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Spelling represents meaning, always

[subscription] One of the most frequent mistakes in English spelling is assuming that English spelling is a system for connecting letters to sounds or vice versa.

[Aberdeen_News; Aberdeen,_SD,_US; 2016-12-30]

Think you can spell? Take our quiz on the 20 most commonly misspelled words and prove it

Spelling is a tricky business, especially as there are so many rules with inconsistencies in the English language

Is it separate or seperate? Manoeuvre or manoevre? Occurrence or occurence? Have a go at this quiz and see how familiar you really are with the correct spellings of these notoriously awkward words.

[Metro; London,_UK; 2016-12-30]

Is English a Dying Language? Of Course

The barbarians have pushed inside the gate, and there is no going back

For today’s and tomorrow’s English teachers, new opportunities and threats beckon. They’ll write textbooks that junk the old rules and promote “you get the idea” as the key principle. Packing the maximum punch into 140 characters will be a popular lecture topic, with the tweets of Donald J. Trump coming in for the kind of analysis once given to Charles Dickens or Ernest Hemingway.

[The_Tyee; Vancouver,_BC,_CA; 2016-12-30]

Young people believe emoticons will make learning to spell obsolete

Six out of 10 young people think the need to learn how to spell will become obsolete in the future, research has found. A poll of Britons aged between 18 and 34 found that 60% think that learning how to spell will eventually become obsolete due to technological advances. More than half believe that social media, emoticons and text speak have reduced the importance of being able to spell properly.

[iNews; London,_UK; 2016-12-28]

Sue Perkins signs up for TV Big Spell with blast at ‘stage school brats’

Sue Perkins has criticised the “stage school brats” given a platform by television talent shows after signing up to present a new series that will uncover the nation’s brightest young spellers. After leaving The Great British Bake Off, Ms Perkins believes the same warm-hearted glow which made that show the UK’s most watched will be recreated in The Big Spell, a Sky 1 challenge, starting in January.

[iNews; London,_UK; 2016-12-27]

English a major challenge for refugees

The real problem for immigrants hearing spoken English for the first time comes with the way English is littered with homonyms, words that sound the same when spoken but are spelled differently and have altogether different meanings: air and heir, aisle and isle, bare and bear, cell and sell, currant and current, dear and deer, which and witch, whine and wine are just a few.

[Times_Colonist; Victoria,_BC,_CA; 2016-12-27]

Is civilization falling with rise of texting?

The first text was sent 24 years ago this December. This means that most recent college graduates have never lived in a world without texting. A key part of texting is making long words and phrases shorter. It's just easier on the thumbs. So "thank you" becomes "TY" and "talk to you later" becomes "TTYL."

[Northwest_Arkansas_Democrat_Gazette; Fayetteville,_AR,_US; 2016-12-26]

The ‘Pajama’ Bane

Who says people over 60 don’t move quickly? I certainly do, when I’m listening to NPR and I hear the first word or two of a promotional announcement for the Pajamagram company. My arm shoots over to turn off the radio in a nanosecond or less — so annoying do I find the way the announcer pronounces the second syllable of pajama like the thing you spread on toast. (That’s “jæm” in the International Phonetic Alphabet [IPA].) Everyone knows that, following from the original Urdu, it’s supposed to rhyme with palm! (In IPA, the syllable would be rendered “jɑm” but in this post I’ll indicate this vowel sound with “ah.”)

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washinton,_DC,_US; 2016-12-19]

Trump’s spelling error: an act of Joycean virtuosity or carelessness?

The president-elect described China’s seizure of a US drone as an ‘unpresidented act’. But trouble with words doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t intelligent

The president-elect can’t spell. This is the least of our Donald Trump problems, but interesting nonetheless. The explanations that come to mind are that he is one of the following: a) careless; b) dyslexic; c) illiterate; or d) showings signs of dementia.

[The_Guardian; London,_UK; 2016-12-19]

Primary assessment: Five reasons teachers are calling for reforms to the system

Heads leader warns that this year's reforms were 'the worst' he had ever seen

Primary school teachers, leaders and associations representing the sector outlined their concerns about primary assessment to the Commons education select committee this morning. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the heads’ union NAHT, said the implementation of reforms to primary assessment and the curriculum this year were "the worst I have ever seen". Meanwhile, Binks Neate-Evans, from the Headteachers’ Roundtable, said communication from the Department for Education over changes had been “diabolical" and "unacceptable”.

[TES; London,_UK; 2016-12-14]

NAPLAN results round out poor grades

The release of the final 2016 NAPLAN results round out a trio of report cards on Australian students and the grade is not great

Education ministers meet on Friday to discuss a new deal on school funding, expected to be finalised in the first half of next year and start from 2018. Tuesday's NAPLAN results from literacy and numeracy testing of students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 earlier in the year, confirm that student achievement has largely stagnated in recent years.

[Education_HQ; Canberra,_AU; 2016-12-13]

NAPLAN shows Indigenous students improving

There's been a definite improvement among Indigenous primary school students, according to NAPLAN results, but there's still a long way to go, says the chair of a leading schooling body

National chair of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Karen Spiller, says the 2016 NAPLAN Report delivers encouraging news for schools working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Spiller, the principal of St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School in Brisbane, said the 2016 NAPLAN results showed overall gains for Indigenous students in Year 3 and Year 5 in reading and numeracy. "But Australia still has a long way to go to close the achievement gap, especially for students in remote and very remote regions," she said.

[Education_HQ; Brisbane,_AU; 2016-12-13]

Make American Accents Great Again

When I first arrived in America so many decades ago, I relished the sound of high-powered academics, giants in their fields, speaking about linguistics in their native accents, whether it was working-class Brooklyn, or unreconstructed South Texas twang, or the kind of Chicago English that pronounces Chicago as one syllable (Shgaw). To me, this was just evidence that the accents of Brooklyn or Texas or Chicago were high-prestige. How else could I view it?

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washinton,_DC,_US; 2016-12-13]

Ever Wonder Why Encylopedia Is Sometimes Spelled Encyclopædia?

Scribes added the ash to the Roman alphabet so they could phonetically spell sounds that Latin didn't include

Encyclopædia. Æon. Anæsthesia. What do these words have in common? They refer back to a letter we don’t really use anymore. Today, on the anniversary of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s first publication in 1768, we’re taking a look at where that squished-up “ae”—visible in older editions of this and many other encyclopedias—comes from.

[Smithsonian; Washington_DC,_USA; 2016-12-06]

Grammar's fluid, rules not absolute

I love scouring used bookstores for old grammar books. On a recent trip, I found An A.B.C. of English Usage by H.A. Treble and G.H. Vallins, published in 1937 by Oxford University Press. You won't find the word "internet" anywhere in it.

[Northwest_Arkansas_Democrat-Gazette; Fayetteville,_AR,_US; 2016-12-05]

Let’s just take a spell

What I came across last month in a 1944 school speller was a set of simple sentences; part of a Grade 8 “special mid-term review.”

If you’re criticizing the absence of spelling lessons in schools today, you should know that no move on the curriculum is made without considerable research. The decision to eliminate spelling and/or grammar has arguments both pro and con. A significant amount of class time was absorbed years ago in learning grammar and spelling. Today, extremely few people need to know about prepositions or gerunds. Correct spelling can be instilled in students in the course of learning other subjects – for example, a geography paper can be marked on research, reasoning, structure as well as on the spelling.

[The_Telegram; Montreal,_CA; 2016-12-04]

15 interesting language and literary facts

You made it through Thanksgiving without having an awkward conversation about politics or witnessing in-laws have a meltdown over pumpkin pie. However, the battle isn’t over yet. It’s December, and for many of us that means navigating a gantlet of holiday office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, hockey team potlucks and more. What is “safe” to talk about?

[Ragan's_PR_Daily; Chicago,_IL,_US; 2016-12-02]

Etymology gleanings for November 2016

Why do we spell excEED, procEED, and succEED but accEDE and recEDE (among others)? The reason is the chaotic spelling English inherited from its past epochs. This chaos could have been “ordered” by a reasonable spelling reform, but such a reform is evidently not forthcoming. All the words mentioned above are of French origin and are related to cede. The radical vowel in them goes back to closed long e, and the vacillation between ede and eed is arbitrary, often dating to the sixteenth or the seventeenth century. Thus, there is no rational explanation. One has to learn the spelling of such words mechanically, as one learns hieroglyphics. Too bad!

[OUP_Blog; Oxford,_UK; 2016-11-30]

Low-attaining teenagers 'make more spelling mistakes than 30 years ago'

Students of all abilities are now using less complex sentence structures than in 1980, new research shows

Research by exam group Cambridge Assessment, which looks at how writing in exams has changed since 1980, found that correct spelling and the use of semicolons had declined among low-attaining GCSE English students by 2014. The report concludes: "The advent of electronic media for much everyday writing, with its concomitant reliance on automatic checking and correction against conventions of writing, makes the world of the 16-year old in 2014 very different from their counterparts in 1980."

[TES; London,_UK; 2016-11-30]

The glamorous restaurateur, and other anomalies

ENGLISH IS FUN. Let’s prove it

As for “restaurateur,” let’s go back to the French. It’s literally the French masculine noun form of “restaurer,” and it originally had no connection to food. As the WWW blog notes: “At first, he was an artisan who restored or repaired objects. In the seventeenth century, he was an assistant who set broken bones for a surgeon. In the 1770s he became a man skilled in creating this special soup called a restaurant.”

[Columbia_Journalism_Review; NewYork,US; 2016-11-29]

Sign off the times: GCSE pupils make more spelling mistakes than their parents' generation and often cannot spell 'too', 'of' and 'said'

Five commonly misspelt words were 'off', 'too', 'said', 'myself' and thought'

GCSE pupils are making more spelling mistakes than their parents' generations and struggle with words such as 'too', 'of' and 'said', a study has revealed. Research by exam group Cambridge Assessment, which looks at children's writing in the English GCSE every decade, found their spelling is worse than those in previous years.

[Daily_Mail; London,_UK; 2016-11-27]

India’s English Advantage Is Slipping

Some time ago, the education minister of Punjab, alarmed over the large percentage of class X students who had failed the English language test, decided to do a spot study. He gathered about 200 English teachers to judge their proficiency in speaking and writing English. He was shaken by the results. Most teachers could not converse in English and few were able to write correct sentences in English. There were grammatical and spelling errors; howlers really. What might have shocked him more was the replies given by the teachers for the poor results of the students and their inability to write or speak English correctly. One teacher put the onus on the students. ‘Students mental level is not well in these syllabus’, was the strange and ungrammatical reply of one. Continuing in the same vein, another said that it was all because the ‘staff of our school was vacant’ while a third teacher pointed out that (vacant) ‘posts need to be fulfilled.’

[Asian_Tribune; Colombo,_Sri_Lanka; 2016-11-24]

CBC's spelling of grey jay causes some readers to squawk

Stories about Royal Canadian Geographical Society's choice for national bird prompt typo reports

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's choice of the grey jay, also called the whisky jack, as Canada's new national bird has ruffled some feathers — and the correct spelling of the bird's name has provoked confused and angry comments from CBC readers. "I thought it was Gray Jay … that's how it's spelled in birders books," one reader wrote. "Gray jay, not grey," said another. Then there was this: "Please spell the bird's name correctly with capital letters … Gray Jay is correct."

[CBC_News; Canada; 2016-11-23]

Frequency and enjoyment of writing and reading

[infographic] The National Literary Trust (UK) annual literacy survey asks eight- to 18-year-olds about writing frequency and their enjoyment of writing. Here are some of the results and comparisons with the Trust's data on reading.

[Teacher_Magazine; Camberwell,_VIC,_AUS; 2016-11-23]

Book reviews: Misadventures in the English Language by Caroline Taggart

In the age of emails, texts and social media, many would claim that spelling, grammar, punctuation and all those other rules of language are now merely the preserve of pedants

Caroline Taggart, a former non-fiction editor and author who has become an enthusiastic, light-hearted but learned guardian of good grammar, would disagree, and her new foray into our beautiful but complex English language provides an entertaining ride through common faux pas, gobbledygook and other modern horrors.

[Pendle_Today; Burnley,_UK; 2016-11-21]

Thanksgiving Victuals

The standard pronunciation of victuals in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and the Online American Heritage Dictionary is “vittles” (to provide a phonetic spelling). There would be, obviously, no way to glean that pronunciation from the standard spelling.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-11-20]

Does it really matter?

Two co-eds were discussing through text messages the nice young man sitting next to them in class: “Oh, he was so cute, and I really liked the smell of his colon.”

Fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid, too. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch sutdy at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy satets it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihing is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses, and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig, huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

[The_Hays_Daily_News; Hays,_KS,_US; 2016-11-20]

Dictionary of 50,000 surnames and their origins published

Four-year study by linguists and historians of British and Irish records back to 11th century analyses family names

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked as she and Romeo tried to puzzle their way around the troubling problem of their warring families. Well, plenty, the most detailed investigation into surnames in the UK and Ireland has found.

