Altho it may come as a surprize, many people are unhappy with current English spelling rules. They've addresst the issue by proposing we thoroly consider changing how some words are spelt.

Think spellings like those above could never be mainstream? Think again.

Language is constantly evolving, and massive spelling changes have been made to languages before.

In fact, in 2008 Portugal's parliament voted to change the spelling of hundreds of words so they'd be spelled more phonetically and standardize spelling across Portuguese-speaking countries.

However, the move has caused problems for the country, particular for the government and educators, and it's been widely criticized.

But while Portugal's uniform spelling system is intended to standardize legal documents and make Internet searches easier, proponents of English spelling reform say the results could be far more significant.

How's that spelled again?

English soundsEnglish isn't the easiest language to learn. It has about 44 sounds, but unlike many languages — such as Finnish and Korean— these sounds aren't represented with the same number of spellings.

English actually has 185 spellings, and 69 of them have more than one pronunciation.

For example, consider the multiple ways the following "ough" words are pronounced: though, through, cough, bough, rough.

And take a look at the various ways we spell words that produce an "oo" sound: shoe, blue, through, flew, you, two, too.

It's confusing spellings like these that can make learning the English language difficult, even for children raised in countries where the language is widely spoken.

"It takes English-speaking children up to two years longer to master the spelling of basic words compared with children who speak other European languages," said Stephen Linstead, chair of the U.K.-based The English Spelling Society (TESS), an international organization that raises awareness of the problems caused by irregularities in English spelling.

And difficulties in English-language acquisition have effects that reach far outside the classroom. The Department of Labor estimates that illiteracy costs businesses and taxpayers $225 annually because of crime, unemployment and lost workforce productivity.

International English Spelling Congress

Linstead and TESS believe alternative spellings would make it easier to become proficient in English, and the organization has proposed an International English Spelling Congress (IESC) to implement an alternative spelling system.

The IESC will be held in early 2016 and will bring together linguistic experts from English-speaking countries across the globe.

Delegates will attend either in person or via video conferencing, and they'll elect an Expert Commission to draw up a short list of alternative proposals for English spelling.

"At the moment the Society does not endorse any particular alternative to English spelling," Linstead said.

He said reform could range from changing the spelling of 10 percent of English words to up to 80 percent of the English dictionary.

While some have proposed simply changing the spelling of certain words to make them more phonetic, others have advocated the adoption of a more comprehensive system, such as Nue Speling. The excerpt below is written entirely in Nue Speling and was originally published in a Simplified Spelling Board pamphlet in 1908.

Nue Speling

Linstead acknowledges that making extensive changes to the English language would be a monumental task, but he hopes the IESC’s proposal will eventually gain support among English speakers and replace traditional spelling.

"We do not underestimate the challenges. All spelling change tends to be resisted in whatever country it is proposed."

A century of spelling reform

TESS isn’t the first organization to propose a more logical spelling system.

In 1906, the Simplified Spelling Board (SSB) was founded, and its efforts to reform English spelling were supported by several big names, including Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain and U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Brewer.

Roosevelt political cartoonThe board published a list of 300 words with more intuitive spellings and urged their widespread adoption.

President Theodore Roosevelt supported the plan and ordered the U.S. Government Printing Office to use the new spellings for all official communications.

But not everyone was on board. Several newspapers ridiculed the president, and Congress stated that it would continue to use the spellings found in most dictionaries.

Ultimately, Roosevelt rescinded his order.

Even a century ago, many of the words on the SSB's list were already preferred by dictionaries; however, other proposed spellings that weren't adopted are still popular today with those who want to reform English.

Some of these suggestions include changing words that end in "ed" to ending with "t," which would transform words like "addressed" and "kissed" to "addrest" and 'kist."

Other changes included changing "ough" words like "although" and "thorough" to "altho" and 'thoro," and replacing the "s" with a "z" sound in words like "surprise" so they'd be spelled how they sound: "surprize."

To learn more about English spelling reform, visit The English Spelling Society website.

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Photos: (English sounds, Nue Spelling) The English Spelling Society, (Roosevelt cartoon) public domain

Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Should we make spelling easier?
Next year a group of experts will convene at the International English Spelling Congress to discuss the adoption of an alternative spelling system.