Thursday, 8 August 2019

Spelling is under

the spotlight right now.
It began with a mother complaining that her child was being given an American English reading scheme at school. Of course that means the spelling is also American. Not surprisingly her child finds that confusing.
There used to be a time, many years ago, when we were not permitted to import books for children with American English in them. I grew up reading only English - as I understood it. I think I was in my teens before I came across an entire book in American English although the Senior Cat had taught me about the spelling differences before that.
When I was a mere kitten I was also taught to spell. Every week we would have a new page of words to learn in our "spellers". The Senior Cat would also give me, my brother, and the bank manager's son extra words. He was determined we would (a) expand our vocabularies and (b) learn to spell the words involved.  It was one of those things we just did at the time.
At home we had one of those middling size Oxford English Dictionaries - we still have it - and, from the time I could read independently, I was expected to use it. We still have that dictionary although it has had so much use that it is falling to pieces. I have a large two volume version as well. I also have an "American" dictionary.
My computer is set to British English - which is the closest to Downunder English. I need to be aware of all the differences. I don't always succeed. Doubtless readers of this blog find spelling errors as well as grammatical errors on a regular basis. 
    "Does it matter?" I was asked yesterday, "Surely all that matters is that we can make ourselves understood?"
The person who said this pointed out that I could write an entire sentence with no vowels and I would almost certainly still be understood. Perhaps I would but is it the same thing? Isn't there something about the shape of words that matters? If you are going to argue about "centre" and "center" shouldn't you be thinking about "senter" or even "senta" instead? 
The English language is full of inconsistencies. It isn't an easy language to learn. 
But, I don't live in America. I use a different version of English. I need to know about "courgette" and "zucchini" as well as "boot" and "trunk" and any number of other differences.
And children need to be taught to spell. Is it beyond the capacity of the education system to tell children, 
    "This is how we do it. Some people do it differently."


Anonymous said...

I think there is a slight difference in pronunciation between "centre" and "center". Another bag of worms to open?


jeanfromcornwall said...

English is wonderful - so many pitfalls and elephant traps make it so. There is no shame in getting it wrong but youngsters should be taught what is right - and to find entertainment in the words we all use and mis-use.
And don't get me started on mispronunciation! The number of people there are who have obviously never really read the word "mischievous" They put an "i" in which isn't there and make it mis-chee-veeyous. Sets my teeth on edge!