My oldest daughter has just started her 2nd year at primary school. During the past year I have been trying to help her learn to read. Like many other parents I have sat there, usually over breakfast, trying to help her master those tricky words. As is the common approach, when we reach a word she doesn’t know, we try and break it down into syllables, sound each syllable and then put them together. I find that whilst this works fine for some words there seems to be more and more words that this approach doesn’t work for.
Its made me realise how completely illogical a lot of written English is! For lots of words there is no pattern to being able to learn them, it is just a case of ‘knowing’ how it is spelt, or how a certain word should be pronounced. I could list numerous words that demonstrate this effectively but to pick a fairly simple one from my niece’s spelling list:
How do you teach a child the logic behind spelling circle (or even reading it). I don’t even think the problem is just limited to children. Even today (stopping myself going onto Google now to find out the answer) I can never remember whether organisation or organization is the English spelling as opposed to the American.
I think in some areas Americans are closer to a more sensible approach than the English are. Take comparable words:
colour translates to color
theatre translates to theater
analogue translates to analog
The above American spellings remove what I see as the unnecessary letters and makes the words more phonetic.
There has been talk for some time (I’m not sure how far it has progressed) about teaching phonetic spellings in our schools and making words appear more as they sound. I see this as a major leap forward for the English education system. In my opinion, something needs to be done to update the language that is used by so many people worldwide.
As a side, my 9 year old niece can now finally spell circle. Next on the list……circumference (good luck)!!