Letter: Teachers in inner-city schools deserve congratulations

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Sir: Is it any wonder that inner-city children came out badly in reading tests by Ofsted ("Teachers blamed for poor skills in reading", 8 May) when, for example, there are 15 ways of spelling the "sh" sound. A few of them are: "ci" as in "special", "ti" as in "mention", "sci" ('conscience'), "ssi" ("mission"), "xio" ("anxious") and "si" ("pension"). What is a child to make of this adult nonsense?

Our basic problem is that we have only 26 letters for around 44 sounds. But as there's been no modernisation of English spelling in about 1,000 years, the accretions of history have made it increasingly difficult to spell. However, other languages have modernised. The German-speaking countries are now completing their latest modernisation.

Our research director, Gwenllian Thorstad, has done an academic comparison of learning to read by English and Italian children. She found that it takes an English child 10 years to learn what an Italian child does in one. This is because in Italian every letter is pronounced except "h", which is always silent. In contrast, the English alphabet has only one consonant "v" which has one sound, cannot be produced by other combinations of letters and is never silent.

Because British children have to spend so long learning literacy skills in English they have less time for their other studies.

Our editor, Christopher Upward, recently developed a systm cald Cut Spelling (this paragraph is ritn in it) by which redundnt letrs ar dropd. One first notices that one can imediately read CS quite esily without evn noing th rules of th systm. Since most words ar unchanjed and few letrs substituted, one has th impression of norml ritn english with a lot of od slips, rathr than of a totaly new riting systm.

Leo Chapman


Simplified Spelling Society

London N7