[The_Guardian; London,_UK; 2016-11-17]


Melvil Dewey, of the Dewey Decimal system, thought we should have spelling reform

Spelling reform may be one of the most quixotic of pursuits. Dewey notably tried to live his ideal, going so far as to change his first name to Melvil, and, for a time, even shortening his family name to Dui. (That last shortening didn’t last forever, which is why it’s not the Dui Decimal system.)

[JStor_Daily; New_York,_USA; 2016-11-15]

Do students enjoy writing?

Like reading for pleasure, an enjoyment of writing has been linked to higher student achievement

Unfortunately, latest UK data show that while children and young people’s enjoyment of reading has been increasing in recent years, enjoyment of writing is heading in the opposite direction. So much so that the National Literacy Trust is now calling for a focus on writing for enjoyment in schools.

[Teacher; Camberwell,_Victoria,_Australia; 2016-11-15]

From N.H. to La.: ‘Dictionary of American Regional English’ Update No. 6

What do bob houseboo-hag, and bullnozer have to do with each other?

[Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-11-14]

Ledyard mom's method makes reading easier

In a nutshell, English is a phenomenally difficult language to learn, she found, taking two to three times longer to master than other tongues. And the difficulty of learning English, she said, is what keeps Americans from achieving high test scores on other abilities when compared to the rest of the world. "This is America. We're the innovators: Why aren't we solving this problem?" Blodgett asked.

[Fairfield_Citizen; Bridgeport,_CT,_US; 2016-11-14]

The Unoriginality of Orwell’s Critique of Language

I had always imagined that the ideas Orwell so tediously overstates and disingenuously defends in his megafamous 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” (henceforth P&EL), though impractical and dishonest, were original with him. But I discovered by accident recently that they aren’t.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-11-13]

Can ‘Supercede’ Supersede?

The word supersede regularly appears on lists of commonly misspelled words in the English language. Why not let supercede be a standard variant as opposed to a nonstandard one? It would make the red squiggly line popping up under it on my computer screen disappear, and I think many of us wouldn’t miss it.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-11-10]

Minuscule or Miniscule?

Many feel that miniscule is a misspelling, but it occurs so frequently that it appears as a variant spelling in some dictionaries

When talking about things that are small, people use the word mini. For example, a small, short skirt is a miniskirt. A minirecession is a recession with a lesser impact than a full recession. But minus also means less. How confusing! Which is correct—minuscule or miniscule?

[Grammarly; San_Fancisco,_CA,_USA; 2016-11-09]

Impacting student learning through spelling competitions

Language studies are compulsory at primary and secondary school levels for purposes of improving proficiency and communication skills among students. And, for Richard Kaweesi, the executive director of Brain Teasers Rwanda, what drives his enterprise is the desire to contribute to language proficiency among students through conducting spelling competitions, dubbed “the spelling bee.”

[The_New_Times; Kigali,_Rwanda; 2016-11-09]

Chinese Characters Are Futuristic and the Alphabet Is Old News

The QWERTY keyboard was once the envy of the world, but not anymore

How do you even communicate with the modern world? If you’re a Cambridge-educated classicist enamored with the Greeks, you might just conclude Chinese script is “archaic.” Long live the alphabet. But, Mullaney argues, the invention of the computer could turn China’s enormous catalog of characters into an advantage.

[The_Atlantic; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-11-01]

What we can learn from a TV spelling bee

It's not about the spelling. Just as it's not about the English. Or the Math. Or the Science. Or the Art. Or the Physical Education. It's about the meaning we take from those things. The experiences, the feedback, the stories -  good or bad  - we tell ourselves about them.

[Stuff; Wellington,_NZ; 2016-10-31]

Do not mess with the doughnut (or donut?)

English is a language chock full of quirks that can make it extremely frustrating, or at least baffling, to deal with. One of these cases takes us to the bakery, to a cornerstone of American cuisine that has experienced a split over the centuries. I’m talking about the doughnut … or donut?

[The_Daily_Californian; Berkeley,_CA,_US; 2016-10-27]

Etymology gleanings for October 2016

Mr. Madhukar Gogate, a retired engineer from India, has written me several times, and I want to comment on some of his observations. He notes that there is no interest in the reform in Great Britain and the United States. I have to agree. Nothing we are doing in this area seems to be of much practical use. The horse is dead, and I am almost sorry for beating the carcass.

[OUP_Blog; Oxford,_UK; 2016-10-26]

Peeking into the past with silent letters

[with audio] Silent letters are easily one of the more frustrating features of the English language. Just ask any elementary student. These letters and their penchant for being seen and not heard have been making our lives difficult since we first started learning how to read.

[Michigan_Radio; Ann_Arbor,_MI,_US; 2016-10-23]

Nothink, somethink, everythink. Or, even worse: nuffink, sumpfink and everyfink

o people who love following the twisting, squirming course of Australian English, there are some pronunciations which hit the ear-drum like a fire cracker. And none is more surprising, nor more fast-spreading, than the stray Ks being plonked at the end of perfectly usable words. Nothink, somethink, everythink. Or, even worse: nuffink, sumpfink and everyfink.

[Bendigo_Advertiser; Bendigo,_VIC,_AU; 2016-10-21]

Here are ways to help children who are struggling to learn how to read

Strong reading skills are an incredibly important asset, creating a strong foundation for advanced learning. But many children struggle with reading, which makes school difficult and frustrating. There are specific things that can cause reading difficulty, and ways to prevent it. In general, a child’s reading skills should be consistent with his or her overall oral language skills, which includes vocabulary development and verbal reasoning skills. Because reading is a language-based activity, you should create a rich verbal environment for your kids by talking with them, as well as reading books to them.

[Miami_Herald; Miami,_FL,_USA; 2016-10-17]

It’s National Dictionary Day, Check Out The 1828 Edition

National Dictionary Day is observed annually on October 16. Celebrate by learning a little bit of dictionary history and about Noah Webster: In 1806, American Noah Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language; it took twenty-seven years to complete. To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-six languages, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit.

[South_Florida_Reporter; Miami,_FL,_USA; 2016-10-16]

Attitudes to bilingualism

Malta's bilingualism is not straightforward. A strong pro-Maltese lobby has dominated the discussion for decades. It is good to promote Maltese, but this has happened at the expense of English. Around six months ago, a group of foreign experts had even recommended that Maltese schools could teach English as a foreign language. This created a bit of an outcry.

[Times_of_Malta; Valletta,_Malta; 2016-10-16]

2016 French Education Reform: An Ideological Rewriting of History in School Manuals?

The start of the school year would not be a French one without another uproar sparked off by the Ministry of National Education. After the spelling reform in last February (simplifying a total 2400 words and notoriously boycotted by the Académie française), the alternative grading system project, the controversy in May about the teaching of Arabic in primary schools and the promotion of the Montessori pedagogical methods by Celine Alvarez, many teachers consider that the new content of history manuals gives “a lenient view on Arab-Muslim civilization” while it disregards major French events such as the Age of Enlightenment.

[The_McGill_International_Review; Montreal,_CA; 2016-10-15]

Speaker to talk on spelling, learning to spell

Is the ability to spell still important? Yes, says Rebecca Treiman, the Burke and Elizabeth High Baker Professor of Child Developmental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. “We no longer need to possess the ability to write words in cursive,” Treiman says, “but we do need to know their correct spellings.”

[NIU_Today; DeKalb,_IL,_USA; 2016-10-10]

Video Explains Why Americans Spell Differently Than Brits And Aussies

Trending News: This Video Explains Why Brits And Aussies Spell Everything Wrong

A video from Mental Floss and Arika Okrent has explained how one man played a massive role in creating spelling differences between America and Britain and Australia.

[Askmen; Montreal,_Canada; 2016-10-07]

National Dyslexia Week: Why young people should embrace dyslexia, not hide from it

Dyslexic entrepreneur Debra Charles explains how having a learning disability should not be a source of anxiety for new students starting university this term

We’re halfway through Dyslexia Awareness Week, which for me is an opportunity to highlight the positive attributes often ignored when people discuss this common so-called 'learning disability'. Being dyslexic myself, I have experienced first-hand the challenges faced when people don’t fully understand what being dyslexic means. I’ve found my dyslexia to be a gift, not an obstacle, and I truly believe it has been a key factor in my success.

[The_Independent; London,_UK; 2016-10-06]

Hongkongers give themselves failing mark in spelling

The deterioration of English proficiency among Hongkongers is partly due to the increasing use of internet slang, a survey shows

Eight in 10 Hong Kong people consider English proficiency important but give themselves failing marks in listening, vocabulary, grammar and spelling. Only half of respondents in a survey gave themselves a score of five to seven out of 10 in English proficiency while three in 10 put themselves at zero to four, Headline Daily reports. The survey was conducted by the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong. It was commissioned by English training center Wall Street English.

[EJ_Insight; Hong_Kong,_PRC; 2016-10-05]

Etymology gleanings for September 2016

In my most recent post, I averred with great vehemence that slang has always existed and that, contrary to what dictionaries say, the origin of the word slang is known.

[OUP_Blog; Oxford,_UK; 2016-10-05]

VACUUM OR VACCUUM? Take the fiendishly difficult spelling test that is leaving people everywhere baffled

The quiz claims only people with 'spelling obsessions' can get full marks - are you up to the challenge?

THE English language is a complex beast which continues to baffle us long after we leave school. It doesn’t help there are several words lurking in its midst that sound the same but are spelt completely differently.

[The_Sun; London,_UK; 2016-10-05]

Detroit school lawsuit: Does U.S. Constitution guarantee literacy?

Everyone knows that literacy is important, but is it a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution? That's the question being raised in a lawsuit filed against the State of Michigan on behalf of Detroit schoolchildren who struggle in some of the state's worst-performing schools. Advocates insist that it is, saying that people who can't read can't exercise other constitutional rights such as voting, accessing the courts and serving in the military.

[Detroit_Free_Press; Detroit,_MI,_USA; 2016-10-02]

How Do You Spell the Color Gray?

As a noun, gray usually refers to the color. It can be used as an adjective when we want to say that the color of something is a shade of gray. It can also be used as a verb, for when something turns gray. But regardless of its use, you’ll sometimes find that gray is not spelled the way you think it should be. Or, you might be reading this and thinking “those people at Grammarly really don’t know their spelling—it’s grey.” So, what’s behind the grey/gray dilemma, and is there any difference between them, besides the obvious?

[Grammarly; San_Fancisco,_CA,_USA; 2016-09-23]

Tsinghua Da Vinci exhibit forced to close for English mistakes

A recent exhibition of works by Leonardo da Vinci was almost perfect, with no less than Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University as host. The problem was an embarrassment of errors, mostly about the famous masterpieces and their creator, making the exhibit a laughing stock on social media, according to Sing Tao Daily. One misspelled The Last Supper as The Last “Super” on the panel. Another, describing how Da Vinci left home at age 47, said “47 years old he leaved from Milan”. The mistakes were quite appalling, netizens said, especially considering the venue. They said more than 10 obvious English mistakes were found, including blatant grammatical and spelling errors. Zhou Xin, deputy director of the Tsinghua University Museum, said the exhibit arrived in Beijing on Sept. 4 and that his team did not have enough time to proofread the materials.

[EJ_Insight; Hong_Kong,_PRC; 2016-09-20]

Scripps National Spelling Bee Educates And Entertains With First Children's Book, "Feed Me Words"

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is sharing its passion for words, spelling and vocabulary through its first venture into the world of children's books with "Feed Me Words." The book, written by Kris Hirschmann, illustrated by James K. Hindle and published by Roaring Brook Press, was developed in partnership with the Bee and includes stories, puzzles and activities that are perfect for sharing at snack time or around the dinner table.

[PR_Newswire; New_York,_NY,_USA; 2016-09-20]

How Chernobyl became Chornobyl

After declaring independence from Russia in the 1990s Ukraine adopted the new English spellings

On Thursday, CBC News posted a story about a member of the New York Police Department who was born in Chornobyl, Ukraine, and often spent her childhood summers in Petitcodiac. At the end of stories posted on CBC News sites, there is a link to report a typo or error. Many readers did. "Chernobyl, not Chornobyl," they stated. Actually, it is Chornobyl. Now.

[CBC_News; Canada; 2016-09-16]

The last three letters of the alphabet are real characters

Despite being first in this group of three, “x” is a bit of a follower. It’s in the middle and end of some excellent words.

[The_Virginian-Pilot; Norfolk,_VA,_USA; 2016-09-15]

Why Finland has the best education system in the world

A segment on the approach to education in Finland taken from "Where To Invade Next" by Michael Moore.


[YouTube; San_Bruno,_CA,_US; 2016-09-15]

Distant languages have similar sounds for common words

Researchers uncover ancient links between many of the world’s tongues

IN ENGLISH, the object on your face that smells things is called a “nose”, and, if you are generously endowed, you might describe it as “big”. The prevailing belief among linguists had been that the sounds used to form those words were arbitrary. But new work by a team led by Damian Blasi, a language scientist at the University of Zurich, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that may not be true—and that the same sounds may be used in words for the same concepts across many different languages.

