English Spelling, Why You So Weird?

Ever wonder why English spelling is so freakin’ weird and what it means for poor kids trying to learn to read?

Here’s your answer, posted this week on The Atlantic: “How Spelling Keeps Kids From Learning.”

Here are some of the tidbits from the article, by Luba Vangelova, that caught my eye:

  • English has 205 ways to spell 44 sounds
  • Because of a one-to-one letter-to-sound relationship in their language, “… after Finnish children learn their alphabet … they can read well within three months of starting formal learning.”
  • “… it typically takes English-speaking children at least 10 years to become moderately proficient spellers”
  • The word busy apparently was spelled bisy until non-English-speaking Belgians operating the printing presses botched their job.
  • Having a challenging language to read has real consequences for many, many children and adults.

There’s plenty more in the article, including how people propose to address the problems that come from much of the population struggling with their “reading level.” Definitely check it out.

2 thoughts on “English Spelling, Why You So Weird?

    • Funny – there’s a great book called Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue that’s well worth the read if anyone’s really into the other weird crap we do, too.

      And explaining all those -ough issues to a kid? Rough.


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