indo-European meaning to bend, twist, or turn. Well, I guess that's what wrestling is, all right.

Intriguing. I found 19 more words tracing back to the same root, and I can see bending, twisting, or turning in every one of them: wrap, wreath, writhe, wrench, wrest, wreck, wriggle, wring, wrinkle, wrist, write (!), writhe, wrong (via the idea of crooked or twisted), wrath, wroth, wry,- even warp and worm, tho w and r are not contiguous.

So, what's Indo-European?

I burrowed some more, and learned it's the hypothetical language that most European languages came from, as well as many languages of Southwestern Asia and India. It birthed Sanskrit in about the fourth century BC.

Okay, so a few thousand years ago w was pronounced. How about today? Old Norse seems to have dropped it before the 14th century. In German our wrench compares with renken, and write with reissen. No ws.

But English - old, middle, and modem - has held onto w like glue. What has it gained us? Precisely, that many words come from the same ancient word meaning to bend, twist, or turn. And each of the present words retains some implication of the original thought. I find this neat! It's sort of like shaking hands with Adam and Eve.

But what has it lost us? With the other archaic letters in English words, it has lost us quick literacy. Actually, we've never had quick literacy, so we don't know what we're missing. But we'd know if we went to a foreign country and saw how readily their children learn to read.

Hugging our silent letters is losing us our competitive place in the world. 'Half our 17-year-olds don't have the basic language and math skills to hold a production job' - Frank Levy, professor at MITand co-author of Teaching the New Basic Skills, on Jim Lehrer's News Hour, 1997.

We're a polyglot nation. Foreign parents of many students are still learning English themselves. Others have heritages that underemphasize literacy. And few American children have learned to work diligently with their parents. They stay out of the way by being entertained by TV. They come to school still in entertainment mode. We can teach them to write with invented spelling and each one go their own way. Or we can give them a simplified, consistent spelling that will make reading - and writing! - by age 8 a reachable goal.

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