[The_Economist; London,_UK; 2016-09-14]

Humans may speak a universal language, say scientists

Humans across the globe may be actually speaking the same language after scientists found that the sounds used to make the words of common objects and ideas are strikingly similar. The discovery challenges the fundamental principles of linguistics, which state that languages grow up independently of each other, with no intrinsic meaning in the noises which form words. But research which looked into several thousand languages showed that for basic concepts, such as body parts, family relationships or aspects of the natural world, there are common sounds - as if concepts that are important to the human experience somehow trigger universal verbalisations.

[The_Telegraph; London,_UK; 2016-09-12]

Oxford English Dictionary Adds ’Merica, Gender-Fluid and Squee

Hundreds of entries go live on Monday

The editors at the Oxford English Dictionary typically wait and watch for years before giving new words a chance to be included in their hallowed pages. So when those editors decide to add the likes of squee — Internet slang expressing delight or excitement — you know there is nothing willy-nilly (or shilly-shally) about it. That term, like hundreds of others going live on Monday, has been weighed, measured and determined to be a notable event in the history of the English language, silly as it may sound.

[Time; New_York,_USA; 2016-09-12]

Hutt Valley students take words seriously

Hutt Valley students must take words seriously as three of them have made the final of the New Zealand Spelling Bee. Trentham's Isaiah Mansell hopes his friends will be inspired by watching him compete in the televised final. "If I can do it, anyone can," he said.The 14-year-old Upper Hutt College student had thought he was just an average speller but in a classroom test he correctly spelt 94 out of 100 words to qualify for the semi-finals which were held in Wellington last month.

[The_Dominion_Post; Wellington,_New_Zealand; 2016-09-11]

35 commonplace words that PR pros misspell

This week, I set out to answer a simple question: What are the most difficult words to spell in the English language? I quickly discovered that I should re-frame the question: What are the most difficult, commonly used words in the English language? There are plenty of obscure, impossible-to-spell words. These are words used at national spelling bees, such as stichomythia or succedaneum. However, when was the last time you used “succedaneum” in a press release?

[Ragan's_PR_Daily; Chicago,_IL,_USA; 2016-09-09]

The language rules we know — but don't know we know

Mark Forsyth tasted internet fame this week when a passage from a book he wrote went viral. He explains more language secrets that native speakers know without knowing.

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.

[BBC; London,_UK; 2016-09-08]

Yes, Illiteracy Is Still a Human Rights Issue

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of International Literacy Day, a holiday that recognizes literacy as “a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all.” Started in 1966 by UNESCO as a day to recognize literacy programs worldwide, this day continues to remind world leaders that universal literacy has not been accomplished. Far from it, in fact: in 2013, the adult (25 or older) literacy rate was 85 percent worldwide, and the population of illiterate adults was 757 million. But why does this number seem so high?

[Grammarly; San_Francisco,_CA,_USA; 2016-09-08]

Is Your Child Facing A Learning Challenge, Or A Learning Disability?

Why do some children learn to read so easily? And why do so many very bright children have such difficulty with what appears to be a simple task? The first thing to understand is that reading is not simple. In fact, it is much more complicated than rocket science.The fact that some children learn to read so easily is therefore quite astonishing and is best understood now from what reading researchers call the self-teaching hypothesis.

[Huffington_Post; Canada; 2016-09-08]


Arrival, the forthcoming sci-fi drama, is that rare bird: a Hollywood film featuring a linguist as the main character. Among a handful of examples, the other big blockbuster that might come to mind is the 90s cult favorite Stargate, in which James Spader plays a kind of linguist, when he’s not busy being an Egyptologist. This time around, Amy Adams is in the linguistic hotseat, as Dr Louise Banks, who’s “… at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to translations,” says Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber. Many people, even army colonels, are prone to misunderstanding what it is that linguists actually do, which is not really to know all the languages, (including alien ones), but that’s okay.

[JStor_Daily; New_York,_USA; 2016-09-07]

Rules of (dis)order

WHEN COPY EDITORS GET TOGETHER, the conversation often centers on language, and all-but-fisticuffs can break out when there are disagreements over grammar, spelling, and style. It was no different at a recent conference of editorial freelancers. So, not surprisingly, one of the keynoters, Mary Norris, a copy editor for The New Yorker, was challenged for some quirks of that magazine. Yes, the magazine italicizes publication names but puts book titles in quotation marks without italics. Yes, it uses a dieresis over words like “coöperation” (and spells that mark “diaeresis”). So what? That’s New Yorker style, Norris says, and it will change when it changes—or never.

[Columbia_Journalism_Review; New_York,_USA; 2016-09-06]

One man’s rant: On the hunt in Paulden

I was never an English major in college, but I suffer from a malady that afflicts most majors of the English variety: I can read nothing without proofing it for typos, misspellings and bad punctuation. I’ve probably (obsessively) proofread more copy in my life than the head editor for the Ladies Home Journal who does it for a very good living. Menus, signs, banners, newspaper columns, paperback books, magazine articles; it doesn’t matter. When it comes to finding typos and hiccups, I am the Great White (Typo) Hunter. Of Paulden.

[Prescott_Valley_Tribune; Prescott_Valley,_AZ,_USA; 2016-09-06]

It’s Sherbet, Not Sherbert, You Dilettantes

The frozen treat has been mispronounced by generations of Americans

On assignment from my editor, I conducted an informal Facebook survey and found out something quite distressing about my friends: the bulk of them have been ordering, describing and enjoying the sweet pleasures of a dessert that doesn't really exist. Of course, they will tell you something different—that “sherbert,” a delicious frozen blend of sugar and fruit juice, with just enough dairy to resemble a lighter, softer ice cream is a real as gelato or frozen custard. They're not alone in their thinking. Local creameries throughout the United States. have been slinging scoops of “sherbert” for years, whipping it up in a rainbow of colors. But the truth is that second 'R' is erroneous. It's been “sherbet” all along.

[Smithsonian; Washington_DC,_USA; 2016-09-06]

There’s a word for it

Written English can be especially confusing, with spelling rules that inevitably include myriad exceptions. For example, when writing the sound “off,” you are comfortable enough with the straightforward spelling of the sound in words such as “offering,” but the insanity starts with the spelling of words such as “cough,” and “trough.” Alright, so now you have two ways to spell the sound “off,” but odd words appear that muddle this one exception: the “oo” sound of “through,” the long “o” of “dough,” the “ow” of “bough.”

[The_Observer; Notre_Dame,_IN,_USA; 2016-09-05]

Why Northerners Think All Southerners Have One Accent

A small North Carolina island shows how different the Southern accent can be

There are really only a few major linguistic quirks that associate a speaker as “Southern” to the vast majority of Americans. One is the monophthization of the vowel sound “eye,” as in the word “guide.” In most of the country, that’s pronounced as a diphthong, or compound vowel: it moves from “ah” to “ee.” In the South, that’s flattened into a monophthong, which is made up of only one vowel, so “guide” would sound somewhere in between “gad” and “god.”

[Atlas_Obscura; Delaware,_USA; 2016-09-01]

Vowel sounds not bowel sounds

A lot of problems in communication come from pronunciation, so this month Oliver Pritchard shows you how to work on those all too difficult vowel sounds

In this issue we’re going to look at some common errors that Spanish native speakers make with vowel sounds in English. Look at the table below. These are guides to the pronunciation of words, using what we call phonemes. For example, newspaper is pronounced /ˈnjuːzpeɪpə/. If you use the tables below, you should be able to pronounce any word you see. All good dictionaries have a guide to pronunciation after every word.

[The_Bogota_Post; Bogota,_Colombia; 2016-08-31]

Idaho’s just desert [sic]

Can’t spell? You’re in better company than you might think. While the notional link between being good speller and high intelligence (or at least better reading habits) is statistically defensible, and less education or intellect often predicts poor spelling, neither correlation is rock solid. Notoriously poor spellers include the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Jane Austen. Hardly a dumb lot.

[The_Coeur_d'_Alene_Press; Coeur_d'Alene,_Idaho,_USA; 2016-08-30]

Is Spelling Reform, 110 Years Old, STILL a Success?

On August 27, 1906, 110 years ago last Saturday, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an order to simplify the spelling of 300 English words. These reforms were recommended by a new Simplified Spelling Board. The order was promptly reversed by Congress. Despite this the public voiced strong opinions, some in support and some in opposition. Some effects of the reform are still visible today.

[The_Cooper_International_Learning_Center; Oberlin,_Ohio,_USA; 2016-08-29]

Three Rs' on the decline as a quarter of adults have a reading age so low they struggle to read a bus timetable

The traditional ‘three Rs’ are on the decline in England, analysis has revealed, with over a quarter of adults having literacy levels so low that they may struggle to read a bus timetable or a wage slip. Five million adults lack basic reading, writing and numeracy skills required in everyday life and to carry out a job, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found. According to government figures, 28 per cent of adults have a standard of literacy of level 1 or below, the equivalent of GCSE grades D-G. For numeracy, 29 per cent of adults scored the level 1 or below.

[The_Telegraph; London,_UK; 2016-08-29]


If we can’t reform the written language can we at least get rid of silent letters? Here’s the beauty: as they are silent they won’t change the word at all, just make it easier to spell. We can’t confidently spell our own language, even fluent, native English speakers.

[Dubbo_Photo_News; Dubbo,_NSW,_Australia; 2016-08-28]

Could a reform of any spelling system be phased in slowly in schools first & allow current users to keep using the current system?

By phased in slowly we mean: in the first year, all of the Grade 1 students would learn using the new system. In the second year, that cohort would carry on and another cohort would start Grade 1, again learning using the new system. The reform would take 12 years before the 1st cohort would exit.

[Quora; Mountain_View,_California,_USA; 2016-08-27]

Children crack complex English words at spelling bee contest

As many as 500 students from many schools participated in the programme initiated by Trichy Round Table (TRT) 54 and Trichy Ladies Circle (TLC) 33, which was aimed at facilitating middle and high school students to ensure error-free usage of English.

[The_Times_of_India; Mumbai,_India; 2016-08-27]

Why 'medalling' and 'summering' are so annoying

People have been turning nouns into verbs for centuries – so why does it grate so much?

If you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone who makes liberal use of the verb form of summer – which is, coincidentally, also its nominal form – you’ve probably rolled your eyes at such egregious snobbery. Unless, of course, you were simply waiting your turn to share about your own summering, in which case it is probably correct to assume you also enjoy yachting, golfing, and cardiganing.

[BBC; London,_UK; 2016-08-25]

Chomsky was wrong: University of Alberta study finds English is pretty hard

English is 3 times more difficult than German, and 40 times more difficult than Spanish

Kondrak teamed up with co-author Garrett Nicolai, a graduate student in the Department of Computing Science who also has a linguistics degree. They talked to linguists who told them that few people actually take Chomsky's claim seriously. So the two decided to put the theory to the test.

[CBC_News; Canada; 2016-08-24]

It's official, English spelling is not 'optimal': University of Alberta study

We all know it, but computer scientists say they've got proof.

Garrett Nicolai, a graduate student in computing science, said it’s a claim most linguists don’t take all that seriously. After all, most people know on some level that English doesn’t quite make sense. "I before e, except after c. Except in this word, and that word, and this set of words,” he said. “As a native speaker of English, I've had to memorize the spelling of a very large number of ‘irregular’ words, which suggests that English spelling ‘rules’ are more of a guideline.”

[Metro; Edmonton,_Canada; 2016-08-24]

These are my words and this is my story': Learning to read and write as an adult

Mark Hopkins struggled with literacy growing up, but by fighting the stigma and going back to school as an adult, he's learnt to read and write again. In his own words, he explains his experience.

I attended school like most children, but for me something was not right. At primary school, teachers would say ‘You’re not keeping up with the class.’ By the time I reached high school, I was completely illiterate; I couldn't even spell the basic words like ‘bread’ and ‘milk’.

[SBS; Sydney,_NSW,_Australia; 2016-08-23]

Sorry, Chomsky: English spelling is hardly “close to optimal”

Computational linguists at the University of Alberta have disproved a long-disputed assertion from one of the world’s best-known linguists that English spelling is just fine.

In the unruly Wild West of modern languages, English is indisputably the baddest outlaw around. Estimated to be three times more complex than German and 40 times worse than Spanish, English spelling is notorious for its irregularity—teeming with improbably silent letters, head-scratching homographs, and the mysteriously sometimes-y. Despite the spelling system’s infamy for inefficiency, a 1968 assertion from Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle’s The Sound Pattern of English argues that English orthography, or spelling, is “close to optimal”—a claim generally dismissed by linguists ever since, though never scientifically disproved.

