back to article Brits find accommodation a little uncomfortable

Hot on the heels of the shock news that native speakers of English struggle to spell "embarrassment", a net search engine analysis of "which words received the most queries requesting a correct spelling" revealed that Brits find "accommodation" the most challenging. That's according to Ask.com, which also fingered "accessory", " …

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text speak... really?

Not sure if this has dawned on people yet... but when I was at school, not that long ago but admittably in France and not here, we were taught how to spell way before we were allowed near computers etc...

So if the average person in this country is taught to spell at age 13-14 on the computer or the mobile, then there is a problem....

Where as the younger ones using the machines, I think that you will find that the programs are designed to teach them spelling.

When I was at school, we were graded out of 20, the higher the mark, the better and 20 being perfect, that including spelling. In every single discipline we were required to spell correctly, and around 5 points of the overall was dedicated to it. If you made the very very stupid mistake of spelling your name wrong, it was an instant fail. The logic was, if you can't spell your name, then you must not be able to answer the questions put to you!

Harsh, but much better. I regularly see letters, emails and other communications go out with spelling mistakes and punctuation flaws. And people wonder why if I have children I flatly refuse to put them through education in this country!!

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@Anon John

it's silent like the "p" in bath, but not like the "q" in Tesco.

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Boffin

SPLEEING

The problem starts in the junior school where correct spelling is not encouraged, loike it were when I were a buoy. Spelling, Grammar, Context and content seem to have been missed by modern teachers, and their teachers also. The old saying goes; that those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, teach the teachers. From my observation it has more than a ring of truth to it.

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Boffin

@Geoff Bin In: I before E

Thank you so much! Would someone please give that gentleman a Knighthood?

That is the first time I have seen the rule set out in full in these fora - in fact anywhere outside homeschooling lists. I keep promising myself that I will do as you did whenever this topic arises.

That leaves only five exceptions: seize, weird, foreign, counterfeit, protein (plus neither if pronounced ee),

Down Under, we are subjected to cultural imperialism from both sides of the Pond, but have defaulted to US English (sorry Blighty!) for many decades.

The anti-phonics "whole language/look-say" brigade is dominant in the child-minding centres which masquerade as our education system.

The troops decry pure phonics with half of the I before E rule, and then loudly complain that there are so many exceptions that it isn't worth learning, so the English language therefore MUST BE a random mess (which they as experts have to fix up - HA!)

Nevertheless, parents still hear about and demand phonics, although it is not easy to find all 29 spelling rules (that's all there are!), and the requisite teachers of pure phonics to preserve the general orderliness of the English language.

<Sigh> Ah, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be! :-)

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Stop

That's not the correct attitude...

"However, when it comes to formal letters and even job applications, they need to get the correct spellings in place."

I fail to understand how, if a certain person cannot spell correctly in everyday life, that they should be allowed to produce one document (in this case a CV) to show literacy skills. I believe they need to use correct spelling and pronunciation in all forms of communication.

Maybe remove the 160 character limit for sms based messages to allow for full English to be used?

Maybe 5.5.6 (I might implement this on my server in fact) e-mails which contain more than x amount of spelling errors or abbreviated words like "yea" when "yes" would suffice with the same number of keystrokes.

Maybe a good old speech from a certain Microsoft exec before school everyday? "Spelling, spelling, spelling, spelling, spelling"... and so on and so forth.

In fact, I'm bored of this, where's my BOFH?

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Flame

Ah yes

You may have borrowed beyond your means, re-mortgaged to take advantage of house prices that would always rise and bought everything on credit.

And who could have thought that there might be a problem with everyone in the land investing £200 a month in a pension scheme?

But clearly you are a genius and everyone else is stupid because you can correct their spelling and punctuation mistakes.

That kind of Muppet

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Boffin

The real problem...

... is that they don't teach the little bastards Latin or Greek any more.

Every time I see some journo or politico using the phrase 'The criteria is...', I think smugly to myself, 'Omg wtf lol'.

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Irony

The irony is that as English becomes the dominant world language, we may find that non-native users become more proficient than our current 'scholars'. Thus, our youth will have thrown away the one potential advantage they had in the world marketplace.

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BBC news

If you want to see how bad it's getting, just read a few stories on the BBC news site.

Nearly every story nowadays contains spelling and grammatical errors.

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Anonymous Coward

Not surprising

My son gets e-mails from his university's accommodation office with the word spelled incorrectly. It's impossible to follow links to their web pages as they have /accommodation in them or at least the actual pages do, the links have a variation of it. To avoid embarrassment, ahah got the two troulesome words in the same comment, the university shall remain unidentified as it's supposedly one of the better traditional ones.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Ah Yes from AC

In answer to all those affronted....

>>You may have borrowed beyond your means, re-mortgaged to take advantage of house prices

>>that would always rise and bought everything on credit.

No. I/We expected some sort of crash, and whilst not specifically planning for it, have managed to avoid much of the consequence so far. That's not of course to say things may not get worse.

