Letter: Learning to read

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Sir: You report (28 January) on research findings that children in Hungary, Flemish-speaking Belgium and German-speaking Switzerland learn to read sooner than their English- and French-speaking peers. The report attributes this achievement to their starting formal schooling later. I suggest another possible reason.

I do not know Flemish, but the spelling of both German and Hungarian is highly phonetic, unlike French and English, which have far less regular matching between letters and sounds. French has all those mind-boggling different written verb endings which sound the same or make no sound at all. The innumerable, illogical irregularities of English make it very difficult to learn.

This may also explain why boys in Britain do worse than girls. They prefer to learn rules instead of all that rote-learning of spellings. Perhaps we should consider doing what the Germans have done once again, after doing it several times before - bring in a spelling reform.

Mrs H MARIE BELL

Wareham, Dorset

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