[University_of_Alberta_Science_News; Edmonton,_Canada; 2016-08-23]

Letter legacy a fitting tribute to a language he enriched

In 1948, an anti-totalitarian academic and politician with a classical background changed the way Danes spell

Sixty-eight years ago saw the birth of a new letter in the Danish language. The official introduction of the letter ‘å’ to Danish spelling took the total number of letters to 29. Placed at the end of the Danish alphabet after ‘z’, ‘æ’ and ‘ø’, ‘å’ replaced ‘aa’ (pronounced somewhat like ‘o’) in all words that were not proper names, where there was a free choice between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ system.

[The_Copenhagen_Post; Copenhagen,_Denmark; 2016-08-22]

Mea Culpa: it only takes a little practice to get it right

Common spelling confusions and filler phrases in this week’s Independent

Yes, I know it’s stupid, but there are two ways of spelling it in British English: “practice” as a noun and “practise” as a verb. In the US, life is made simpler by spelling them both “practice” and no one seems to get hurt. However, until The Independent takes a collective decision, as a website with a global audience, to adopt the American spelling, we should stick with the British convention.

[Independent; London,_UK; 2016-08-19]

A cross-curricular approach to spelling

The ability to spell is without doubt a literacy skill that does span the entire curriculum. Students need to write accurately in almost every subject they study. And, although spelling is not specifically named as one of the ‘seven capabilities’ in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2015), it is obviously an important sub-skill within literacy.

[Teacher; Camberwell,_Victoria,_Australia; 2016-08-16]

English classes are evolving / Learning the alphabet in primary school

With English becoming an official subject in primary schools in the 2020 school year, increasing attention is being paid to teaching the alphabet and how to read and write words. In late May, a sixth-grade English class at Hayasaki Primary School in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, played a board game. The game was labeled with the English names of various school facilities. The children rolled the dice and moved their pieces forward, energetically reading off English words such as “library,” “swimming pool” and “gym.” They chose their favorite spots from the names they recited, and copied them out on their worksheets.

[The_Japan_News; Tokyo,_Japan; 2016-08-14]

Colour or Color?

When choosing between color and colour, keep in mind that both spellings are correct

When you spell the word color, you can do it in two ways—the one we’ve already used in this sentence, and another one—colour. Neither of the spellings is wrong, and they both mean exactly the same thing. You might have noticed that there are other words that have the same duality of spelling—words like “honor,” the past tense of the verb “spell,” “traveling,” and “favorite.” These variations in spelling exist because of differences between American English and British English. Color is the spelling used in the United States. Colour is used in other English-speaking countries.

[Grammarly; San_Francisco,_CA,_USA; 2016-08-11]

In the Phonetic Jungle

distinguished computational linguist from the University of Colorado, Professor Martha Palmer, is about to begin a lecture in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh under the title “The Blocks World Redux,” when she realizes that (like all of us) she had learned the word redux (it means “restored” or “revisited”) from printed sources, and neither she nor the person introducing her has any idea how to pronounce it.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; Washington_DC,_20037,_USA; 2016-08-11]

Don't listen to the mustn'ts, shouldn'ts and can'ts

This spelling disorder affected every subject in school. Basically, I understood the subjects, texts, tests, etc. I just couldn't spell the words correctly when writing. Which made it difficult for my teachers to grade my work and most of the time; they couldn't understand what I was writing. Often teachers would tell me, "Suzanne, look up the words in the dictionary to find the correct spelling." That was infuriating!!! How was I supposed to do that, if I had no clue how to spell it in the first place!

[The_Suburban; Quebec,_Canada; 2016-08-11]

Two-thirds of Catholic schools teach ineffective reading program

The 'reading wars' have been reignited by claims that primary school teachers are still not teaching students how to read and write properly. Around two thirds of nearly 500 Victorian Catholic schools are still teaching Reading Recovery, a program which was found to be ineffective for most students in a recent NSW Education Department report.

[The_Age; Melbourne,_Australia; 2016-08-09]

Use good, proper English on social media

SERIAN: The government’s efforts to encourage more Sarawakians to master English risk being hampered by the current trend of using simplified forms of the language among smartphone users. According to Minister of Youth and Sports and Solidarity Dato Sri Michael Manyin, many smartphone users – especially the youngsters – tend to disregard proper spelling and grammar when communicating in English on social media, especially via WhatsApp. He feared that such habit might lead to these individuals not being able to write and converse in proper English in real life.

[Borneo_Post; Kuching,_Sarawak,_Borneo; 2016-08-07]

SPELLING SHOCKER: Some Britons are struggling to write LONDON correctly

SCHOOL may have been a while ago, but have you forgotten how to spell?

Spelling might not be your strong point, but a survey has revealed that 20 per cent of locations are spelt incorrectly by Brits. And shockingly, the UK’s biggest cities seem to be the trickiest to master. Ask British adults to spell Edinburgh, London, Torquay, Bicester or Bath and some will give you answers which read: Edinboro, Landan, Tourkey, Bister and Barth.

[Sunday_Express; London,_UK; 2016-08-07]

Is it time we questioned our emphasis on "correct" spelling?

An Oxford university professor of English asks whether we should reassess the importance that we put on getting spelling right

English spelling started out as a relatively straightforward means of mapping spoken sounds onto written symbols, although – since the alphabet was borrowed from Latin with a different set of sounds – it presented problems even for the Anglo-Saxons. The relationship between speech and writing has been further disrupted by subsequent changes in pronunciation - we no longer sound the “k” and “gh” in knight but continue to write it that way. The flood of words borrowed from other languages, with different uses for the same letters (compare cat, centre and ciabatta), have further complicated the system.

[Tes; London,_UK; 2016-08-06]

Pinning down the shifting phonetics of English (2)

Last week, we saw that spelling in English is rather less straightforward than in Setswana. That is why, in primary school, children learn to read and enunciate English words firstly through phonics (that is, a method of teaching the ‘art’ of reading, pronunciation and spelling based on the phonetic spelling of ordinary words).

This week we start off by looking at proto-terms that are a compound of two vowels. An example of this is the oe in ‘toe’ (the tallest, biggest foot digit). In English, the ‘toe’ is pronounced as tou, but we can definitively relate the proto-term to toe (‘peak, most prominent, primary’, now (se)tlhoe in modern Setswana). What we must immediately note here is that because the ‘o’ and the ‘e’ in oe are enunciated separately, they compound to give us the labial (lip-based articulation) we. And that is how, typically, the phoneme is spelt in current Setswana…although the older spelling oe is still retained in Sesotho. Another example of where the proto-term enunciation was truer to the English spelling is the au in ‘paucity’ (‘scarcity, dearth, lack of’).

[Mmegi_Blogs; Gaborone,_Botswana; 2016-08-05]

Language folklore

After writing about people’s baseless objections to colloquial usages such as could care less and irregardless, and after viewing comments at various discussion sites, I was reminded afresh how many literate, educated adults, writers and editors among them, appear not to understand how language works.

[The_Baltimore_Sun; Baltimore,_MD_21278,_USA; 2016-08-04]

2016 NAPLAN results show literacy, numeracy skills have flatlined despite record government funding

AUSTRALIAN school kids’ achievements continue to flatline and Education Minister Simon Birmingham doesn’t think that’s good enough.

The 2016 NAPLAN preliminary results, released today, showed a 1.26 per cent increase in numeracy scores and barely any change in reading or writing across all year levels. “Today’s results once again show that, despite significant funding growth, we are not getting sufficient improvements in student outcomes,” Senator Birmingham said.

[News; Surry_Hills,_NSW_2010,_Australia; 2016-08-03]

A phobia about homophones

These nasty words cause misunderstanding and sometimes hilarity for the reader

Most writers can distinguish between principal and principle, complement and compliment, and flee and flea. But many of these words, known as homophones, trip up even the most experienced wordsmith. They are nasty words that cause misunderstanding and sometimes hilarity for the reader. The English language boasts several thousand homophones that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

[The_Irish_Times; Dublin,_Ireland; 2016-08-03]

There is no reining in grammar

Dorothy van den Honert's columns are always a source of stimulation, especially her most one of July 29 ("Talking grammar, and a little Trump.") Her concern about the spelling of the word "judg(e)ment" puts her squarely in the camp of those who believe English spelling should be phonetic, and English grammar should be regular. She thus joins such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster and Theodore Roosevelt.

[The_Berkshire_Eagle; Pittsfield,_MA_01201,_USA; 2016-08-02]

Admirable Abhisit can do without superfluous English

There is no "h" in Abhisit's name. The Thai spelling is actually closer to "Apisit", with a silent "ree" syllable at the end. The name translates as "prerogative", according to Google. Why are those who transliterate Thai so fixated on adding the letter "h" to many words? The "h" is unnecessary. Transliteration to English is a convenience for English speakers, not for Thais.

[The_Nation; Thailand; 2016-08-02]

What's the Fastest Language to Type In?

If you want to save space, write in Chinese. The payoff of those labyrinthine characters is that they can fit a lot of information into a small symbol.

[Live_Science; New_York,_USA; 2016-08-01]

Research your grammar, and presidential choice

In the most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010), rule 7.1 states: "If more than one spelling is given, Chicago opts for the first form used..." The most recent editions of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, 2003) and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (fourth edition, 2006) both recommended as resources in rule 7.1 — give "judgment or judgement" for this term, in that order.

[The_Berkshire_Eagle; Pittsfield,_MA_01201,_USA; 2016-07-31]

Pinning down the shifting phonetics of English

One of the things that make English difficult to learn is the curious spelling of words like ‘paradigm, viscount, thought’, etc

This week, we address various phonemes idiosyncratic of English in particular, that can be unravelled by, and agreed to, Setswana. Phonemes are small sets of basic units of sounds, different for each language, by which utterances are represented. One example the dictionary gives us is ‘bit’ and ‘pit’ (viz. ‘banana’ and ‘panana’). This entails a b-to-p interchange we have already addressed in preceding articles, so the phonemes are b and p. Naturally, all this implies and posits that Setswana betrays vestiges of this primordial protolanguage, and that it is one of the closest surviving languages still very close to it.

[Mmegi_Blogs; Gaborone,_Botswana; 2016-07-29]

The future is gray for British English

How american spellings are taking over the world with flavor, center and defense becoming the norm

British English may have come first, but around the world, the American way of spelling is now far more popular. A recent examination of these two variants of the English language show that publications now largely use the American version, swapping words like ‘centre’ for ‘center’ after the 1880s. According to the data, this shift was further strengthened around the time of World War I – and as the language evolved, even the British have ditched the spelling of some words for their trans-Atlantic counterparts.

[Mail_Online; 2016-07-27]

Defining every English word used between the years 600 and 1150 AD

Forty-six years in and [University of Toronto] scholars are less than halfway through completing the Dictionary of Old English

On a scorching summer day two years ago, his first day on the job as a drafting editor at the Dictionary of Old English, Stephen Pelle was tackling heaven – or more accurately, was trying to define heofon, its Old English equivalent. Hunched over a table, he laboured like a medieval monk reviewing every citation of heofon in the corpus of Old English texts. An assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies – where he also earned his PhD – Dr. Pelle already had years of experience proofing Old English words. Yet his job that day was not so heavenly (or heofonlic, as it would have been spelled 1,200 years ago).

[University_Affairs; 2016-07-26]

You Say Div-ISS-ive, I Say Div-EYE-sive

Now that the Republican convention has popped its balloons and the Democratic one is inflating theirs, let’s pause for a moment to consider politics and pronunciation. I had very little stomach for the speeches in Cleveland, but I did tune in long enough to hear a few words whose distinctive pronunciation got me thinking. My sampling is anecdotal and perhaps arbitrary; I’m hoping others will expand and perhaps clarify this list.

[Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; 2016-07-24]

Four-syllable erudite and other verbal atrocities

My call for commonly mispronounced words and phrases has generated a response that has gone far beyond my initial request. I'm still hearing about women being called "guys" and several somewhat related complaints, including service people calling us "Honey," responding "no problem" to "thank you," calling strangers by their first names and responding to your order with "awesome." I also heard again about people who begin sentences with "so" and confusion between "leave" and "let," "fewer" and "less," "seen" instead of "saw" and other pet peeves.

[The_Morning_Call; 2016-07-20]

San Antonio Student Wins National Spanish Spelling Bee

That was the winning word that 12-year-old Jybr Reynoso Hidrogo, a student from San Antonio’s North East Independent School District, spelled and enunciated correctly to win the national title for this year’s Sixth Annual National Spanish Spelling Bee Competition.

[Rivard_Report; San_Antonio,_Texas,_USA; 2016-07-17]

Defending the Faith: The Book of Mormon and linguistic evolution

As the Book of Mormon illustrates, languages evolve. [...] English manifests similar historical changes. Thus, taking just the first 20 lines of the 1603 printing of “Hamlet,” we find such spellings as “magicall,” “historie,” “meete,” “leegemen” (“liegemen,” itself obsolete), “souldier,” “releeved,” “peece,” “seene,” “wil,” “beliefe” and “fantasie.”

