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Spelling Lists Deemed Too Distressing For Kids

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the think-of-the-children dept.

Idle 20

A British school has gotten rid of spelling homework because students find it too "distressing" to learn lists. Headmistress Debbie Marklove says, "We have taken the decision to stop spelling as homework as it is felt that although children may learn them perfectly at home they are often unable to use them in their daily written work. Also many children find this activity unnecessarily distressing." If kids were able to get more words right at home with the parents than in the class room, it could lead to a sense of failure, she said. I wish this kind of thinking would extend into the workplace. I for one, find starting work at 8 a.m. too distressing and would like to start a few hours later but still leave at the same time.

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maybe not a bad thing... (1)

twotailakitsune (1229480) | more than 6 years ago | (#25277167)

1st: English, unlike many other modern language, has not had a reset. most modern languages fix their spell to speak every now and then. But, English has not. This make English very hard to learn. I learn in one semester to spell better in Japanese then in 6 years of English.

2st: I think that the spelling list should be fully done away with. In the US we stop learning to spell after 6 years at 5 and 6 letter words. After that there is no class to learn to spell. I think that the 1st 6 years of spell class should go like this:

Every day the instructor pick some words out of some big 20000 word list and ask the students to put down how they would spell it.

The instructor looks at the work, then on the board goes over the types of mistakes one sees.

Insert motivation

Insert one on one help

Over time the Instructor will grade on how the student is doing.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25278071)

I learn in one semester to spell better in Japanese then in 6 years of English.


I hope so.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25280009)

If the above post is the best you can do after 6 years of English, give it up.

English spelling is being "reset" all the time. It wasn't until the recent introduction of dictionaries that spellings were standarized (or standarised, depending on your local version of English).

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 6 years ago | (#25280953)

as a former ESL teacher, i can say with a fair amount of authority that you are being a douche.
language is about communication. if you understand the idea the other party is trying to express, they have done well enough.

English spelling is extremely hard to pick up. i know many people who are able to make conversation with ease, yet when you ask them to write out a word, they are lost.

some easy examples: c, g.

circle. is it "sir-kle", "sir-sle", "kir-klr", or "kir-sle"
giga: is it gi-ga, or ji-ga, ji-ja? gi-ja?
any word that ends in "tion" is also problematic. how the hell would i figure out that that sounds like "shone" unless someone told me.

im not even going to start on articles, or sarcasm, which simply do not exist in many other languages, or the very vague nature of our language.

unless you have spent the better part of a lifetime learning the English languages 's peculiarities, you are going to make frequent mistakes.
so ease up. if you spent 6 years studying another language, would you be able to participate on a web forum? especially one with highly technical language like slashdot?

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 6 years ago | (#25285629)

Folk who learn other languages bust their nuts on noun gender and verb forms. English is pretty easy in that respect, at least at beginner level. So yeah, spelling it can be a little problematic, but given its other advantages I would say most ESL learners should count themselves lucky.

Native English speakers are also remarkably tolerant of bad spelling, esp when you tell them you're learning. At work (an American+British firm) people email with abominable spelling all the time (including senior folk) and no one has a problem (ever since the "phonics" fad caught on in the UK spelling's gone to the dogs anyway).

So if you're a second language speaker struggling with spelling - do what I did when I was in school -- buy a dead-tree pocket dictionary and use it when unsure. Read a lot (at least a *non-tabloid* newspaper. at least online if not on paper.). Use a online dictionary that pronounces words for you. Talk/skype to people in English. Remember: learning any language is a lot harder when you have no one to practice with.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#25289827)

Folk who learn other languages bust their nuts on noun gender and verb forms.

There are many languages (Non-European mostly) that don't have noun gender and verb forms to worry about. Indonesian and Chinese (in fact, most Asian languages) come to mind.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 6 years ago | (#25291139)

I accept your point, although "Asian" includes several Indo-European languages, most of whom are gender-inflected (or did you mean "Asian" in the US sense, i.e., East Asian?).

In any case, learning Mandarin as a 2nd language to avoid the rigours of English orthography seems ... misguided [pinyin.info] , because you've only traded one set of problems for a another, bigger set of problems.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 6 years ago | (#25314467)

> ever since the "phonics" fad caught on in the UK spelling's gone to the dogs anyway

Ive allways atribyutid fonix to my suksess in spelling.

Yu just haff to lern the eksepshuns (of which there are many).

Seriously, I did find phonics to be an incredibly valuable source of my ability to spell things correctly, but I don't know if it actually helped the average person. Growing up, I had an amazing ability to spell words based on what I knew about sounding them out, but I have a feeling that I was able to pick up on latin roots or some such in order to determine things like, for example, "eu" or "yu" or "u" for getting the "U" sound at the beginning of a word I had never spelled before....

