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It's official: English is going directly to hell in a handcart because more than half of native speakers of the lingo can't spell "embarrassed" - and even more have entered the new millennium without the foggiest idea of how 1,000 years pan out in our beloved mother tongue. To be precise, 54 per cent of us are embarrassed by " …

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@Mike

It's not that we want the language to constantly stay as it is; people are happy with the language evolving, we just don't want it utterly changed beyond recognition because someone wants to get their name in the paper.

This happens at least once a year- last year it was a professer emeritus from somewhere or other, this year it's from the Spelling Society.

Language will continue to evolve- Dalek is(was?) in the English dictionary, and that's serbo-croat (for "a far and distant thing"). But it shouldn't be changed on a whim simply because someone couldn't be arsed to listen at school.

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I'd love to see us switch to a phonetic system.

Spelling in our language definitely needs a massive overhaul. I'd love to see us switch to a phonetic system.

For a native English speaker who has taken a couple of years of German, it is easier to spell dictated haupt deutsch than my mother tongue.

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Flame

Does anyone read this far down the comments list?

Well if they do, here's my 'tuppence worth. Firstly; why would we need to reform the spelling of a livinig language. We just need to wait and the language will continue to evolve to remove words which drop out of usage and introduce new ones. Thus the language and the spelling remain current (if you don't believe me try reading anything from the 19th Century, it is harder to read because it is full of words we no longer commonly use).

Secondly; I think I can spell rather well, whereas many of my peers and colleagues cannot. Why? Could it be because I have read books from a young age? Perhaps because I look up words I do not understand? Maybe because I realise that correct spelling helps to ensure that you are taken seriously? Or maybe a combination of all of these points...

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@Watashi

Interesting point you made that one day, kids may have to learn English AND Textspeak at school! That would then turn them against using text. Great idea. They might actually take up some other interest instead of continually texting each other and even develop real social skills such as talking rather than grunting, or am I being too optimistic?

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Coat

The robot needs to eschew homophones

I tried it out. The robot said "READ". I typed "REED". I got that one wrong.

WTF??

I'll get my cote.

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Paris Hilton

If you made it this far...

come on with me, lets go grab a nice hot curry down the street...

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Boffin

Miracle cure

Take the computers (with their spell-checkers) off the kids in school and get them to read some books and I bet you'd find that by some amazing coincidence that their ability to spell would dramatically improve.

You can't reform a language, or anything else, by simply redefining it to match the ability of those who are unskilled in it. Because they'll be unskilled in your reformed language too and then you're into a spiral that ends with people pointing and grunting. You know, like teenagers.

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Here we go, yet again.

I think that a time has been reached when the British must realize, and the intelligent ones do, that language is a living thing. Unlike the Frogs, NOT sorry for that, we must not be dragged kicking and screaming down the path of stagnation, which is what they have done with their "academy". I fully believe that we have a fluent language which develops almost daily, it will stretch to encompass novelty, and must do so by definition. Anything which ceases to develop will die, stultified by over protection. Or, as we used to say in the RAF, "it's nibbled to death by ducks." Maybe, the case for the stagnation will be made by politicians interfering in matters which they do not comprehend and let's face it, they usually do. I make the point also regarding the difference between "comprehension" and "understanding", a very subtle difference but there. I often look at articles written by older journalists and compare them with some written by more modern writers and then see just how the older ones KNOW English whilst the younger ones have less comprehension. Restore the teaching of English to the classroom and allow us to take a pride in spelling, grammar and correctness, before the teaching profession kills of the proud language we know. Francis Offord.

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Reform pronouncation instead

As several other posters have pointed out, the same word is pronounced differently in different parts of England (and even more so if we include other English-speaking countries), so settling on a phonetic spelling would require a choice of which pronunciation is "correct". Other people remarked on the horrific cost of converting written documents to a new spelling standard.

But there is a simple solution: Keep the spelling but change the "official" pronunciation to follow the spelling in a consistent way. Simply define a short list of letter combinations and single letters and what their "proper" pronunciation is, using the general rule that letter combinations take precedence over single letters so, for example, the h in "that" and "chat" is pronounced differently from the h in "hat".