[Deseret_News; 2016-07-14]

Adviser Advisory

The mark of a real journalist, I learned long ago, is knowing the proper spelling of adviser. It stands out because until stepping into journalism, most neophytes have learned the other spelling. In high school, clubs and activities have advisors. In college, more of the same, usually with academic progress monitored by a faculty advisor.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; 2016-07-11]

The Early Modern Lab

Addressing the challenges of digital scholarship

Dear, deer, deare, deere. Digitizing modern texts is easy. Scan a page and optical character recognition software does the rest. But digitizing texts from the early days of printing? That turns out to be surprisingly difficult.

[The_Source; 2016-07-11]

English Primary Schools: Oly (sic) 53% of Its Students Meet the Standards in Math, Reading, and Writing

Children are our future, as the saying we have heard retold and paraphrased a countless number of times (sic). However, kids these days need to show some improvement if ever they want to live up to this huge responsibility. This is because less and less (sic) kids in England are meeting the standards set for primary school students.

[Parent_Herald; 2016-07-08]

Almost half of primary pupils miss new Sats standard

Almost half of pupils in England have failed to meet a new tough standard in reading, writing and mathematics.

Official data shows just over half (53%) of 11-year-olds made the grade in reading, writing and mathematics. This means 47% of pupils are considered not to have made the grade in the 3 Rs by the end of their primary years. Last year 80% met the required standard in reading, writing and maths - but that was under a system which was dropped this year. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says lower results should not be interpreted as a decline in performance by pupils.

[BBC; 2016-07-05]

QUIZ: Can you spell the 20 most misspelled words in the English language?

Calling all spelling nuts, grammar police and wordsmiths – here is your chance to prove that you really have mastered the complexities of the English language

No matter how well we all think we can spell, there are certain words that catch us out – and you can guarantee that at least one of them which plagues you when you write is in this quiz. Before you start declaring that you are a spelling master, try your hand at getting the correct spelling of the 20 most commonly misspelled words in the UK. It’s not as straightforward as you may think…

[Metro; 2016-06-30]

Written up y'all

Even if you're not from the South, you've heard the term "y'all" before and know what it means

Recently, I found out about a young girl who works in the restaurant/hotel business here where I live who was “written up” by her supervisor for using the term “ya’ll,” because in the supervisor’s words, it is “slang.” Hmm… Slang? Webster’s defines slang as “words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people.”

[The_Star; 2016-06-30]

Dependence on spelling and grammar checkers unreliable

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have a master's degree and a very good background in English grammar. Frequently, the spelling and grammar check will tell me something is in error, and tell me to replace it with something that is not only contrary to good grammar, but also is sometimes ridiculous. So who or what handles the corrections? It seems as if the computer is trying to tell me it knows more than I do even when it is so wrong. — Margaret, Wilton.

[Sun_Spots; 2016-06-28]

Baffling sound of English

I have been living in an English-speaking country for decades. Nevertheless, I am somewhat ill at ease when I speak English. My problem is pronunciation of English words. I unwittingly mispronounce English words from time to time. I blame it on the fact that English words are not pronounced as they are spelled. English is not a phonetic language. All vowels and many consonants are pronounced in more ways than one, while many words contain silent consonants.

[The_Korea_Times; 2016-06-28]

Computing, robotics and avatars: Our guide for future-proof careers

IN an increasingly computerised world, we get out our crystal ball to see what careers our children can expect

Alec Ross, author of The Industries Of The Future, believes the most useful school subjects will no longer be maths and English, but languages – both foreign and computer languages, because business is becoming increasingly global. But before you tell your spelling-averse or maths-phobic child, Ross adds that maths and English will retain their importance. Even though computers can deal with many number-crunching tasks, it still takes a human being to interpret the data properly and see what it means for unpredictable humans.

[Sunday_Express; 2016-06-26]

Annoyed by Pretentious Spellings and Sayings? You're Not Alone

[audio] Using an unusual spelling of a word or a fancy French saying may seem like an easy way to sound elegant, but in reality the roots of the words or sayings are not what you think they are. On this episode of Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with English language expert Patricia O’Conner about pretentious spellings and pronunciations. O'Conner is the author of Woe is Iand writes on grammar blog, Grammarphobia.

[Iowa_Public_Radio; 2016-06-22]

How Hard Is Polish for a Native English Speaker? Bardzo.

Twice a year, when I visit my in-laws in Poland, I get to dabble in the soft science of linguistics in my futile attempt to learn the Polish language. Few people outside my immediate family can understand me because what I think of as “speaking” others perceive as caveman-like grunts with a Yankee accent. It’s not just me; Polish is, indeed, a difficult language for native English speakers. Why? A handy chart I created shows a side-by-side comparison of various grammatical features of the English and Polish languages with explanations that follow.

[American_Council_on_Science_and_Health; 2016-06-19]

It's 'fire extinguisher' not 'fajerekstingwixer' - Maltese language proposals finally unveiled

The words "fajerestingwixer", "xater" and "erkondixiner" drew collective gasps from the seminar audience, who could hardly decipher them as the Maltese spelling for fire extinguisher, shutter and air conditioner. But the word ħelikopter (helicopter) did not look as bad. So which is the right way and which is the wrong way to spell such words? We might now finally have the answer. The National Council for the Maltese Language this morning unveiled its final proposals for the spelling of English loan words, which have been drafted after seven years of extensive research and consultation.

[Times_of_Malta; 2016-06-18]

English Spelling Is a Mess. It’s Time to Reform It

Etymologist and poet Anatoly Liberman, author of Word Origins and How We Know Them, says English is one of the most difficult languages to spell. But we can change that

[audio, 26 min] [Prof Liberman is President of The Spelling Society.]

[Slate; 2016-06-14]

Spelled or Spelt?

Are you a fan of irony? If so, you might find a bit of amusement in the following scenario: A public speaker lectures on the importance of good pronunciation. However, throughout his lecture he says “pro-NOUN-ciation.” Despite providing the audience with a good chuckle, such a gaff might seriously jeopardize his credibility and detract from the main points of his lesson. If you use writing to communicate, you must be careful about spelling. You don’t want to damage your reputation or diminish the impact of your words. Let’s avoid the irony today and decide which is the proper spelling of the past tense form of spell—spelled or spelt.

[Business_2_Community; 2016-06-12]

Abergele parents poke fun at school's misspelled texts to pupils about exam revision

They should be sitting English GCSE themselves', say parents of pupils at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan after mistake-ridden messages

Schools in North Wales now keep parents of pupils up to date with closures and exams through text messages. But the state of the messages sent from the Abergele school this week has prompted parents to demand the author sit a GSCE exam. One parent said: “I think whoever sends these messages should sit the GCSE English in order to sort out their grammar, spelling and punctuation!”

[Daily_Post; 2016-06-10]

There Should Be A "Soo" For Expressing Emphasis

Often, when I want to express emphasis I write “soo” instead of “so.” And even if no one else thinks this should be generally adopted, I think I’m right and they’re wrong. This isn’t just about how the internet and social media have impacted modern language developments, although they’ve done so tremendously, as evidenced by the decade-plus of serious scholarly work on the subject, and although this does factor in, in a very real way.

[Adequate_Man; 2016-06-05]

Spelling S-U-C-C-E-S-S: Why Indian-origin kids dominate at the Spelling Bee

What propels this ethnic group of contestants to taking over the top ten, year after year?

Indian Americans have had a commanding presence at the National Spelling Bee for two decades. This year’s win by Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga is the ninth consecutive win by Indian Americans. Furthermore, seventeen of the past twenty-one winners are of Indian origin. Indian domination at the Bee is a recognized phenomenon, but less understood are the reasons for this spellbinding success. The population of Indian Americans in the United States is one percent (2014 US Census). Indian American participation at the National Spelling Bee is about 15-20 percent. As finalists emerge from elimination rounds, this proportion soars. Over 40% of this year’s 45 finalists were of Indian origin. In the final round of the 2015 and 2016 championships, 7 of the top ten finishers were of Indian origin.

[The_News_Minute; 2016-06-04]

Is It Flier or Flyer?

A flyer, a circular, a leaflet, a pamphlet, a handbill—so many words for one simple thing. A piece of paper with words and images printed on it that gets handed out on a street. Or, in modern times, even sent by email. But while we’re sure we know what a flyer is, there is some confusion about how exactly to spell it. Is it “flyer,” or is it “flier?” Or is it that the different versions are used for different meanings? “Flyer” can also refer to a flying person or animal, for example. The answer to all of these questions is yes. “Flier” is an acceptable way to spell the word, as is “flyer.” According to some sources, the spellings are different according to the meaning of the word.

[Business_2_Community; 2016-06-03]

Is the spelling bee success of Indian-Americans a legacy of British colonialism?

When spellers win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, audiences always want to know their secret. Yet this question seems to be asked far more in recent years in response to an Indian-American winning streak. South Asian-American spellers have excelled at the National Spelling Bee for nine years in a row, with 2014, 2015 and now 2016 featuring Indian-American co-champions as well.

[Catch_News; 2016-06-03]

Is It Favorite or Favourite?

It is sometimes said that the United States and the United Kingdom are two countries separated by a common language. Whether we agree or not, there’s one thing in the statement that is undoubtedly true—English is the most widely used language in both countries. Still, a distinction is often made, with the English language used in the United States being called American English, and the English language used in the United Kingdom being called British English. The differences between the two varieties of English are usually subtle, but they exist nonetheless. And that brings us to the problem at hand: which spelling is correct, “favorite” or “favourite?”

[Business_2_Community; 2016-06-02]

Doughnut Or Donut? The Great Spelling Debate Of Our Time

We’re about to take you on a quest to discover the term’s origin, and its inevitable path toward ruin. You may want to grab a doughnut for this one

Doughnuts have become an integral part of American culture, loved for providing us with mouths full of comfort and loathed for ruining our diets. Beyond this love/hate relationship is another duality we apparently feel very passionately about: The correct spelling. Is it doughnut or donut? Doughnut is the old-school, original term, but donut is picking up steam and is more popular in our ever-expanding online world. So is there a right way to spell our favorite ringed food of all time? Let’s settle this.

[Huffington_Post; 2016-06-02]

What's Going On with the Way Canadians Say ‘About'?

It's not pronounced how you think it is

Considering the geographical, cultural, and economic closeness of our two countries, it’s almost perverse that Americans take so much pride in their ignorance about all things Canada. Drake? Dan Aykroyd? The new hot prime minister? Is that it? But everyone knows what Canadians are supposed to sound like: they are a people who pronounce “about” as “aboot” and add “eh” to the ends of sentences. Unfortunately, that's wrong. Like, linguistically incorrect. Canadians do not say “aboot.” What they do say is actually much weirder.

[Atlas_Obscura; 2016-06-01]

Not in my back jardin: resistance to French spelling reform reveals an ugly past

On the transformation of the humble onion – a critical look at the pressures of modernity on the French language

In response to the lowest scores recorded in 26 years for la dictée — a sort of obligatory spelling test for college students — the Socialist government in France announced earlier this year the implementation a controversial spelling reform that will accompany the National Education program for the 2016-17 academic year.

[Varsity; 2016-05-31]

Why Do Yanks Spell Words Differently?

The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language

Modern English has always been a tricky language to wrangle. While it has some basis in Anglo-Saxon, English has been altered by Norman conquerors, Dutch typesetters, and orthographers who wanted to pretty up the language. And while spelling textbooks have been popular among the English upper classes for centuries, English spelling was not completely standard. In fact, the -or word ending that we now associate with American English in words like “honour,” “colour,” and “labour” was preferred by some English lexicographers, who preferred to expunge the French “u,” an artifact of the Norman conquest, from the English language and return to the words’ Latin roots.

[Life_Hacker; 2016-05-30]

How The Spelling Bee Can Help Our Nation

ALTHOUGH he did not advance to the finals of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee, Bahamians have every reason to be proud of the remarkable performance of Bahamas National Spelling Bee Champion Donovan Aaron Butler in the highly competitive annual competition at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbour, Maryland, near Washington DC this week.

[Tribune_242; 2016-05-30]

Google releases top spelling mistakes across the U.S.

Google joined in the Scripps National Spelling Bee spirit on Twitter Thursday [May 26] by releasing a map of the U.S. showing the single word that people in each of the 50 states have trouble spelling

Data from Google Trends shows that the word Oklahomans has the most trouble spelling is “gray.” However, South Dakota and Michigan also have a hard time spelling “gray.” A frequent problem with the word gray appears to be whether to spell it with an “a” or an “e.” Both gray and grey are correct forms of the word, but “gray” is the common American English form whereas “grey” is more common in all other varieties of English, such as in the U.K. The data was accumulated using Google searches that start with “how to spell” and are followed by the word people are looking to spell. Other frequently searched words included “vacuum,” “cancelled,” “desert” and “definitely”; or in Massachusetts case, “Massachusetts.”

