Improve 1 Billion Lives.

hero-girl

Modernize English spelling to make it as natural as English speaking

We inherited 500 year old, dysfunctional spelling. But we don’t have to pass it on to future generations.

contact-lens

Our spelling is like a torn, foggy contact lens. While it irritates us at times, we mostly ignore it. That’s a very human response, isn’t it? We tend to put off those things we most need to change. To find a solution, we first have to understand the problem.

Legacy Spelling: Consistently Inconsistent

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  • Meat, great, sweat and caveat each end with the same E-A-T letter pattern but are pronounced four different ways. Notice the spelling here: Meat rhymes with suite. Great rhymes with straight. Sweat rhymes with debt. Caveat rhymes with apricot.
  • We say "wun" and write one. We say "uv" and write of.
  • Which is spelled correctly: cripple or triple? Which is spelled correctly: apple or chapel? Fizz or physical?

Legacy Spelling: Limp Letters

weak-letters
Limp letters are letters that represent many sounds.
  • /s/ sound as in snake
  • /z/ sound as in is
  • /sh/ sound as in sure
  • /zh/ sound as in casual
  • no sound as in island

The more sounds a letter makes the weaker it becomes. This diffusion of meaning is so rampant in Legacy Spelling that it can even be found inside words. The Y in gypsy makes both the /i/ and the long-e sound. The L in colonel makes both the /r/ and /l/ sounds and the G in engage makes both the /g/ and /j/ sounds.

Legacy Spelling: Letter Anarchy

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If limp letters weren't bad enough, Legacy Spelling is hesitent and indecisive. Watch here as Legacy Spelling struggles to pin down the /s/ sound:

  • sad (s)
  • dress (ss)
  • mouse (se)
  • scene (sc)
  • sword (sw)
  • listen (st)
  • schism (sch)
  • isthmus (sth)
  • convalesce (sce)
  • city (c)
  • fence (ce)
  • waltz (z)
  • psychotic (ps)

Thirteen halfhearted efforts to make a single sound! And /s/ is just the beginning. Most other sounds are similarly watered down:

  • 22 attempts to express the long E sound
  • 18 tries at the long A sound
  • 22 indecisive stabs at the /oo/ sound
  • 22 blindfolded attempts at the long I sound
  • The /sh/ sound is ambiguously spelled 19 different ways: sh, ch, ce, ci, s, chsi, sc, sci, sch, seo, si, ss, ti, t, ssi, x, xio, c, che.

Quiz time, fellow Legacy Spelling experts. How many words can you name that use the above letters to spell the /sh/ sound? Try it. Seriously. Pause a moment and see how many you can think of. OK. How did you do? The task proves impossible because our minds don't accept that ch, sci, t, x and the others make the /sh/ sound. We rightly identify this as nonsensical. You may not remember, but you likely thought spelling and reading were nonsensical when you first began. But through memorization, spelling tests and countless hours of repetition, words like machine went from nonsensical to habitual.

Legacy Spelling is Failing Us

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The results of limp, indecisive spelling are clear:

  • Despite a $13,000 government investment1 per student per year, only 34% of 4th graders can read at grade level.2
  • Only 37% of 12th graders are academically prepared for college reading.3
  • 130 million U.S. adults read at or below the 5th grade level.4
  • 8,400,000 U.S. adults are illiterate.5

The Bad News: Spelling is the Foundation

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If you were among the 66% of 4th graders struggling to read, a 4th grade math problem might look like this:

The aseme glass somepony was tranpoting 4,570 glass veils to the eperdom store. A quick red liget kasud the diver to hit the brake hard, prospelling 1,983 vasels to the groned. How many vasels were devoured in took to the emperum?

Struggles with reading spill over into all other areas of education. No one enjoys frustration. No one enjoys feeling stupid and inadequate. And yet this is the experience created by Legacy Spelling.

We want students to climb the heights of education and yet we equip them with the wet cardboard boxes of Legacy Spelling.

Hundreds of reading, literacy and phonics programs have been created over the years to teach students how to fold damp cardboard flaps, how to stack wet boxes, how to carefully distribute their weight as they climb, but students don't need any of that. What they need is a strong, dependable ladder.

The Good News: Spelling is the Foundation

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Spelling is the foundation of reading. Reading is the foundation of education. And education is not only the foundation of an individual's life but by extension, all of civilization. This "casual chain" is good news because it means we can improve our world, by improving our spelling.

Solar Spell: Designed for the way People Learn

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We learn by relating the new to the known. For example, it is a fact that glia forms myelin, but you haven’t learned anything until this new information is related to something you know. That’s how we’re wired.

Students learning to read already know spoken language. They know the sequence of sounds /w/ /u/ /n/ means the number 1. Strong spelling matches its letter pattern to the sound pattern students already know. In Solar Spell, 1 is spelled wun. Spelling this way gives voice to written words. A new reader actually hears the word in their mind and associates the new (a visual sequence of letters) and the known (an auditory sequence of sounds). Legacy Spelling doesn’t work this way. What do new readers hear when they see one? Maybe “on”. Maybe “own” as in tone. Maybe “own-ee” or “on-ee”. Whatever they hear, it doesn’t light up the /w/ /u/ /n/ spoken language pathway. Natural association fails and the reader falls back on context or memorization.

Global Reach

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  • There are more English speakers than any other language (about 1.5 billion, most speak English as a second language)
  • English has official or recognized status in 75 countries
  • English is considered the language of business and is taught as a foreign language in over 100 countries.

Not only does modernizing English spelling improve the lives of billions but it increases the likelihood that English will become Earth’s universal, planetary language.

If Now is Not the Time for Sensible Spelling, Then When?

generations

Some generations are called to bend the future in a better direction. A generation was once called to end slavery. Another to grant women voting rights. Another to stop fascism and genocide. These struggles are never easy but once triumphed over, the world is changed for the better. Now it’s our turn. We have the privilege to hand on spelling that will benefit all. Imagine billions of better educated citizens entering society. That's the invitation. That's the challenge. Ready? Let's change the world.