Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 09:41 GMT
But this doesn't change what I wrote earlier, particularly at the beginning of this thread regarding pattern recognition and orthography (and its shortcomings, eg: "choose" and "loose"), and the way the brain matches them to oral pronunciation. I don't care how educated or literate you are, unless you are preoccupied with it, your writing and reading will at some stage be affected by irregular phonemic representation and human error.
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 09:55 GMT
I don't know what formal education Whitney Houston has, but a regional pronunciation "ax" isn't necessarily uneducated; it can be derived from a cultural background. Many highly educated Blacks in the media speak using non-standard language and pronunciations, and this is obviously a matter of cultural consequence or personal choice. Some educated personalities even present themselves shabbily (at least apparently) with their complementing choice of language but I won't go there.

Many older (old!) Australians have quaint and peculiar pronunciations too, eg. "sundi" for Sunday; "filum" for film (there are plenty of other examples that are more startling, though I can't think of them at the moment just because I want to). I'm sure this is a legacy from Britain and might be non-standard but certainly is not an indication of illiteracy or a lack of education.

Back at school when doing "une dictée" in French class, it was important to record words correctly as they were heard in isolation and to distinguish for example: "in" from "un" in "brin" and "brun". Maybe this correctness isn't seen as so correct anymore as the merger of the nasals "in" and "un" has become commonplace in France, but is it necessarily non-standard or wrong? I don't know what the Academie Francaise declares, but many people who make the distinction (esp. in Quebec) think it is wrong and can't think otherwise, just as rhotic speakers think non-rhotic English doesn't make sense in light of orthography and the letter R.

It all boils down to perspective as our behaviour, customs and language are socio-culturally driven; it's not dictated by an academy. Standards (for lack of a less generic word) aren't confined to a library the way pedants are.
Sanja   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 14:24 GMT
It is still hard for me to believe that illiteracy rate can be so high in such a developed and rich country as USA.
As for the mistakes, I don't think it's just the language and its irregular spelling, I think that native English speakers seem to care less than others about those things (as I said before).
As for that sentence and how many F's it contains, I can easily see that there are 6 F's and I don't get confused by the word "of", because as a non-native English speaker I am aware of it and I actually pronounce it as an "F". Maybe native speakers, who are usually more aware of pronunciation than the spelling, would easily forget about that "F" because it sounds more like a "V" to them.
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 15:08 GMT
The first time I read it through, I detected 2 Fs. It's like that other mind game Easterner pasted.
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 18:24 GMT
The _functional_ illiteracy rate in the U.S. is very high (about 1/3 of the population). Functional illiteracy means that a person can read to some extent, but that his reading skills are so poor that they are effectively nonexistent when it comes to the reading requirements of everyday life, such as reading a magazine or a want-ad in a newspaper. Many, many Americans cannot do these things, and thus they are functionally illiterate. In a highly developed society, functional illiteracy is identical to complete illiteracy; knowing how to recognize a few isolated words or extremely simple phrases isn't any different from not even knowing the alphabet.

One reason illiteracy is not very visible in the U.S. is that illiterates hide their illiteracy extremely well. Additionally, literacy levels tend to stratify society, so that highly literate people rarely come into contact with illiterate people (and are aware of the fact). Finally, literate people often find it very difficult to believe that anyone could be illiterate, which makes it that much easier for illiterates to "pass" in society.

When you actually test people and look at the numbers, though, the results are alarming.
Mi5 Mick   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 02:31 GMT
>>Finally, literate people often find it very difficult to believe that anyone could be illiterate, which makes it that much easier for illiterates to "pass" in society. <<

OK you fooled me.

Just kidding ;P
Sanja   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 14:34 GMT
Well, 1/3 of the population sounds like an extremely large number. It's hard to believe that so many Americans in this modern society are functionally illiterate and can't read a magazine or whatever. But if you say so, Mxsmanic, then I have to believe you, because I can't tell from my own experience. Only Americans that I've ever met were people online (chat rooms etc.) and they were able to read everything, just most of them were terrible spellers. LOL :)
Mi5 Mick   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 15:26 GMT
Eh, the first Bosnian I see online and oh what petty joy it brings at others' expense. I wonder how the infrastructure there's coming along because can and string are only recyclable when others share.