[Poteau_Daily_News; 2016-05-27]

It's Time to Kill Off the Scripps Spelling Bee

I've been unhappy about the spelling bee for years. For starters, I don't like the idea of national TV coverage for kids that young. Like the Little League World Series, it becomes an ever bigger television spectacle every year, and I just flatly think that's wrong. At the very least, we should wait until kids are in high school before they get that much pressure dumped on them.

[Mother_Jones; 2016-05-26]

Documents that Changed the World: Noah Webster’s dictionary, 1828

It’s twilight time for printed dictionaries, whose word-filled bulk weighed down desks, held open doors and by turns inspired and intimidated writers searching for the perfect word. Lexicography — the making of dictionaries — has gone digital. Though a few are still published, the dictionary’s time as printed, bound documents is almost up.

[University_of_Washington; 2016-05-26]

Are we ready to make proper spelling obsolete?

The argument that society can do away with correct spelling is akin to saying the teaching of history, science or geography could be abandoned since there's Google

In a recently published “Wired” essay, author and English professor Anne Trubek advocates doing away with spelling rules. Children spend years battling spelling tests and failing, for the most part, at spelling bee competitions. Is it even worth the trouble? Trubek argues that, with new technologies and new means of communication, correct spelling has become unimportant, obsolete. Really? Let’s concede to be creative with private spelling in text messages and tweets. If the recipient doesn’t understand the message, tough, no harm done. Besides, electronic communication is supposed to be written in code. It’s a rite of non-passage, of being hip and cool and young, it’s an encryption unique to your particular tribe, a means to cut out the uninitiated (aka parents).

[Free_Malaysia_Today; 2016-05-23]

Which King James Bible Translation to Trust

The original King James Bible does not contain any words spelled with the letter J. The king’s name is spelled, “Iames.” So, the A.D. 1769 hybrid English names, “Jesus,” “Jehovah,” “Joseph,” “Jacob,” “Jerusalem,” etc. are not in the AV and for good reason because the Hebrew and Greek alphabets have never contained a phonic sound, and alphabetical letter, that will match the A. D. 1762 English letter J which was added to the English alphabets when it adopted three additional phonic making the 26 phonic English Alphabet of modern English.

[The_Sun_Times; 2016-05-22]

Preserving Ireland's Ancient, Mysterious Tree-Based Alphabet

Across Ireland, hundreds of millennia-old Ogham stones are slowly weathering away

As an archaeological linguist working in Dublin, Nora White has spent her fair share of time digging through archives and poring over manuscripts. But when she wants a real taste of Irish history, she skips the library altogether. She heads to a hilltop or a secluded field, and she looks for a weathered old rock with slashes cut into the sides. White studies Ogham—a mysterious Irish alphabet found on hundreds of scattered stones all over the country. Also called the "Celtic Tree Alphabet" due to its unusual letter scheme, Ogham dates back to at least the 4th century, when Gaelic speakers created it in order to translate the unique sounds of their language into written form.

[Atlas_Obscura; 2016-05-19]

Backward Thinking about Orientalism and Chinese Characters

For those of us who teach and research the Chinese language, it is often difficult to describe how the Chinese characters function in conveying meaning and sound, and it’s always a particular challenge to explain how the writing system differs from the alphabetic systems we are more familiar with. The issues are complex and multi-layered, and have important implications for basic literacy and the teaching of Chinese to both native speakers and foreign learners.

[China_File; 2016-05-19]

Google’s new artificial intelligence can’t understand these sentences. Can you?

Last week, Google released Parsey McParseface, a funny name for a state-of-the-art tool aimed at one of the most difficult problems in artificial intelligence.

Our minds usually do a good job using context and real-world knowledge to throw out unlikely interpretations. For instance, when someone says “The dad mixed the batter with the blueberries,” we understand that blueberries are an ingredient in the batter — not that the dad used the blueberries as a tool to mix the batter.

[Washington_Post,_The; Washington,_DC,_US; 2016-05-18]

Bad Character

I’m a fan of literacy, and Chinese characters have been an obstacle to literacy for millennia. With a phonetic writing system like an alphabet or a syllabary, you need only learn a few dozen symbols and you can read most everything printed in a newspaper. With Chinese characters, you have to learn three thousand. And writing is even more difficult than reading; when you can’t use pronunciation as an aid to spelling, you have to rely on pure memorization. The cognitive demands are so great that even highly educated Chinese speakers regularly forget how to write characters they haven’t used recently.

[New_Yorker; 2016-05-16]

Why English speakers are so confused about how to spell houmous

While there’s a general consensus that we will celebrate the chickpea delicacy on May 13 there’s one area where’s there no agreement – the spelling!

It’s International Hummus Day – or is it? While there’s a general consensus that we will celebrate the chickpea delicacy on May 13 there’s one area where’s there no agreement – how to spell the name of the foodstuff. Recipe site food.com lists hummus, hommous, humous in the titles of its pages dedicated to the creation of tantalising dishes, while the team behind International Hummus Day has pinned its colours to the mast with the name of their event. Yorkshire-based Humpit-Hummus, which has houmous and pita bars in Leeds and Sheffield, also opts for the H-U-M-M-U-S spelling.

[BT; 2016-05-13]

Chinese Is Not a Backward Language

Critics Who Say It’s Unfit for the Digital Age Are Peddling a Rebooted Version of Orientalism

Even in the age of China’s social media boom, and billion-dollar valuations for Beijing-based IT start-ups, prejudice against the Chinese language is alive and well. One would be forgiven for thinking that by 2016, the 20th century’s widespread critiques of racism, colonialism, and Social Darwinism would have sounded the death knell of 19th-century orientalism, which viewed China and the Chinese language through a condescending, colonialist lens. At the least, one might hope that if notions of Chinese Otherness were still with us, those who carry on the tradition of these threadbare ideas would generally be seen as archaically Eurocentric and gauche—the dross of airport bookshop paperbacks, unworthy of serious engagement. If only. Nineteenth-century understandings of China persist, not only surviving the decline of Social Darwinism and race science, but flourishing in this new century, driven primarily by arguments about China’s unfitness for modern technology and media. Call it Orientalism 2.0.

[China_File; 2016-05-12]

Mea Culpa: Do we know our subordinating conjunctions from our inoculations?

Would The Independent pass the Government's primary-school spelling and grammar test, which caught out the schools minister this week?

I wouldn’t pass a primary-school spag (spelling and grammar) test, because I have no idea what a subordinating conjunction is and doubt if it is a helpful form of words. But I do know you need to be careful with phrases that come after “which”. On Thursday, we reported the news on the junior doctors’ dispute: “In a potentially significant breakthrough in the long-running dispute, all work to implement the new contracts, which will require more weekend working, will be suspended.”

[Independent; 2016-05-06]

The grammar police belong in the 18th century – let’s not inflict their rules on today’s children

Parents and teachers in England are angry about a spelling, punctuation and grammar test that school children must sit at the end of primary school. First introduced in 2013, all 11-year-olds at local-authority-maintained schools will take the test on May 10. This year the difficulty level has increased significantly, in line with the new national curriculum, leading to calls for all key stage tests to be cancelled.

[The_Conversation; 2016-05-06]

Teaching reading with synthetic phonics

A large-scale study tracking the progress of more than 270 000 students has concluded that teaching reading through a synthetic phonics programme has long-term benefits for children from poorer backgrounds and those who do not speak English as a first language

The analysis, from the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics, also found the teaching method has large, initial benefits for all students at age five and age seven. The phonics programme – rolled out in primary schools across England between 2005 and 2010 following positive results from a small-scale study in Scotland and an independent review into the teaching of reading (Rose, 2006) – is typically completed at age seven.

[Teacher; 2016-05-04]

Schools minister Nick Gibb fails grammar test for 11-year-olds - but still condemns parents who kept their kids off school in protest against 'over-testing' 7-year-olds

He was asked to tell the difference between a preposition and a subordinating conjunction. But Nick Gibb got the answer wrong in an interview live on-air.

The schools minister failed to answer a grammar question asked in exams for 11-year-olds today – but still condemned parents who took their children out of school in protest at over-testing. Nick Gibb was asked to tell the difference between a preposition and a subordinating conjunction live on the radio after insisting that learning to read and write from an early age is essential for a child's long-term development.

[Daily_Mail; London,_UK; 2016-05-03]

Don’t know your fronted adverbials from your phonemes? Ask a child

Do you know your fronted adverbials from your phonemes?

What about your digraphs from your trigraphs?These are the sorts of niche terms children as young as four are expected to learn under the new primary school curriculum. Pupils aged five must understand the meaning of singular, plural, punctuation, sentence, exclamation and question marks, while those aged five to seven will be taught about grapheme-phoneme correspondences, morphology and homophones.

[Metro; 2016-05-03]

There’s nowt wrong with dialects, nothing broke ass about slang

Policing children’s language encourages them to think nonstandard English is substandard. Linguistic diversity should be celebrated, not banned

Language use is one of the last places where prejudice remains socially acceptable. It can even have official approval, as we see in attempts to suppress slang and dialects at school. Most recently, Ongar Academy in Essex launched a project to discourage students from using words like ain’t, geezer, whatever, like, and literally.

[The_Guardian; 2016-05-03]

English remains a difficult language to master

As someone who lived 10 years abroad, I was not surprised to read the April 12 article on homophones. Adults whose first language is not English have difficulty with both its spelling and pronunciation. Unlike Spanish and German, English is very inconsistent.

[Statesman_Journal; 2016-05-02]

Parents to keep children out of school in key stage exam boycott

A number of parents in England are taking children out of school on Tuesday in protest at ‘19th-century-style testing’

As a former headteacher, Jo Scrimgeour is the last person who would normally let her children skip school. On Tuesday, however, she plans to do just that, joining a small but vocal band of parents in England who plan to boycott the nationwide key stage exams. The aim is to protest against the government’s more onerous assessment regime for primary school pupils. The Department for Education (DfE)says its new requirements promote rigour and effective learning, but thousands of parents – including Scrimgeour – strongly disagree.

[The_Guardian; 2016-05-01]

How brothers became buddies and bros

The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) latest update includes more than 1,800 fully revised entries, including the entry for brother and many words relating to it. During the revision process, entries undergo new research, and evidence is analyzed to determine whether additional meanings and formations are needed. Sometimes, this process results in a much larger entry. Such is the case with the entries for buddy and bro, both of which ultimately trace their roots back to brother.

[OUP_Blog; 2016-04-30]

Truely Younique name game

Maybe you didn't know this, but since 1995, the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act (yes, that's a real name for an act) has provided rules for the names of newborn babies.

[New_Zealand_Herald; 2016-04-28]

Etymology gleanings for April 2016

Spelling reform

Responses to my plea for suggestions concerning spelling reform were very few. I think we can expect a flood of letters of support and protest only if at least part of the much-hoped-for change reaches the stage of implementation. I received one letter telling me to stop bothering about nonsense and to begin doing something sensible.

[OUP_Blog; 2016-04-27]

New way to teach reading is no better than the old

The phonics system used in all schools to teach children to read has no long-term benefits for the average child

[subscription] The phonics system used in all schools to teach children to read has no long-term benefits for the average child, a major study finds today. Government policy requires every primary school to use phonics as a way of teaching literacy to young children. They are taught the sounds made by letter groups and how to blend these together, allowing them to decode words. However, the universal benefit of the programme is called into question in a large-scale study, which tracked the progress of more than 270,000 pupils. It shows that, while phonics can help disadvantaged children or those without English

[The_Times; 2016-04-25]

Is your child hopeless at spelling? Don’t panic…

Shortly after I began teaching, I had my first lesson with a group of mostly dyslexic boys. As soon as I handed something out, a number of them started doodling over it. “Why are you doing that?” I asked. One boy replied, “We’re the dyslexic class, sir. We’re supposed to be creative.” It turned out that they were – splendidly so.

[The_Telegraph; 2016-04-23]

We're still failing to teach children to read, after all these years

Reading programmes around the world are failing to do what they’re supposed to. We need to give children and adults the chance to learn

About 10 years ago, I was asked to assess the lessons learned in a primary school improvement programme in an Asian country. At the first school, I asked to meet their best student. An-11-year-old girl was brought forward. I asked her to read from her textbook, and was astounded to see her silently sounding out each word before she would voice it. She was reading at less than 20 words per minute – too slow to comprehend what she was reading. By comparison, the average seven-year-old in the US reads at about 60 words per minute by the end of the school year.

[The_Guardian; 2016-04-21]

Celebrate U.N. English Language Day; affirm other languages, too

April 23 is U.N. English Language Day, which was started in 2010 to celebrate the English language and multilingualism. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the English language — the U.N. report says it was spoken by only three tribes about 1,500 years ago, but is now the lingua franca of the modern era. English now has official status in about 75 countries with a total population of over 2 billion.

[The_Tennesseean; 2016-04-17]

Mid-Valley Literacy Center helps adults learn

Can you name three homophones? How about "ate" and "eight," "ant" and "aunt," or "male" and "mail"? Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced, but have different spellings and different meanings. These nuanced differences probably come naturally to those who were born and raised speaking English. But for those who learn English as a second language, understanding homophones and other parts of speech can be difficult.