Then, on the same token, when someone would ask me how to spell a completely or mostly phonetic word and I'd challenge them to try themselves by giving them clues to sounding it out... would actually produce words that, when pronounced phonetically, wouldn't sound like their target word at all.

It seems to go both ways though, if you fail at reading phonetically, which the people who would ask me how to spell things frequently did, you'll fail at writing phonetically too.

What was that study again that proved letter order doesn't matter, because we don't actually take it into consideration? ;-)

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25285845)

Thank goodness it's "former ESL teacher", as you weren't doing them any favors by mis-pronouncing the "tion" ending as "shone", when it's supposed to be "shun". And, the normal idiom is "douche-bag", not "douche".

Since your grammar and punctuation is fairly lacking, I can only hope your comment was posted in haste vice thoughtful consideration.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25289539)

*sigh* ...are lacking...

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 6 years ago | (#25290507)

English, unlike many other modern language, has not had a reset.

Actually, that's incorrect. Look at the differences between the way some words are spelled in Britain and America: we spell it "color", the Brits spell t "colour". We say "humor" where the Brits spell it "humour". We call the place in the back of the car where the tire and tools go a "trunk", while they call it a "boot" (and God only knows why they call it a "boot").

What makes English hard is that it is a bastardization of about every other language (especially western language) on earth. "Knife" and "cough" are (iinm) German and follow German rules, while "Macho" is Spanish and follows Spanish's rules. "Oblique" is French and follows that rule, etc.

From time to time there is a movement made by illiterate dumbasses to have words be spelled like they're pronounced, but like I said, that's just dumbfuck stupid, since different parts of the world (even different places in the same US cities) pronounce words differently. Is it a winder or a window? Are they chilluns or childerns? Is it a kah or a kore? Is it a tamahto or a towmaydo? Do you "pawk da kah on da dyam dwag" like they do in Noo Yawk, or do you Pork da cawr own da dayum dowg" like they do in the south?

In the US we stop learning to spell after 6 years at 5 and 6 letter words.

Presumably you already know how to spell by the time you're in the 5th grade. You don't study addition in Junior High, now do you?

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 6 years ago | (#25292925)

In the US we stop learning to spell after 6 years at 5 and 6 letter words.

You apparently didn't learn grammar and literate composition, either.

Anyway, one of the words on my 4th graders' current spelling list is opportunities. Significantly longer than 6 letters.

Re:maybe not a bad thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25308899)

Wow, as another poster put it: you are a douche. Ever heard of "old English"? How about "middle English"? Oh, that's right! They had completely different spellings!! And that's just two examples. Didn't go to college, did we?

This is pathetic... (2, Informative)

Landshark17 (807664) | more than 6 years ago | (#25279265)

This reminds me of something that happened at my old elementary school. Kids were doing poorly in spelling and grammar, so the parents complained to the school. Rather than stress grammar and spelling further, the school stopped grading kids on it.

Re:This is pathetic... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#25280891)

"This reminds me of something that happened at my old elementary school. Kids were doing poorly in spelling and grammar, so the parents complained to the school. Rather than stress grammar and spelling further, the school stopped grading kids on it."

But, surely, this will better prepare the children for the workplace, eh? I mean, when you get into the work force..and you find the work for little pay distressing, you just can complain, and have them pay your more for less and....errr......

Well, sure, why not? (1)

bratwiz (635601) | more than 6 years ago | (#25285405)

We've already proven that intelligence, reading, literacy, comprehension, competency, et al are not requirements for high office. Why bother with them for any lower office either? And let us all remind ourselves of Sam Clemens (Mark Twain's) gentle attempt to revise the art of spelling and grammar:

I have had a kindly feeling, a friendly feeling, a cousinly feeling toward Simplified Spelling, from the beginning of the movement three years ago, but nothing more inflamed than that.

It seemed to me to merely propose to substitute one inadequacy for another; a sort of patching and plugging poor old dental relics with cement and gold and porcelain paste; what was really needed was a new set of teeth. That is to say, a new ALPHABET.

The heart of our trouble is with our foolish alphabet. It doesn't know how to spell, and can't be taught. In this it is like all other alphabets except one--the phonographic. This is the only competent alphabet in the world. It can spell and correctly pronounce any word in our language.

That admirable alphabet, that brilliant alphabet, that inspired alphabet, can be learned in an hour or two. In a week the student can learn to write it with some little facility, and to read it with considerable ease. I know, for I saw it tried in a public school in Nevada forty-five years ago, and was so impressed by the incident that it has remained in my memory ever since.