Well the last vibratory transmission made its way out of the hills and beyond the mountain ranges, and the proxy even managed conversion. Yes it made it! Awaiting the next tap for a laugh...

Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 09:56 GMT
Mi5 Mick, you don't know anything about my country and about the situation here, and I will not even bother to try and explain it to you. But the fact is, such "rich" and "developed" and "mighty" countries like USA, Great Britain, Australia etc. can't even teach their people to spell their own language correctly....I wonder how that happened?
You won't achieve anything by sarcasm.
By the way, it wasn't my intention to offend anyone, I just said what I noticed while chatting with native English speakers. If you got offended or anything, that's your problem, not mine.
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 11:37 GMT
It's easy (not just for me) to make light of someone who emanates the same, harping tone along the same reoccuring theme, post after post. I'm not blind; I can recognise it in a thread and a whole forum (as small as this one is). Profane language is reserved for when offense is taken, no not here, and I'm sure you can cop a little sarcasm for your ways. It's no big deal.

The few students that I tutor on the side aren't entertained by the misfortunes or illiteracy of others; they won't look at it for inspiration or for benchmarking their own progress. I'd take the piss out of them the same way if they did. No problem with sarcasm there.

I've followed the situation there but I don't pretend to know anything about your country; I don't really care anyway but an outsider wouldn't have to be beamed there via satellite to have a reasonable idea. Rich, developed and mighty conjure up terrfic images for nations but mean diddly at the human level, even in the light of greater opportunities. You've made up your mind as to what this means but powerful, democratic governments can't control human nature and so people are exploited everywhere.
Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 13:56 GMT
Look, I just told you about my experience with native English speakers, and my experience is that many of them are poor spellers. I didn't do it just to make my own success look bigger. You should be able to admit that the problem exists, and not just offend me and my country in return.
Besides, here is a text written by a Finnish student who spent a year in America as an international student. Maybe you will consider his opinion more relevant, since he doesn't come from some poor country like I do (feel that sarcasm?):
The Mis-Spelling of Words in American English
Silja Sarkoja
A FAST-US-1 (TRENPP2A) Introduction to American English First Paper
The FAST Area Studies Program
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere

Being a Finn, it has always been very easy to me to write my mother tongue. It does not seem to be equally simple to those whose mother tongue is English. Over the years, I have noticed that native speakers often misspell common English words. I have often seen "their" or "thier" instead of "there" or "they are" (they're).

On the other hand, it is also true that English grammar and spelling are well taught in Finnish schools. It was amazing to find out that I was getting the top grades on spelling exams in my English class during my year as an exchange student in the U.S. I could not believe that I, a non-native, could spell better than those who spoke English much better than I! Even though those students in my class had been speaking English all their lives, they could not spell.

It is a fact that English spelling can be quite illogical. Some of the irregularities can be traced to the language's checkered past, especially its many borrowings from other languages. Differences between American and British usage add a bit of craziness. (I will not concentrate on that in this paper.) English spelling is arbitrary; often more than one form or variant of a word is in current usage -- the same way as it is in Finnish.

I have divided the misspellings into four groups, which are:

Misspelling that consists of omitting or doubling a letter.
Misspelling that includes a conversion of letters.
Misspelling that disturbs understanding a word.
Misspelling that is based on the English pronunciation.

In the examples below, the misspelled form is on the left, the correct one on the right.

1. invallid - invalid
mutabillity - mutability
sumit - summit
sumary - summary
baloon or baloone - balloon
bannana or bannanna - banana
laggoon or lagune - lagoon
monnopoly - monopoly
monnolog - monolog
Monntana - Montana

2. wierd - weird
feild - field
wieght - weight
gaurd - guard

I would also put the words
wierwolf - werewolf
wiery - weary

in this group, even though the misspelling is based on pronunciation, not on the conversion of two letters.

