I find myself in complete agreement with the spelling reformers who have made out an unanswerable indictment against English orthography.
Every teacher knows with what joy a child perceives a new word which he can make out for himself by interpreting its phonetic elements, and with what consternation he beholds a word which, through its disregard of phonetic rules of analogy, he is unable to pronounce until he is told.
It has been claimed that phonetic spelling would save from one to two years of school time for the average child. Certain it is that German children are at least two years ahead of ours in their scholastic attainments. This is chiefly because the German language consists of words that are spelt as they are sounded.
Let us suppose, for example, that a child has learned to spell phonetically ‘puff’ and ‘muff’. Imagine his feelings when he is informed by the teacher that ‘rough’ and ‘enough’ are not spelled ‘ruff’ and ‘enuff’. Perplexity gives way to amazement and indignation when he is told the proper pronunciation of ‘cough, dough, through, plough, lough, laugh’.
He perhaps sees no difficulty with ‘water’, but his reason is shocked when he hears that three more letters are required to represent ‘daughter’. ‘So’ is found to be a walkover, but he fails to see why it should be spelled ‘sew’ when he wants his pants patched. In the same way, ‘toe’ is all right, although it might be shorter; but he is in trouble again when he pronounces ‘shoe’ with the ‘o’ sound, and is exhorted to remember that it should rhyme with ‘too, two, through, blue, pooh, you’ etc. The schoolmaster by-and-bye gives him a few rules to guide him in his pronunciation and spelling, but he quickly perceives that they are more honoured in the breach than in the observance and he mournfully recognises that he has to commit the spelling of all the words to memory if he would become adept.
The jobbery and corruption said to characterise political life is purity itself compared with the fearful condition of English orthography, and I am of the opinion we should sweep away the present system.