[Statesman_Journal; 2016-04-12]

Alphabet Futurist John Elfreth Watkins Jr. Predicted the Death of C, X, and Q

Watkins Jr. thought that English was too complicated. He might've been right

In 1900, John Elfreth Watkins Jr. wrote an article for Ladies’ Home Journal making predictions for the next 100 years. Watkins wasn’t a sci-fi author or even a particularly eager futurist. He was actually a railroad engineer, but his forecast for the year 2000 is an oft-cited work of predictive futures. All told, he made a couple dozen predictions, but his thoughts on the future of the alphabet stands out as particularly odd and particularly noteworthy. It isn’t a look at a major technological advancement, but a prediction that a need for communicative simplicity would have us changing the way we read, write, and speak.

[Inverse; 2016-04-11]

One Woman’s Fight to Bring Commas to Khmer

If Theary Seng had her way, hundreds of years of writing the Khmer language would be turned on its head, with spaces introduced between words and the Western comma utilized liberally for intelligibility. Pointing to the clarity that the comma can bring to English (such as, she notes, the important distinction between the phrases “Let’s eat, grandma” and “Let’s eat grandma”), Ms. Seng says its utility became apparent after she returned to the country having forgotten much of her native language.

[The_Cambodia_Daily; 2016-04-11]

Why There's No 'Right' Way To Speak English

The English language is the ultimate code-switcher, gaining multiple personalities when it travels

This meddling of English with other tongues has become increasingly pervasive, used in schools, business meetings, online forums, and everywhere in between. There are estimated to be two billion people speaking dozens of varieties of English in the world, a number far beyond the estimated 340 million native English speakers. “I think there is international awareness of the global role of English, mainly because it is so ubiquitous, and inescapable,” says Robert McCrum, author of the book Globish and co-writer of the BBC series and book, The Story of English.

[Atlas_Obscura; 2016-04-05]

She Got a D in English and an E in A’ level Art, now Jackie Morris writer and illustrator has been shortlisted for a Kate Greenaway Medal

Her own experience of apparent failure has led her to build an enviable career, working with the likes of international bestselling authors

“I really struggled with reading in school. I struggled with spelling tests every week, being given spellings to learn and completely unable to get them in my head. I felt like a failure, week after week.” It is why Jackie, who now paints incredible pictures with both colours and words, and whose books have been translated into Korean, Japanese Chinese, Spanish and Catalan, stopped writing. “I never thought I could write."

[Wales_Online; 2016-04-02]

How English Became English by Simon Horobin — review

Modern usages that horrify linguistic purists in fact have deep historical roots

The brevity of How English Became English means that it inevitably raises more questions than it can answer. Why did the mania for regularising spelling and grammar take off in the 18th century? How far have other European languages evolved in similar ways over the last 500 years? Why have the English always been more obsessed with linguistic class-indicators than other cultures?

[The_Guardian; 2016-03-31]

Modern Scots needs a consistent system of orthography

I certainly feel little need to hear philosophy or theology or science or history delivered in a perhaps unfamiliar dialect. Besides which, the effort of translating unfamiliar groups of symbols into meaningful sounds diverts the attention and slows down, if not impedes, the ability to cope with unfamiliar matter and intricate argument. It certainly will render impossible any attempt at “rapid reading”.

[The_National; 2016-03-31]

Etymology gleanings for March 2016

Spelling reform

Preparation for the Spelling Congress is underway. The more people will send in their proposals, the better. On the other hand (or so it seems to me), the fewer people participate in this event and the less it costs in terms of labor/labour and money, the more successful it will turn out to be.

[OUP_Blog; 2016-03-30]

Irrationality of English Spellings

Grammar & spelling errors

English language has been invading more and more areas with each day as it has been hailed as link language, ‘window to the world’ etc. and the English medium schools and coaching institutes are mushrooming in cities, towns and villages. The parents consider it a symbol of prestige to converse with their children in English. But despite all the craze to learn, read and speak English, learners especially at the elementery [sic] level find it difficult to learn this fast spreading language due to English spellings which have often been termed as chaotic and irrational as there is no one to one relationship between English phoneme and grapheme.

[Daily_Excelsior; 2016-03-20]

Challenges of English as a Second Language

Three Mount Saint Mary College students, all who learned to speak English after coming to the US, discussed their trials and triumphs in the American education system

Coroban noted that her “biggest challenge with English was the spelling. With my first language, you write exactly how you hear a word.” She gave the word “berry” as an example: in Romanian, Coroban would have spelled it “beri.”

[Hudson_Valley_News_Network; 2016-03-19]

Readable English system a boost for foreign students

International students struggling to master the English language could be thrown a lifeline, with a pioneering system offering course materials printed in a phonetics format designed for children.

[subscriber only] The Readable English formatting system correctly spells words, but makes it phonetic by greying silent letters, adding syllable breaks and using glyphs or reading symbols. Educational psychologist John Sweller said he was a fan of the system and it should work well for international students. He said he had taught many international students at the University of NSW and they could benefit from having textbooks and materials printed in the new format. “The problem with English is its spelling, he said. “It’s partly phonetic, but it’s not fully phonetic.”

[The_Australian; 2016-03-19]

New data helps schools boost student literacy

Peter Coady, UNSW [University of New South Wales] marketing and communications manager, told The Educator that the analysis of results shows that differences in spelling ability between the most and least able third of Year 3 students can be up to 60 percentage points. “This means where 90% of the top third of students spell a word correctly, only 30% of the bottom third can,” he said.

[The_Educator; 2016-03-18]

Spelling Society

[audio] Some of the most difficult languages to learn include: Chinese, Finnish and Arabic. Although English isn’t on the list, it is still no cake-walk to learn. Languages can become difficult to learn for grammatical reasons, because of colloquial terms and accents. Stephen Linstead from The English Spelling Society argues that it is in fact “spelling” that makes English a challenge to learn.

[The_Matt_Townsend_Show; 2016-03-18]


While most us are frothing at the mouth over the competition to find the next president, the French are concerned with more important things. The Académie Française, that illustrious guardian of the French language – has proposed some spelling changes. Merde! (if you are still at school, you will probably be aware of the English equivalent, but just don't ask your parents).

[The_Manchester_Journal; 2016-03-15]

English's Crazy Spelling Makes Us Think Differently Than More Orderly Languages

The structure of the language itself changes the way we process it

In English, we pronounce words very differently from how we write them: words like eightthrough, and enough are little bombs of confusion for foreign students of English. Languages in which the spelling departs from the pronunciation like this are called "opaque languages," whereas languages like Italian, Spanish, or German, which have strict rules on pronunciation, and a strong correlation between the spelled and the spoken, are called "transparent." And it seems that we process these two kinds of languages in different ways, using different parts of our brains. A new study from the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL), in San Sebastián, shows that bilingual people use a different neural network depending on what kind of language they are reading.

[Co_Exist; 2016-03-12]

New primary school tests discriminate against dyslexic pupils, say teachers

Campaigners and headteachers express alarm at ‘draconian’ assessments, which they say will inhibit creativity

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) said it has been inundated with calls from primary headteachers who are alarmed about the new system, which will require 10- and 11-year-olds to correctly spell more than 100 key words before they are judged to have reach expected educational standards. The system will come into effect for exams taking place this summer.

[The_Guardian; 2016-03-11]

Order and Chaos in English Spelling

If you’re thinking you would like English spelling to make more sense more of the time, my challenge to you: Which irregular spellings are you willing to part with? For all our joking and playful complaining about the chaotic mess of English spelling, we are often quite attached to the quirky spellings we’ve come to recognize on the page.

[The_Chronicle_of_Higher_Education; 2016-03-10]

English, we hardly know ye

'Where's your grammar?' 'In the kitchen making cookies.'

Good grammar and proper punctuation is a lot like personal hygiene. Should someone be judged for not having it? No — but they will be.

[Democrat_Herald; 2016-03-03]

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: how was Nato's phonetic alphabet chosen?

An older version began with Apples and Butter, while soldiers in the First World War preferred Ack and Beer

Sixty years ago today, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) implemented the final version of the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet – known to most people as the Nato phonetic alphabet, or simply the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie alphabet.

[The_Week; 2016-03-01]

Readers defend English language

‘English is a horrid language.’ Really? On the contrary it is a vibrant, resourceful, admirable and universal language. Foreigners learning it find it is not as complicated as many others – except for its spelling, which is what you probably meant to say. We often mistake English spelling for the English language. Spelling is a tool to enable us to communicate the language visually. And English spelling is a worn tool. We expect other learners, e.g., carpenters, to use sharp, well-honed tools when learning their trade, but we continue to use our clapped-out spelling tool for our literacy learners. We should be supporting efforts to rationalize our spelling.

[KPC_News; 2016-02-27]

Trump's word of honer: in defense of Donald's sloppy spelling

I’m no friend of the Republican frontrunner. But when it comes to orthography, maybe we should cut him a break

The latest Trumpism ["Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night. Great honer!"] seems to have confirmed in many people’s minds that this man is a clown. He can’t even spell! [...] But here’s the thing. English orthography makes no sense. There’s already an unbridegable gulf between its two largest native-speaker populations over the way you spell this word. Brits like me use honour. For Americans, it’s honor. In this context, honer looks like a reasonable alternative. Maybe New Zealanders could adopt it?

[The_Guardian; 2016-02-26]

Changes To French Spelling Make Us Wonder: Why Is English So Weird?

The French have gotten themselves into one of their recurrent linguistic lathers, this one over the changes in their spelling that will be taking effect in the fall. The changes were originally proposed more than 25 years ago. But nothing much came of them until the government recently announced that they'd be incorporated in the new textbooks, at which point traditionalists took to the barricades.

[Capital_Public_Radio; 2016-02-24]

English spelling doesn’t need revision to reflect pronunciation

Throughout the past couple of years, a movement targeting childhood literacy has proposed a simplification of the English language, most notably in the area of spelling. The English Spelling Society, a group advocating for this movement, radically claim that “…English spelling is probably the most irregular spelling system of all those based on the alphabetic system.” This claim is directed at homophones, words that are identical in sound but not in spelling or meaning, and believes them to be too confusing for newcomers to the English language.

[Daily_Athenaeum; 2016-02-24]

Spelling was American - Mercury Mailbox

Sadly, within minutes of registering with the Mercury online, I am finding myself making a complaint. In this current climate of the erosion of our British culture from every quarter, I found a glaring spelling mistake in the crossword puzzle. The answer to "stench" was "odor".

[Leicester_Mercury; 2016-02-24]

One primary teacher's open letter to the government: 'The standards expected are now untenable'

The publication of the new primary assessment materials was the straw that broke the camel's back for this English coordinator

As an English specialist I feel passionately that children need to learn to read and write with fluency before moving onto secondary school. I have seen many government-led changes: national literacy strategy, primary strategy, the Year 6 grammar test, the 2014 new curriculum and abandonment of national curriculum levels. I have worked with all these but feel that the situation we have reached now is untenable. This is primarily because the standards expected are unrealistic.

[TES; 2016-02-24]

Lily Cole joins Alphabet of Illiteracy campaign

Model Lily Cole spearheads a new campaign to tackle illiteracy all over the world


[Celebrity; 2016-02-23]

Illiteracy Is the Root Cause of Almost Every Major Problem Humanity Faces

Two weeks ago at a train station outside London, a man of about 20 asked at the ticket window for a ticket to Brighton, then he asked the ticket clerk to let him know when the train came in as he couldn't read. He said he had just left prison. [...] There are 757 million illiterate people in the world right now. And this is not a developing world problem: one in five children in the UK, or one in four in the US, leave primary school unable to read and write properly.

[Huffington_Post; 2016-02-23]

Lily Cole launches Alphabet to Illiteracy campaign

A is for Aids, B is for bloodshed: a much broader range of development issues could be tackled if reducing illiteracy was addressed first, says a new campaign

Child marriage, malnutrition, gender inequality and female genital mutilation could all be addressed if illiteracy, which affects one in 10 people, was put at the centre of efforts to tackle social, economic and environmental problems, according to campaigners.

[The_Guardian; 2016-02-23]

Fears for 26,000 11-year-olds 'unable to read properly'

About 26,000 children are at risk of leaving Welsh primary schools unable to read well over the next five years, a campaign group has claimed.

The Read On. Get On. coalition said "decisive action" must be taken by which ever party triumphs in May's assembly elections. It claimed 10,000 of these children would be from poor backgrounds and must be allowed to fulfil their potential. The Welsh government said literacy would be central to a new curriculum.

[BBC; 2016-02-22]

This Disturbing Alphabet Spells Out Evils That Literacy Could Help Conquer

Campaign From Pearson and FCB Inferno Launches 'Project Literacy'

A new version of the alphabet spelling out the world's evils makes uncomfortable viewing -- but that's the point. The video is by media and educational giant Pearson, promoting its new Project Literacy, a campaign through agency FCB Inferno to to raise awareness of worldwide illiteracy rates.