3. When seeing these words, it is hard to decipher what the writer's intention has been (at least for me it was). It may be easier for a native speaker to trace back the right form even though misspelled.

Wikeekee - Waikiki
Feegee or Feejee - Fiji
arraighn or arrain - arraign
dubbly or dubly - doubly

4. The Finnish sound system operates differently than the English one. Therefore, it is sometimes hard for a Finn to understand how one can misspell a word like "victor" (misspelled "victer"); Finns often pronounce it the Finnish way with an o-sound, not like it is supposed to be pronounced in English. These misspellings are based on the sounds:
isalation - isolation
iratate - irritate
moskeeto or moskito - mosquito
vicenity, vicinetty, vicenety, vicinetty, vicinitty or vicinnity - vicinity
victem or victum - victim
viger or vigger - vigor
washabel, washeble or washible - washable
Washingten, Washingtin or Washinton - Washington
acquaintence or acquaintense - acquaintance
amusemint or amuzement - amusement
mirrer or mirrh - mirror
mischeivous, mischievious or mischiefous - mischievous
mogal, mogel, mogle or mogule - mogul
Norwaygien, Norweegian, Norwegean or Norwejian - Norwegian

Spelling Finnish is easy. Yet I cannot help wondering how it is possible that many Americans graduate from high school without the ability to spell, not to mention without an ability to write essays? Could it be the American culture, where speech is considered more important than writing? It may be a stereotype, but it seems a typical American teenager would rather watch TV or talk on the phone than write a letter or read a book. And how could one learn spelling on the phone?
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 14:31 GMT
Bah I don't care because like I said it's no big deal, so don't be offended. I don't need another one of your anecdotes; it doesn't interest me as I've heard it all before. There's more to English than bad spellers. Just get your kicks elsewhere. Simple.
Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 14:50 GMT
Well I don't care about your opinion any more than you care about mine. Even more simple.
Easterner   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 16:10 GMT

I realised from your latest post that some English speakers' difficulties with spelling come from the fact that theoretically one sound or group of sounds can be written in more than one way (consider "I", "eye" or "-y" in "lullaby" , "by", "bye" and "buy", or "meet" and "meat"). Besides, the vowels of weak syllables are always pronounced as a schwa, and that can account for the uncertainty of how to write certain words, especially less frequent and foreign ones. This may account for spelling errors type 3 and 4 in the article you posted.

By this I am not trying to find an excuse for functional illiteracy, but just to draw attention to the fact that even an educated English speaker has a slightly more difficult job than you or me, who happen to have a nice phonetic spelling with our languages (I have met an American with high school education who spelled "suicide" as "su-side": being sensitive to spelling as I know you are, I hope this won't make you faint). Of course I'm also irritated by misspellings such as "loose" instead of "lose", or "it's" instead of "its", but I'm trying to understand the situation of an average English speaker with an average degree of spelling sense.

Of course this is not much of a problem if you are well read, and your sense of spelling is well cultivated, but I think this is not the case with many (or should I say "most"?) speakers. American culture at least tends to be more visual and speech-based than literate - at least if we take an ordinary man or woman of the street: I guess they gain 80 % of their knowledge about the world from TV, that is, through images or sounds, and do not do much reading except for gas or electricity bills. Maybe kids should take more dictation exercises at school, but I'm not sure they will. So I think you can do nothing more than be proud of your sense of spelling and continue to give a good example. :-)
Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 16:21 GMT
Easterner, I agree with everything you said. And no, I didn't faint because of that "suside" instead of "suicide", I've seen even worse examples myself... LOL :) But the fact that one sound can be written in more than one way is not an excuse, I see that in other languages as well and speakers of those other languages still know how to spell their own language and English as well. So there must be something else. I'm not trying to diminish native English speakers, but the fact is that they don't care about their own language enough. Good spelling comes from practice. If they cared about it, they wouldn't make all those mistakes.