What!? There’s a problem with English? How could this wonderful language with so many words, probably more words than in any other language, be a problem? It’s the spelling. (See my last blog article, “Why is Learning to Read English So ‘Tuff’”?) Unfortunately, this leads to difficulties in learning to read. In fact, it takes most children an average of two and a half years to learn to read English as compared to one year to learn to read Spanish or Italian. Remarkable when we consider that the English language is used by an estimated 1.8 billion people, about 1/3 of the world’s population. Nevertheless, it “has the WORST letter-to-sound and sound-to-letter ratios of all Western languages.”(www.reforming-english.blogspot.co.il).
Consider this. Most teachers and parents in non-English speaking countries don’t have such strong concerns about their children learning to read and write as in English speaking countries. Consider, too, that literacy is harder to acquire in English than in most other languages because the problem with English spelling makes learning to read and write it so much more difficult. If less time and effort had to be spent on learning to read, one wonders about all the other things that that time and effort could be spent on.
Here’s a poem that makes the point in an amusing way:
One reason why I cannot spell,
Why isn’t drought spelled just like route,
So here is my question. In order to make learning to read English easier and to raise the literacy rates, should the spelling of English be reformed? I’d love to hear what you think.
Photo credit: marusin/Foter/CC BY-NC
Poem attributed to Vivian Buchan, NEA Journal 1966/67, USA, published in Spelling Progress Bulletin Spring 1966 pdf, p6. Reprinted from Education Horizons.