[Creativity_Online; 2016-02-22]

Exploring the ‘rules’ about when to double that consonant

I hit up Google to read the rules (I use the term loosely) of when you do and don’t double consonants on the ends of words. This is one of those things that, like many lifetime English speakers, you probably know and use correctly but you don’t know why. It’s one of those rules that exists but you can’t explain why, like why saying “a large, green dragon” sounds right, but “a green, large dragon” doesn’t.

[KPC_News; 2016-02-21]

French furore over spelling continues

How Maurice Druon would have adored the tohubohu (or should that be tohu-bohu?)

Maurice Druon was the writer and wartime resistant who, as perpetual secretary of the Academie Francaise, lit the linguistic time bomb that is now combusting over Paris. In 1990, responding to a request from then Prime Minister Michel Rocard, he compiled a detailed series of "rectifications" for the French language. Around 2,400 words were affected. Druon's adjustments were intended to iron out anomalies, eliminate redundancies and "facilitate the teaching of spelling". Little could he have imagined that, a quarter of a century later, his modest proposals would be creating such a furore.

[BBC; 2016-02-20]

Can-di-date, can-di-dit, can-i-dit: What is your accent?

Bruce Chipman, Head of English at Tatnall, discusses Delaware accents

Youse guys, siddown for a spell as we consider the Delaware way of speaking and choosing words. Why do residents of Delaware sound different from residents of Warshington and New Yawk? Were those the words that you would have chosen? Or would you say “y’all” or “mongst-ye” instead of youse guys? How about “spell?” Does it mean “a short time” to you? Would you have pronounced the nation’s political and business capitals that way?

[Delaware_Online; 2016-02-10]

French language reform becomes a cause célèbre

Paris Letter: Attempt to change the spelling of some words stirs a social media storm

Like everything else in France, the spelling row became a political football. Right-wing politicians conflated it with cutting Greek and Latin from school curriculums. Florian Philippot, the vice-president of the extreme right-wing National Front, proclaimed, “the French language is our soul”. The spelling reform “plays to the lowest common denominator”, said Bruno Le Maire of Les Républicains party. "The idea is: they can’t spell, so we’ll lower our standards to make it easier for them.”

[Irish_Times; 2016-02-10]

The trouble with English

I’ve given up trying to locate the origin of a word from French, Norse, Dutch, German, Celtic or old Anglo-Saxon... I’ve just explained there are ‘no rules’ in English phonetics or, rather, there are rules but too many exceptions. The kids know that when mummy says “because it’s just that way”, she really means “I have no idea”.

[Luxemburger_Wort; 2016-02-06]

Gone Mot: The French Uproar Over Removing Some Circumflex Accents

The spelling changes apply to around 2,400 French words, and The Guardian reports they're mean to "simplify them for schoolchildren." But the move has "brought accusations the country's Socialist government is dumbing down the language."

[National_Public_Radio; 2016-02-05]

French Spelling Changes, 26 Years in the Making, Cause a Fracas

In France, the land of Molière, questions of language are so sacred that every Thursday the “immortals,” the guardians of the French language at the Académie Française, meet to discuss — among other things — proposed changes to the institution’s vaunted dictionary. The last complete edition of the dictionary was published in 1935, according to the academy, and changes evolve over centuries. The newest complete edition is not finished — the authors have reached the letter R. So it was perhaps not surprising that tempers flared this week after a news report from the broadcaster TF1 that changes were afoot to cut back the circumflex accent, known as “the hat,” from French-language textbooks.

[New_York_Times; 2016-02-05]

French linguists in uproar over plans to remove the 'i' in onions

New rules to simplify French spelling in primary school textbooks risks turning French into a "text message" language, warn French purists

French risks being reduced to the language of “text messaging” when rules to simplify the language take effect in primary school textbooks, linguistic purists have warned. Guardians of traditional French spelling have expressed outrage at changes in spelling that will allow pupils to do away with the circumflex hat (ˆ) that sits on top of certain vowels and other “useless” letters found in 2,400 words.

[The_Telegraph; London,_UK; 2016-02-05]

French education minister calms nation after spelling reform outcry

France's Education Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, was obliged to calm the nation's nerves today as reports of a reform of French spelling sent panic across social media and aroused protests from right-wing education campaigners. Reports that schools would stop teaching the use of the circumflex accent and force pupils to spell oignon (onion) without an "i" turned out to be greatly exaggerated. "I wish to reassure everyone that the circumflex accent will not disappear,' Vallaud-Belkacem declared at a hastily called press conference on Thursday.

[Americas; 2016-02-04]

How 2,400 French words are getting a spelling makeover

The French Ministry of Education has reminded schools to implement changes which the Académie Française — the guardians of the French language — recommended 26 years ago.

[The_Local; 2016-02-04]

25 words that just look wrong

Words can be strange things at times, especially in the English language. Just try explaining to a child or someone who speaks another language why the word “one” is spelled the way it is, and you’ll soon realize just how many English word spelling nuances there are. People on Reddit were asked “What words looks wrong to you, and how do you think they should be spelled?” And the responses prove just how strange the English language can be.

[Inquisitr; 2016-02-02]

English spelling is way too complicated — here’s how to fix it

We take for granted that English is filled with weird spellings —'b's that are silent, 'gh' and 'ph' that sounds like 'f,' 'i's and 'e's that switch inexplicably, and more — making it complicated for native speakers and one of the hardest languages to learn. What if it didn't have to be this way? Believe it or not, America almost fixed the English language many years ago, with some very smart and powerful people on board. Although the campaign fizzled out, we think, in the era of texting and emoji, it deserves another look.

[Tech_Insider; 2016-02-02]

Phonetic Irish language newspaper shone briefly

This November 1912 newspaper may have been the final edition of Glór na Ly, a short-lived publication which promoted attempts to write the Irish language in a phonetic-looking manner

In ways appearing more like Welsh than Irish, the ‘letiriú shímplí’ spelling system was the brainchild of the newspaper’s editor Shán Ó Cuív. The Cork-born journalist had devised the ‘simplified spelling’ in association with Osborn Bergin, Fr Richard O’Daly and others, a few years earlier.

[Irish_Examiner; 2016-02-01]

English teenagers 'are most illiterate in the developed world', report reveals

English teenagers ranked bottom of 23-strong table for literacy

The report, conducted by the OECD (the Operation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) found that out of 23 developed nations, English teens had the lowest literacy rates and the second to lowest numeracy rates.

[Independent; 2016-01-29]

Phonetic spelling re-visited

In a previous article I presented some arguments against phonetic spelling. Since then I have found that there are other, and more important, arguments against it. I here continue and supplement my previous argument.

[Education_HQ; 2016-01-27]

Roaring start to fifth year of The Big Spell

Launch event held at S'pore Zoo sees school pupils playing a game of 'human Scrabble'

The search for Singapore's top pupil speller started yesterday at the Singapore Zoo - with a little help from the animals. Pupils from Clementi Primary and Yu Neng Primary excitedly demonstrated their knowledge of animal names in a game of "human Scrabble", spelling words such as "tigress" and "tortoises", at the launch of the fifth RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship. But it was Yu Neng Primary's "rhinoceroses" that clinched the win. Fye Ng Wood Huee, eight, a Primary 3 pupil from Yu Neng, said: "It was tiring holding up the cards but it was fun."

[The_Straits_Times; 2016-01-27]

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the Phonetic Alphabet?

Sometimes words just have to be spelled for others. I’ve been on phone conversations where the person on the other end is spelling for me and it’s painful. “Was that a ‘b’ or a ‘p’?” Sometimes they’ll try on the fly to use words with the beginning letter trying to convey the letter: “B as in boy”. Then they’ll get stumped mumbling while they think desperately for ‘k’ words… ‘ketchup’. Okay, but is that really ketchup or catsup? Now think how much easier spelling is on a phone than over a poor quality radio channel. What we say, and how we say it is the key to our brain’s ability to error correct human speech. It’s a solved problem that was built into radio etiquette long ago.

[Hackaday; 2016-01-26]

The Primary Differences Among Major International English Dialects

The British Empire hasn’t been in existence for almost three-quarters of a century. At the peak of its might, it covered close to a quarter of the world’s land area and ruled a fifth of its population. But the empire changed, transformed, and passed as all things pass. When the territories Britain had conquered gained freedom, there was one thing that remained as evidence of how grand the empire once was—the English language. It’s the second most common language in the world in terms of the number of native speakers; it’s the most widely spoken language of all when you include people who use it as a second language. It’s an international language, and as such, it has developed various dialects around the world.

[Business_2_Community; 2016-01-24]

Colombia vs Columbia: A nation scorned in spelling?

Colombians are getting tired of their country being misspelled

Richard Nixon, Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber and Starbucks have all made the mistake. The host of the Miss Universe pageant made the mistake — right after making an even bigger mistake. Since Colombia gained independence in 1810, it seems English-speakers have inadvertently been trying to rechristen it Columbia with a “u.” And increasingly, this nation of 48 million is letting the world know that it wants its “o” back.

[Miami_Herald; 2016-01-23]

Why English is such a difficult language to learn

David Cameron caused a stir after calling for more Muslim women in the UK to be taught English

In my experience, the most common complaint language learners make about English is that the spelling of words often has little or nothing to do with their pronunciation. It’s easy enough to teach someone how to write the letter “a”, for example, but then they must be taught that its pronunciation changes in words like hat, hate and father. In oak it isn’t pronounced at all.

[Independent; 2016-01-20]

Why is English so hard to learn?

In my experience, the most common complaint language learners make about English is that the spelling of words often has little or nothing to do with their pronunciation. It’s easy enough to teach someone how to write the letter “a”, for example, but then they must be taught that its pronunciation changes in words like hat, hate and father. In oak it isn’t pronounced at all.

[The_Conversation; 2016-01-20]

Research shows employees can't spell or do basic maths

THEY might own the latest iPhone and can text, blindfolded with one finger, but new research shows most employees can't spell or do basic maths. The Australian Industry Group's survey of employers, released this week, indicated 93% identified "low levels of literacy and numeracy" were having an impact on their business.

[Sunshine_Coast_Daily; 2016-01-19]

The case of the missing “u”s in American English

When my American editor asked me to research why Brits spell their words with so many extra ‘u’s, I immediately knew he had it all wrong. As a British journalist, it’s perfectly obvious to me that we have the correct number of ‘u’s, and that American spelling has lost its vowels along the way. “Color,” “honor,” and “favor” all look quite stubby to me—they’re positively crying out to be adorned with a few extra ‘u’s.

[Quartz; 2016-01-17]

English rules

The English language has adopted words and rules from almost every language on Earth and changed itself in the process

The English language has many anomalies. These come about because of its many and varied origins. The Anglo-Saxons, who began English as we know it, brought their language from their homelands in Europe, perhaps modified to suit changes in their new environment and culture. They later absorbed some Latin words from Christian preachers who entered the country and converted it to Christianity. They also picked up bits of French, Scandinavian languages and some German from various seaborne raiders who plundered the country. Some of these invaders, such as the Danes, settled in as permanent residents and added their long term influence to the language. With the Norman conquest in 1066 Norman French came to dominate, and change, the English language. Later again various influences, both words and rules, arrived from almost every language on Earth.

[Education_HQ; 2016-01-11]

Against School

In this previously unpublished essay, Aaron Swartz sought an explanation for the persistent—and possibly deliberate—failures in our school system.

In 1898, a writing exam at Berkeley found that 30 to 40 percent of entering freshman were not proficient in English. A Harvard report found only 4 percent of applicants “could write an essay, spell, or properly punctuate a sentence.” But that didn’t stop editorialists from complaining about how things were better in the old days. Back when they went to school, complained the editors of the New York Sun in 1902, children “had to do a little work. ... Spelling, writing and arithmetic were not electives, and you had to learn.” Now schooling was just “a vaudeville show. The child must be kept amused and learns what he pleases.” In 1909, the Atlantic Monthly complained that basic skills had been replaced by “every fad and fancy.”

[New_Republic; 2016-01-11]

Dwarfs Are Only 'Dwarves' When They're Battling Dragons

Before a certain fantasy saga by J.R.R Tolkien was published, the only accepted plural for “dwarf” was “dwarfs”. (Hence, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.) The plurisation “dwarves” was a deliberate deviation used by Tolkien to lend his prose a mythic quality. If you’re a stickler for accuracy (and not writing a fantasy novel) you’ll be wanting to use the former.

[Lifehacker; 2016-01-04]

Tory MP’s bill seeks to clarify how dates are written in legal proceedings

In Canada, technically, there’s no right way to write a date. In jotting down Oct. 1, 2016, as a series of numbers, for example, Canadians would be split choosing 10/01/16, 01/10/16 or even 16/10/01. “You can see where the confusion comes from,” said Todd Doherty, a newly elected member of Parliament from B.C.

[The_Globe_And_Mail; 2016-01-01]



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