I noticed on the news this morning a story about the English Spelling Society, a group that wants to improve literacy, suggesting that we make spelling easier.
They have come up with a list of ideas, the main one highlighted being to get rid of silent letters like those in knee, crumb or cough. It believes changing the way we spell certain tricky words could help us learn to read more quickly.
Well, this is probably true, but is it a good idea?
I have a certain amount of sympathy. As a child I thought that spelling was stupid and some adults, especially those with Dyslexia and other similar learning ‘differences’, still struggle.
But does this mean that we should change the English language?
Of course the English language changes all the time, despite what some of the purists would have you believe. The English that we write and speak now is significantly different to that written and spoken in medieval or Victorian times.
But these changes are evolutionary. They happen bit by bit and they happen naturally, not through some edict. It is this evolution that makes our language so rich and interesting.
Should we wipe this out overnight just to make it easier for children to learn?
And if we do, what then? Will children learn our dumbed-down language more quickly or will they just get lazier? After all, generations before them have managed perfectly well, what is it about the current generation that makes them less able to cope?
Are they more stupid? Is the teaching worse? Or are they just more coddled, with the world constantly being shaped to make life better for them?
I have noticed in the workplace lately that young people arrive full of a sense of entitlement. They know all about their rights, but have precious little regard for the responsibilities that go along with it.
I know young people have always thought that the world owes them something, but it seems to be worse of late. I believe this is because they go through their young lives with everyone pandering to them: everything they do is wonderful; there are no losers only winners.
Well it’s not like that in the real world. Sometimes they have to accept that life’s hard, it’s not fair and yes, sometimes it seems a bit stupid.
Changing our language just to make their life easier is a step too far: leave it alone!