work in a furniture store. I can't believe how horribly our younger employees
spell everyday words: "fabrik," "couche," "curtins," etc. What has happened to
When English was taught in a unified
way - speaking, spelling, writing and reading reinforcing each other - students
readily mastered language arts. The rules of spelling were explicitly taught
along with phonics in kindergarten.
But now hardly any schools teach
reading with phonics. Hardly any teach handwriting correctly. And most don't
teach spelling at all until the third grade or so, when it's too late.
Today's educators mistakenly believe
they should wait to give formal spelling instruction. They don't think K-2
pupils are ready. That's wrong, of course, but that's the way it is.
Pupils today are in "child-centered
classrooms" with "developmentally-appropriate practice." The focus is on the
process, not the end-product. Spelling errors are tolerated as long as the
child is trying to construct meaning out of words, even badly misspelled words.
Children are encouraged to invent,
or make up, the spellings of words however it makes sense to them. Educators do
not believe it is appropriate to correct those invented spellings; they believe
it is helping the child to "construct" his or her own spelling rules, instead
of imposing the spelling rules of the last few centuries on them, as if that
were somehow oppressive or wrong.
Much of the time, of course, children
guess wrong with their spelling "inventions." You've noted a few examples in
your question; probably the worst thing about invented spelling is that
students who get away with this for so many years grow up to be employees who
don't know their spelling is atrocious, and don't care, even when they lead to
costly mistakes and bad PR.
But since they aren't corrected all
through their years in school, the misspellings take root. Bad spelling habits and
laziness get entrenched. After a short time, bad spelling is extremely hard to
When formal spelling instruction
does begin, it unfortunately relies on memorizing spelling lists, even though
that's known to be a weak method. Since spelling is taught in isolation from
the other language skills, it's harder to learn, so the number of spelling
words assigned in a school year has been drastically reduced from years past.
Therefore, vocabulary and reading comprehension suffer, too.
Worst of all, by the week after the
test, many kids have already forgotten the correct spellings they memorized,
and already slipped back into the habit of "inventing" whatever spelling "makes
sense" to them.
Then what happens, as we are seeing
all over, is that people cannot express themselves correctly either in speech
or in writing, but they still have strong feelings. So they turn to
overexpressing themselves incorrectly, with exaggerated emotions and gestures.
Instead of defining and refining their ideas into effective communication, they
are reduced to grunts, head bashes, coarse gestures, stammering . . . and their
attempts at written communication are just as bad.
The answer: "reinvent" common sense,
return to "phonics only" in the early grades, watch dyslexia dwindle to
nothing, and American spelling improve drastically.
Homework: For an excellent analysis, see the book,
Why Americans Read and Spell Poorly
by Edward Loring Tottle.