I wish we could adopt it in place of our present written (and printed) character. I mean SIMPLY the alphabet; simply the consonants and the vowels--I don't mean any REDUCTIONS or abbreviations of them, such as the shorthand writer uses in order to get compression and speed. No, I would SPELL EVERY WORD OUT.

I will insert the alphabet here as I find it in Burnz's PHONIC SHORTHAND. [Figure 1] It is arranged on the basis of Isaac Pitman's PHONOGRAPHY. Isaac Pitman was the originator and father of scientific phonography. It is used throughout the globe. It was a memorable invention. He made it public seventy-three years ago. The firm of Isaac Pitman & Sons, New York, still exists, and they continue the master's work.

What should we gain?

First of all, we could spell DEFINITELY--and correctly--any word you please, just by the SOUND of it. We can't do that with our present alphabet. For instance, take a simple, every-day word PHTHISIS. If we tried to spell it by the sound of it, we should make it TYSIS, and be laughed at by every educated person.

Secondly, we should gain in REDUCTION OF LABOR in writing.

Simplified Spelling makes valuable reductions in the case of several hundred words, but the new spelling must be LEARNED. You can't spell them by the sound; you must get them out of the book.

But even if we knew the simplified form for every word in the language, the phonographic alphabet would still beat the Simplified Speller "hands down" in the important matter of economy of labor. I will illustrate:

PRESENT FORM: through, laugh, highland.

SIMPLIFIED FORM: thru, laff, hyland.


To write the word "through," the pen has to make twenty-one strokes.

To write the word "thru," then pen has to make twelve strokes-- a good saving.

To write that same word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to make only THREE strokes.

To write the word "laugh," the pen has to make FOURTEEN strokes.

To write "laff," the pen has to make the SAME NUMBER of strokes--no labor is saved to the penman.

To write the same word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to make only THREE strokes.

To write the word "highland," the pen has to make twenty-two strokes.

To write "hyland," the pen has to make eighteen strokes.

To write that word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to make only FIVE strokes. [Figure 3]

To write the words "phonographic alphabet," the pen has to make fifty-three strokes.

To write "fonografic alfabet," the pen has to make fifty strokes. To the penman, the saving in labor is insignificant.

To write that word (with vowels) with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to make only SEVENTEEN strokes.

Without the vowels, only THIRTEEN strokes. [Figure 4] The vowels are hardly necessary, this time.

We make five pen-strokes in writing an m. Thus: [Figure 5] a stroke down; a stroke up; a second stroke down; a second stroke up; a final stroke down. Total, five. The phonographic alphabet accomplishes the m with a single stroke--a curve, like a parenthesis that has come home drunk and has fallen face down right at the front door where everybody that goes along will see him and say, Alas!

When our written m is not the end of a word, but is otherwise located, it has to be connected with the next letter, and that requires another pen-stroke, making six in all, before you get rid of that m. But never mind about the connecting strokes--let them go. Without counting them, the twenty-six letters of our alphabet consumed about eighty pen-strokes for their construction--about three pen-strokes per letter.

It is THREE TIMES THE NUMBER required by the phonographic alphabet. It requires but ONE stroke for each letter.

My writing-gait is--well, I don't know what it is, but I will time myself and see. Result: it is twenty-four words per minute. I don't mean composing; I mean COPYING. There isn't any definite composing-gait.

Very well, my copying-gait is 1,440 words per hour--say 1,500. If I could use the phonographic character with facility I could do the 1,500 in twenty minutes. I could do nine hours' copying in three hours; I could do three years' copying in one year. Also, if I had a typewriting machine with the phonographic alphabet on it--oh, the miracles I could do!

I am not pretending to write that character well. I have never had a lesson, and I am copying the letters from the book. But I can accomplish my desire, at any rate, which is, to make the reader get a good and clear idea of the advantage it would be to us if we could discard our present alphabet and put this better one in its place--using it in books, newspapers, with the typewriter, and with the pen.

[Figure 6]--MAN DOG HORSE. I think it is graceful and would look comely in print. And consider--once more, I beg--what a labor-saver it is! Ten pen-strokes with the one system to convey those three words above, and thirty-three by the other! [Figure 6] I mean, in SOME ways, not in all. I suppose I might go so far as to say in most ways, and be within the facts, but never mind; let it go at SOME. One of the ways in which it exercises this birthright is--as I think--continuing to use our laughable alphabet these seventy-three years while there was a rational one at hand, to be had for the taking.

