January 19, 2013 12:46 am

Redundant letters are the problem

From Mr Jaber George Jabbour.

Sir, I found both the essay by Michael Skapinker about English spelling (“Well-chosen words”, Life & Arts, December 22) and the letter from Thomas Dunskus (“Real problem with English spelling”, Letters, January 5) very interesting.

Having been taught French as a second language at school when I was a child, I had to learn English on my own through reading teaching books during summer time, with the occasional help of relatives, who demonstrated how the different words would be pronounced in English. I completely agree with Mr Dunskus that the degree of difficulty of reading and learning English is compounded because certain letters are pronounced in more than one way.

However, I would like to add that the problem of the redundant letters that exist in English and many other languages makes it very difficult to know how words should be spelled and/or pronounced in all these languages. For example, every time I hear a new word/name that has the sound of a “k”, I have to ask myself whether the sound should be spelled as a “c”, “k” or “q”. This applies to English, French and probably many other Latin-based languages.

I read recently that, in 1911, the Ladies’ Home Journal made its own predictions of what life might be like 100 years later. As well as predicting store purchases by pneumatic tube, electric ships that travel on a cushion of air (hovercraft) and the phasing out of coal, it predicted that “c”, “x” and “q” would be dropped as phonetic spelling was adopted. It appears that we have not lived up to what previous generations expected of us!

Jaber George Jabbour, Director, Logos Capital, London EC4, UK

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