[Project Unspell is proceeding apace. Meanwhile, here is a guest post by Claire about her firsthand experience teaching people to read in write using the “diabolical” English orthography. Teachers like her, who have the knowledge and the skill to achieve superior results, are few and far between. The average results are abysmal: it takes upwards of eight years of formal instruction for native English speakers to achieve adequate literacy, and as many as ten for non-natives. Many of them never make it. Meanwhile, it takes a year or so to achieve the same results given almost any reasonably designed orthography. The opportunity cost to society of English spelling is absolutely staggering. But help is on the way: Unspell is specifically designed to be learnable “by osmosis.”]
Twelve years ago I was shocked to find I had no idea how to teach anyone to read and write. For most people this would be no reason to panic. But it was for me because I was in my final year of teacher training. Incredibly, I’d spent nearly four years in the education faculty of an Australian university and no one had mentioned the mechanics of the English writing system, where it originated and how to teach it. This omission seemed even more bizarre when I later discovered that English is one of the hardest languages to learn to read and write.