It has taken five hundred years to simplify some of Chaucer's rotten spelling--if I may be allowed to use to frank a term as that--and it will take five hundred years more to get our exasperating new Simplified Corruptions accepted and running smoothly. And we sha'n't be any better off then than we are now; for in that day we shall still have the privilege the Simplifiers are exercising now: ANYBODY can change the spelling that wants to.

BUT YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE PHONOGRAPHIC SPELLING; THERE ISN'T ANY WAY. It will always follow the SOUND. If you want to change the spelling, you have to change the sound first.

Mind, I myself am a Simplified Speller; I belong to that unhappy guild that is patiently and hopefully trying to reform our drunken old alphabet by reducing his whiskey. Well, it will improve him. When they get through and have reformed him all they can by their system he will be only HALF drunk. Above that condition their system can never lift him. There is no competent, and lasting, and real reform for him but to take away his whiskey entirely, and fill up his jug with Pitman's wholesome and undiseased alphabet.

One great drawback to Simplified Spelling is, that in print a simplified word looks so like the very nation! and when you bunch a whole squadron of the Simplified together the spectacle is very nearly unendurable.

The da ma ov koars kum when the publik ma be expektd to get rekonsyled to the bezair asspekt of the Simplified Kombynashuns, but--if I may be allowed the expression--is it worth the wasted time? [Figure 7]

To see our letters put together in ways to which we are not accustomed offends the eye, and also takes the EXPRESSION out of the words.

La on, Makduf, and damd be he hoo furst krys hold, enuf!

It doesn't thrill you as it used to do. The simplifications have sucked the thrill all out of it.

But a written character with which we are NOT ACQUAINTED does not offend us--Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, and the others--they have an interesting look, and we see beauty in them, too. And this is true of hieroglyphics, as well. There is something pleasant and engaging about the mathematical signs when we do not understand them. The mystery hidden in these things has a fascination for us: we can't come across a printed page of shorthand without being impressed by it and wishing we could read it.

Very well, what I am offering for acceptance and adopting is not shorthand, but longhand, written with the SHORTHAND ALPHABET UNREACHED. You can write three times as many words in a minute with it as you can write with our alphabet. And so, in a way, it IS properly a shorthand. It has a pleasant look, too; a beguiling look, an inviting look. I will write something in it, in my rude and untaught way: [Figure 8]

Even when _I_ do it it comes out prettier than it does in Simplified Spelling. Yes, and in the Simplified it costs one hundred and twenty-three pen-strokes to write it, whereas in the phonographic it costs only twenty-nine.

[Figure 9] is probably [Figure 10].

Let us hope so, anyway.

[Samuel Clemens] Mark Twain's essay: A Simplified Alphabet

Re:Well, sure, why not? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 6 years ago | (#25290711)

Twain was a smart man, smarter than you it seems, as you don't seem to realise that he was NOT SERIOUS in that essay.

Have you ever read Huckleberry Finn? [virginia.edu] In it, he uses southern dialect in the narrative, as it's written in the first person, told by Huck, a simple country boy. But the characters' words are spelled and grammar used as the speaker speaks them.

Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up. I couldn't stood it much longer.

That was Finn, but Jim (the story's real hero) speaks in the negro dialect of the time

"Who dah?"

      He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy -- if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places. Pretty soon Jim says:

      "Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin."

In Noo Yawk they say "Da dwog! Yoo pawked da kaw ahn da dyam dwag!" while in Kentunkee day say "Da dawg! Yall pawrked da kawr own da dayum dawg!"

Re:Well, sure, why not? (1)

bratwiz (635601) | more than 6 years ago | (#25293019)

Of course he wasn't, you dolt. Sam Clemens was a very funny man.


Re:Well, sure, why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25298713)

Sure, you can call it newspeak also.

Come on people, english is not that hard to learn (speaking in the perspective of a non-natal english speaker)

Lets... (1)

moose_hp (179683) | more than 6 years ago | (#25285561)

Let's get rid of math next, it's so distressing for the kids to learn it.

Maybe go after history and geography after that, I'll be damned if I didn't have a hard time learning those.


The point of education is not to try to make the kids feel good, it is to give them the knowledge and skills to not only to survive in a modern world, also to make them able to contribute to the society and the humanity.

Guess what, if you aspire to a job behind a desktop, you're going to need spelling, even if you didn't like it as a kid. (and inbefore "use computers noob", no, a computer spell check does nothing for you if you don't know the right spelling, you'll end up choosing another word from the list that differs from what you wanted to say.)

Sometimes I wonder if we are not directing into another dark ages, or another Roman Empire-like fall, an Orwellian nightmare, etc.

(btw, english is not my first language)

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