I have an all-new appreciation for the human mind as I’m experiencing the joys of reading through my son’s eyes. As adults we may forget the difficulty that the English language poses when we try to feel out a new word. Some words can go in a dozen different ways when trying to pronounce them. When you come across a “c”, you are never sure that it is a soft “c” or a hard “c” until you try it both ways. You have to guess whether an “h” or “e” is silent. And what the hell is the point of the “gh” in “tight”, “light”, and so on?
This process of connecting the sounds that we hear in spoken English with letters or groups of letters in written English is called phonics. In my opinion, “phonics” is a term that was invented because they didn’t want to called the process “fucked up bullshit.”
Before you write and say, “English is an amalgamation of many other languages and different rules apply depending on their origin.” Ok. Fine. That’s why it is the way it is now. But why should it continue this way? “That’s the way it’s always been,” has never been a good excuse to not explore changing something for the better (I’m looking at you, electoral college).
I am no scientist nor did I do any research on this, but I am going to make the bold assumption that your brain wastes tiny amounts of energy running down its lists of exceptions when trying to figure out a word like, “physician.” Is that pahisikian? No. You have to remember that “ph” makes an “f” sound. You have to remember that “y” in this instance makes a short “i” sound. And then you have to just know that “cian” is pronounced shun. Crazy. Why can’t it just be spelled “fizzishun”?
If all words were spelled phonetically, we could spend less time learning English in school and more time learning other subjects that can enhance our children’s knowledge before they are cast off into the world. More math, science and history. Hurrah! Or perhaps implement a second language earlier in life? Most Americans don’t begin learning a second language in school until 7th or 8th grade (and that’s in a good school system). One thing that can be learned from other languages is how phonetic they are. In Russian, they have a 33 character alphabet. Each letter has its own unique sound and there are specific rules to each. There are very few exceptions. In English, there are 143,987 exceptions (estimate).
What if we assigned letters to sounds and just stuck with it no matter what the word?
- a, b, d, e, f, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u, v, w, z would basically stay the same
- c would not be either soft nor hard. We have s and k for those roles. “C” would represent the chsound.
- g would handle its current sound as in the word “grape.” The g-sound as in the word “barrage” would be picked up by “j”
- j would handle its current sound in the word “jeep” or as previously stated, the other g-sound
- q would stay the same, but can we stop requiring a “u” to be used with it? Let the “q” do all of the work. Q’s that sound like k’s will be eliminated though: “plak“, “baroke” and “tork“.
- x is useless. We have z’s for words like “xemur” and we have “ks” for words like “tax”. New role: thesh sound. That xood work nicely.
- y, how did you get vowel status in the first place? We need you for “yellow” and “yarn” but you need to stop being such a poser. No vowels for you!
- We need a new letter for the th sound. How about θ (known as theta)? θis is working nicely.
- And as you will see below, we’ll need something for the oo sound in “book”. I’m using ω (omega) because it looks like boobs.
Bonus: How exciting would it be to see an alphabet poster that has a nice 7×4 grid and all the squares are populated? I hate seeing two extra spaces that are filled in with silly things like apples, schools, or happy children.
With change, some new rules need to be established…
- letters are assumed to be short sounding unless they are triggered for the long sound. We can use a silent ”e”, but the point of this exercise is to become phonetic. So we need some other way to indicate a long sound. My idea is to double the letter up.
- bak = “back”
- baak = “bake”
- red = “red” or “read”
- reed = “reed” or “Reid” or “read”
- The current double vowel “oo” be replaced by ω as previously stated. So it would be bωk, not “book”.Book would not be pronounced “boke“.
- Compound vowels like “aw” v “au” or “ow” vs “aw” will always default to the combination with the “w”.
- The age of silent letters is over. If there is an “e” at the end of a word, it should be pronounce eh.
- Words that currently end in “y” will now end in “ee“. (No more y as a vowel)
Obviously, I’m no linguist and I’m sure any English major would laugh at the mere suggestion of upheaving our “beautiful” language for such nonsense. Purists will be sad to see the introduction of new letters and the disappearance of homonyms. Not-yet-realized problems also might occur when you don’t have three different spellings of “to”, “two” and “too”. But with practice and ingenuity (“to”, “2″ and “also”), I think it would pay off for our future generations.
Now let’s give it a whirl:
Mii naam iz Pat. Ii doon’t ekspekt tω caanj θe wirld wiθ mii nω sistem, but Ii hoop tω raaz awaarnes tω θe problems ov owr komplikaated langwej. OK? Eet sum beens and fart in pees.
Ow. My brain. Must remember. It’s for the children.