Christina M. Currie: Spelling B


It may be a little egotistical of me, but I feel like I've got a pretty firm grasp on the English language. I was a professional writer for 11 years, and despite public perception, reporters work very hard to ensure that what they print is well-written and free of misspellings and typographical errors.

I've been party to in-depth discussions about the merits of while versus although and that versus which and whether to use a comma or a semi-colon.

I've always felt that, although I might have to brush up on my math and science skills, when it comes to homework, my girls and I are going to hit English out of the park. (Note the proper use of although.)

There's nothing like having children to completely erode your self-perceptions.

I remember learning the alphabet in kindergarten. We had a special activity associated with each letter. On "B," we made butter.

It was a year-long project.

Things are a little different these days.

Katie was well-versed in her ABCs before her first day in kindergarten and is already reading simple books.

How reading is taught is changed. Students memorize high frequency words such as "the," "that" and "as."

Students are encouraged to sound out longer words.

That's where the English language becomes frustrating and baffling. "Of" becomes "oaf." If "of" were actually written the way it sounds, it would be "uv." "Like" is pronounced "lick" and "have" is "ha-aw-v."

And, in deference to their fragile self-esteems, children are encouraged to write that way. It's called "kid spelling" and it elicits more questions about the English language than it answers.

A story Katie wrote about a picture she drew reads "I luv to be a prinses. My mome wil go to the bawl. I wil lik to dans with the prins."

Watching her (while sitting on my hands and biting my tongue), it occurs to me just how difficult we've made this language of ours. At 5 years old, Katie can write complex and fully understandable sentences. She can convey her thoughts and emotions through the written word, and there's no doubt that she is communicating.

It seems strange that it will be another nine years before she's considered to have basic writing skills and 12 years before she's considered skilled enough to get a decent score on the ACT.

Should she be so inclined, she could spend the rest of her life mastering the intricacies and subtleties of language.

Perhaps she'll be able to better explain to her daughter the differences between to and two and too, and the need for threw and through, and where in the world the silent "g" comes from, and why does "q" have to have a "u" to exist, and why there's even a "c" when half the time it sounds like "s" and the other half it sounds like "k."

Right now, Katie's baffled by my frustrations. She's very matter of fact. The "g" sound is accurately reflected in the word "gorilla." Words like "original" make no sense, and when I try to explain them, she gives me the "mommy didn't pay attention in school" look.

So, I'll let the experts lead the way and do my best to follow the examples they're setting.

Evn if tha r rong.

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