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English Spelling Explained

Masha Bell

In every English-speaking country, roughly one in six children find it impossible to learn to read and write well enough to cope with secondary schooling or the literacy demands of modern life. This failure tends to be blamed, predominantly, on poor teaching and inadequate parenting. Government ministers put teachers under relentless pressure to improve their methods and raise standards. They also run expensive media campaigns to encourage parents to get more involved in their children's education.


Masha Bell believes that the main cause of the relatively high levels of literacy failure in all English-speaking countries are the irregularities of English spelling. She explains how they make learning to read and write exceptionally difficult and time-consuming. She also traces the chief causes of English spelling inconsistencies and makes some suggestions for coping with them and for reducing them.

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Thanks to Hitler, Masha was born in Germany, but when she was three her mother returned to Lithuania. Masha's first language was therefore German, but from 7 to 15 she was educated in Lithuanian and Russian, and did not start to learn English until she was 14. She was then returned to Germany and began to study English intensively. She was hoping to become a writer and use the language which was most widely spoken and understood. In 1964, aged 20, she came to London as an au-pair. After marriage, children, a degree in philosophy and psychology and 18 years of teaching English and modern languages, ill health finally gave her time to write.