Difficulty and differences
Young students and adult learners both face a daunting task when mastering the spelling of English words, due to alternative spellings, silent words and words that do not follow the standard rules.
Linguistic experts in the U.S. and the UK have noted that the difference in spelling is annoying for learners who have to memorize the rules. What they are proposing, which will be taken up in the congress, is to find a spelling system that would make sense to the learners.
The head of the English Spelling Society, Stephen Linstead, said that in other languages such as Italian, Spanish and Finnish, there is a firm relationship between the spoken and written words. However, this is not so in the English language. There is an incongruity with the U.S. English and the UK English, in such a way that there are groupings of letters that have the same sound but could be spelled differently based on the word and there are others that are differently pronounced. In the congress, linguistic experts around the globe are expected to propose new spellings for the word groups that pose problems and they would then select the right alternative system for the spelling of those words.
Their effort is not just to straighten the English language, according to Linstead. There had been studies in the universities in the UK showing evidence that children who speak English take two years longer to learn their basic literacy skills compared to their counterparts in other countries in Europe. The studies showed that spelling is a major part of the problem. There are also the countless rules and several exceptions to contend with.
Linguistic changes in other countries
Linstead also recognized the efforts to implement changes in the language in other countries and mentioned that Portugal had also implemented changes. The country had switched to the Brazilian orthography system for all Portuguese-language use in various countries although this was met with several criticisms.
Throughout the history of America there were changes that happened as well. Col. Robert McCormick was a simplified spelling proponent. The Tribune publisher had used “frate” rather than ‘freight’ and “fantom” to replace ‘phantom’ in his newspaper. The Simplified Spelling Board of the 20th century had 300 words with nonrational spellings, such as color (colour) and fixt (fixed). The changes were endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt but Congress had overturned his executive order.
Stephen Linstead said that the planned conference’s aim is to have a chosen new system that could be used as an informal alternative alongside traditional spelling. If the new system later gains enough support from speakers of English, then it could replace the traditional spelling system.