My guess is that you would need only about 25 different letter groups to be special cased, which should be reasonable to expect users of the language to learn. Most common words would be pronounced close to how they are pronounced today (in some part of the world, at least), but some of the more irregular word like "women" and "infinite"/"finite" (one or the other) would change "official" pronunciation.

With a modified pronunciation, reading old texts is no problem, but people who have learned only the new pronunciation would have difficulty understanding old recordings of speech. But how often do you listen to old recordings or see movies that are more than a few decades old?

And, in any case, I don't think understanding "old" English would be any harder than understanding many of the dialects already out there.

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this could get addictive

Groovy! Go to the training area section and select 'challenge - hard'. My first attempt scored 15/15 and 492 points. On this level they no longer ask you to spell 'wood' or 'read', so you'll less likely to suffer from homophonia :-p ...this could supplement my http://thinks.com/daily_codebreaker.htm fix :)

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Joke

@ William Keaton

<<There is no "G" in WHINE!!!!!>>

Yeah, and there's no "F" in "SUN" at the moment...

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Native Tongue

We know our spelling is illogical.

It's a perfect relection of the way we live our lives,

Now f*** off and leave my labial espoused fricatives alone!

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Stop

I blame the Americans

They ruined English, all by themselves!

They used TV to spread the disease.

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If you think we've got problems...

"a system which reflects how English was spoken in the 13th to 15th centuries"

Compare and contrast (if you can) modern Greek, which uses a system which reflects how Greek was spoken in the 4th century BC. Or multiple dialects of Arabic, which use a system which reflects how the language was spoken in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century AD.

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Ahem...

So the (admittedly extremely difficult) nature of English spelling is "holding Britain and the US back" is it?

One of those nations ruled over the biggest empire the world has ever known. The other is the world's only remaining superpower and biggest economy (until they get overtaken by China, and their written language is pretty tricky too!)

Not much evidence of being "held back" there, I think. Indeed, maybe the opposite is the case - having overcome the vagiaries of english spelling at an early age, we're ready to take on the world! I'd certainly like to see more of a cost/benefit analysis before we go changing anything.

Oh, and the reason that non-native speakers tend to out-perform us natives is simple selection bias. If you're able to live in a foreign country and master its language, you're probably (a) pretty intelligent, (b) motivated to get it right, (c) in possession of a knack for learning languages. You're thus likely to do better than a randomly selected local in a language test.

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Paris Hilton

This debate has been going on forever

http://www.plainlanguage.gov/examples/humor/marktwain.cfm

Paris, because she goes on forever.

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Paris Hilton

India/AUS/US/UK fonetic spelling

That's exactly what we need: fonectic spelling so each country can spell the words differently as well as pronounce them differently. Thus cutting written communication back to the standard of spoken communication ... as a means of trade restriction and job protection.

Paree, because the French will spell English differently than the English do, so that English will be easier for them to read and write...

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Nineteen eighty four?

Didn't Orwell call this kind of simplification "Newspeak?"

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It's Minnellium!

At least thats how Jennifer Saunders pronounces it..

Also the yanks don't know how to pronounce Edinborough. Actually I am not sure I do either. Is it Edinburrah or Edinbruh? Any Scots out there?

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Some mistakes aren't mistakes at all!

I took the test four times and had two "errors" according to them! I wrote "tale" (as they gave in answer) as "tail". It seems they can't even write a programme to allow for alternate spellings of the same sounding words! I also had a typo in the word "conducive" - hitting the "i" to the right of "u" by mistake. I thus conclude that the Koreans I taught in Seoul last year were in good hands!

Incidentally, the students I taught there had, on average, far better handwriting (in English!) than most English speaking people! Students there also have a proper work ethic which is probably why they are on the upswing while we are on the slippery slope to oblivion!

As for spell checkers the one in this version of Safari on a Mac computer always tells me that I misspell words like programme and harbour or neighbour!

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Why does the world speak English?

Because it's the easiest language in the world to speak poorly - and STILL be understood!

This is partly because it's still a "living" language which can change nouns to verbs at the whim of the speaker/writer. As long as the listener/reader understands what is intended by the communicator, all is well.

eg. "Google" - originally the proper noun name of a company which in very short order has become a verb. Some of you may of heard of it!

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