A Question of Spelling
I received a letter today from the " Reading Reform Foundation," which tells me that "23 million (American) adults are functionally illiterate, unable to read an advertisement, a job application, directions on a medicine bottle." They say "30 percent of all schoolchildren have serious reading difficulties."
I rather believe this, judging from my own limited experience with people. But why is this?
Can it be that part of the reason is the matter of English spelling? The letter tells me that "87 percent of English words are phonetic; each of them follows predictable rules for reading and spelling." But that means that 13 percent of English words are not, and that includes many common words indeed.
With spelling erratic, many English words become ideograms that must be learned as a whole, with its parts giving no clue or, worse yet, false clues. If you don't know in advance and just judge by the letters, can you know that "through," "coo," "do," "true," "knew," and "queue" all rhyme? If you don't know in advance and just judge by the letters, can you know that "gnaw," "kneel," "mnemonic" and "note" all start with the same consonantal sound?
Why can't we say "throo," "koo," "doo," "troo," "nyoo," and "kyoo"? Why can't we say "naw," "neel," "nemonik" and "note"?
It looks funny? Sure it does, because you've memorized the "correct" way—but millions are helped on the road to illiteracy because the "correct" way makes no sense.
The plural of "man" is "men." Why not mans"? Because its childish?
Exactly! To say "mans" is the first impulse of children when they learn