Don't blame teachers, bad spelling is all down to awkward words

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The Independent Online

The bizarre irregularities of English spelling, not bad teachers, are to blame for low levels of literacy, MPs have been told.

The bizarre irregularities of English spelling, not bad teachers, are to blame for low levels of literacy, MPs have been told.

If we spelt account "acount" and eat "eet" children would learn to read and spell much more easily, says a submission to a Commons select committee into early years' education.

An analysis of 45 commonwords forming the basis of the literacy hour for primary pupils shows more than half have unpredictable spellings that do not follow basic rules, says the Simplified Spelling Society. When the same words are translated into German, Spanish and Italian, the figure for unpredictable words is seven, five and four respectively.

Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, blamesteachers for Britain lagging behind other nations, but poor literacy is a common feature of all English-speaking countries, says the society.

The English language causes difficulties for children learning to read by sounding out words (phonics) because "large numbers of even the simplest high-frequency words have phonetically implausible spellings", the society states. "English has a far greater number of such words than nearly all other European languages."

Masha Bell, the society's secretary, said: "Teachers are getting stick for not teaching well enough when the only way to teach much of this is drilling by rote. It is difficult to do without motivated pupils and dedicated parents."

An analysis of 4,700 common words for unpredictable spelling found 2,569 words had unexpected elements. The worst problems were the doubling of consonants as in grabbed, opposite and gradually, and the ee-sound as in appeal, arena, bee, achieve and prestige.

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