Monday, February 09, 2015

Article on Unspell published by The Atlantic

[Good article, wrong headline. Blame the editors.]
[Update: headline fixed promptly after some words.]
[Update: here it is on Facebook (with the wrong headline).]

Johnny in Topeka can’t read, but Janne in Helsinki is effortlessly finishing his storybooks. Such a disparity may be expected by now, but the reason might come as a surprise: It probably has much less to do with teaching style and quality than with language. Simply put, written English is great for puns but terrible for learning to read or write. It’s like making children from around the world complete an obstacle course to fully participate in society but requiring the English-speaking participants to wear blindfolds.

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Anonymous said...

I noticed something in English, a modern barbarous language:

- verbs are typically short and terse, reflecting the orders barked at the English by the mercenary Saxons they hired to defend them form being conquered and who ended up conquering them.
- verbs are almost never declined, a poverty that probably reflected life as a conquered people.
- adjectives are very few and also short, as typical of Germanic languages.
- nouns have often two synonyms, a short one and long one; the latter is used for fanciful purposes and comes from French and the former, is the run of the mill from German.

As a lingua franca, English is fine for commerce, but is terrible for transmitting knowledge. French, when it was a lingua franca (hence the term), did better at the latter. But, in the end, Latin would be quite appropriate for both, as it once was (hence the term lingua franca being in Latin), with the advantage that today it's cast in stone as a dead, immutable language.

Unknown said...

Link is broken.

Jacob Gittes said...

Congratulations on the article in the Atlantic (not my favorite venue for US propaganda, but hey).

I have been meaning to try your system, but it's just so damn hard to find the time, and my 8 year old son is learning to read pretty well, despite the idiocy of English spelling.
I am hoping to just dispense with the problem by emigration - to Finland, ironically enough (or coincidentally enough).
Anyway, you are truly a great inventor and innovator.

inohuri said...

Click on: "Good Article" at the top.