Emma Egg
Success in Reading and Writing
Corey Clown

What is it that is different about written English?

Phonetic Alphabet

The English Alphabet makes a phonetic representation of our spoken language. That is, each letter represents a sound. So the letters 'c', 'a' and 't' spell 'cat'. This simple model is all that is needed in some languages but it holds true for only a part of English.

Spoken English

The spoken language is an amalgam of many sources representing phases of external influence in England's history. The original Celtic has been overlaid with words from Roman Latin (and Greek), Viking Scandanavian, Angle and Saxon Germanic and Norman French along with influences from other Western European regions. More recently English has incorporated words from most of the world's languages. Add to this the changes that inevitably occur over hundreds of years of use and strong regional accents and we end up with a rich but complex language. The Alphabet has to reflect this.

Some of the complexities that arise in English spelling:

One extreme example is the spelling of the sound 'or'. The 13 ways are:

war, door, bore, soar, raw, taught, thought, dinosaur, four, for, pause, water, always

The two stages of development

Many children learn the basic alphabet and sight words (is, it, the etc) in their first year. They learn this through familiarity and pattern recognition. They often don't develop a strong connection between the spelling and their speech. Typically at this stage children do not analyse or break down the words to their components.

Some children strike a 'complexity barrier' as they develop a greater understanding of the range of the English language. As the complexity increases they meet many different ways of spelling a sound, multisyllable words and different sounds for the same spelling. Children are unable to memorise all the combinations and options that English contains. If they lack the analysis tools to identify and categorise what they are dealing with they will be limited in their confidence and ability with written English.

Letterlinks, Tools for Language