« Back to back and neck and neck | Blog home | On the nose - Peter Austin »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

The Australian newspaper has been running a teacher-bashing campaign for years - asserting that kids don't learn to read and write because their teachers are crap or because they use a crap teaching method. Front page news today was an article by the Education Writer, Justine Ferrari, Teacher failures spell student trouble. Ferrari quotes one Denyse Ritchie, "executive director and co-author of THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills)," as saying:

"You can learn to read without knowing phenomics (the sounds that make up words), but when you spell, you have to have a good phenomic understanding to help spell words like said. "Unless you're taught that 'ai' as well as 'e' can make an 'eh' sound in words like said and again, you will spell said as 'sed'.

"But many teachers don't have that inherent knowledge,"

The teachers' phenomic knowledge was also tested. When asked to break words into the constituent sounds or phenomes - such as how many sounds in 'cat' (c-a-t) - the average score was 4.1 out of a possible 10 correct answers.

Who knows where the stuff-up occurred - Ferrari or a copy-editor using a mindless spell-checker. (Probably not Ritchie who charges $34.65 for a "Phoneme-Grapheme" Big Book on the THRASS website).

Whoever, whatever... it shows that linguists are not as good as geneticists at getting the jargon of our trade into everyday talk. The phenome outranks the phoneme. It's symptomatic of our failure to get people to understand basic facts about language.


Phenomes aside, what I object to most in this article is the way that it hints at the facile and widely held assumption that proficiency in spelling conventions is equivalent to proficiency in one's own language. Or conversely, that bad spelling is an indicator of general dim-wittedness. I tell the students I work with that they should learn to spell because others will judge them by it, and that poor spelling says absolutely nothing about individual intelligence, motivation or creativity. I can't find the full text of Marquez' famous anti-spelling speech, but here is a link to the guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain/article/0,2763,1307325,00.html

I agree with Piers Kelly.
What we need is good teachers that have the knowledge to be able to teach spelling correctley.Too many younger teachers themselves have been schooled through the 'invented spelling' phase and as such do not have and have not been taught the spelling strategies needed to teach others to spell. Spelling is not about intelligence but how our brain takes in the necessary visual patterns needed to spell words. For those children who have held on to early visual patterns -that is 'a' is for apple they will always struggle with 'was' and will spell was as 'woz-or 'y' is 'y' as in yawn, then words such as 'my' will be spelt 'mI'.
Denyse Ritchie

Here is an informative article on the relationship between auditory and visual spelling strategies: http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/visual-spelling-strategies/

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Enter the code shown below before pressing post

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text