>>And who could have thought that there might be a problem with everyone in the land investing £200 a month in a pension scheme?

Invested more than that.

>>But clearly you are a genius and everyone else is stupid because you can correct their spelling and punctuation mistakes.

Not a genius. I just had an education that taught me to spell and which included basic Greek and Latin (although I dropped out of O level Latin - I was c**p).

>> That kind of Muppet

Oh, that kind.

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Boffin

English spelling crisis

The problem is that we're squeezing our language into a tiny 26-letter alphabet; in addition, some of our spellings haven't been updated since before the Great Vowel Shift(even over here). Webster describes pronunciation with a list of symbols defined as "the 'E' in 'j[b]e[/b]t'" and the like - this has the benefit of adjusting for dialectal differences, but not when pronunciations have differing numbers of syllables. A pure phonetic alphabet could lead to confusion, since people will have to live with the fact that some words are pronounced drastically different(one of my biggest spelling problems is that I always want to leave out 'al' before 'ly', since I don't pronounce it); we'd need a larger alphabet to even try, though(Futhorc had around 33 letters, IIRC).

As for "lose/loose, it isn't much of a problem over here AFAIK since they sound very different('lose' rhymes with 'snooze', 'loose' with 'noose'(or 'goose', if you're sensitive)). What really bugs me is when people write 'insure' when they mean 'ensure'(and I personally think that the written tongue shouldn't be any more or less confusing than the spaken).

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@John Angelico

"That is the first time I have seen the rule set out in full in these fora - in fact anywhere outside homeschooling lists. I keep promising myself that I will do as you did whenever this topic arises.

That leaves only five exceptions: seize, weird, foreign, counterfeit, protein (plus neither if pronounced ee),"

Not quite. The full rule includes "seize" as the exception (although proper names also put the 'e' before the 'i' - Keith, Sheila, etc)

"weird" is not an /ee/ sound but a diphthong. It's a slide from /i/ (as in 'big') to /er/ (as in 'lurk'), and the vowel is spelt 'eir'. In all the other words you mention the 'ei' bit is unstressed. The 'ei' in 'foreign' is what they call a schwa (the first sound in 'about'). 'Counterfeit', 'caffeine' and 'protein' are the ones to watch, though.

But it's still worth repeating: 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', when the sound is /ee/, with the exception of 'seize'.

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@ Ayonuonms Crawod

"Aoccdrnig to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lterter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe."

Actually, that is total bollocks and it's time the myth was exploded.

First off, if it were really true that we "read the word as a whole" we would have no trouble reading the words 'hidlaoy', 'furtvaioe', moadew', ratmoniac' and 'snoced', all common words with first and last letters intact.

Second, it takes on average 3-6 times longer to read such jumbled passages than correct text. You can check this by timing people as they read them. The more jumbled they are the longer it takes to read. (And BTW, your passage was not jumbled all that much, was it?)

Third, it takes only slightly longer to read passages in which the first and SECOND letter - not the last - are in their correct places, suggesting that the last letter has no special significance. You can check this by, well, use your imagination.

The real reason these passages are relatively easy to read (they're not actually that easy, are they - not after a few lines) is that we rely on the large amount of contextual information they contain, together with a certain amount of unscrambling to reach recognisable spellings. Both processes are inefficient and time-consuming: that is the reason they take so much longer to read.

Because of the first-and-last rule all words of up to three letters are intact and all four letter words are immediately and unambiguously decipherable. This leaves practically the whole of the grammatical structure intact. You can check this by removing all the jumbled letters and leaving only the ones that can be unambiguously read.

After that, all you need to do is crack a couple of the shorter 'content' words and the field of meaning becomes clear enough for us to anticipate what the other words are likely to be. With a little unscrambling we can confirm our hunches. You can check this by slipping in a phrase that is completely out of context. No one will be able to guess it. Contrast this with how easy it is to boil cod in vinegar spot an out-of-context phrase in properly spelt text.

But don't take my word for it - check it out for yourself. It's what your critical faculty is for.

Efficient reading is actually a complex of many acquired skills, but without pre-existing and reasonably accurate knowledge of how a word is spelt you can't identify it in text (obviously!) In fact, as eye-scans show, we do actually trace the contours of the letters from left to right, monitoring the spelling as we go. When we record a match we 'see' the word; when we don't we resort to less efficient methods.

BTW, did anybody ever track down that "Cambridge University" source?

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Alien

Jumbled illustration

Actually, all you ElReg guys can help me out here with a survey.

Can you read ALL the words in this jumbled sentence?

My gahadfrentr was a klidny but tiractun iddaivunil who eervy day at bareksfat ate foetuern selics of tasot, sveen beliod eggs, rulbiet the ohstuoue, and dnark fvie mgus of bcalk cefofe.

Take your time.

*

*

*

OK, did you have trouble with "rulbiet the ohstuoue"?

(Posted in the interests of honest research)

Alien, because "rulbiet the ohstuoue" is very rude where he comes from.

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