Sunday, June 08, 2008

Can You Read This?

little children
Originally uploaded by anna.klevan
At a party yesterday's in Brussels a great part of the guests were Finns working in the European institutions as officials, assistants, members of European Parliament and what have you. At some point I found myself having an immense urge to speak Finnish. I don't get to talk about Finnish politics in Finnish that often, which may explain the desire to just join the Finnish posse in the corner. I love my language.

Last week I made a phone call to Finland at the office and my colleague said that she recognises Finnish as it is one of the only languages she cannot place. So when she does not have any sense at all, she assumes it is Finnish. In the same sense I can't tell you how many times someone has pondered over the difficulty level of Finnish or the impossibility for a foreigner to learn it. "Finnish, it is such a difficult language, right?"

Well, no way, Jose. This weekend's Observer has a big piece on how children in the UK need internationally compared longer time to learn how to write and read as English is so without logic. Masha Bell's report The Most Costly English Spellings points out examples and lists of words that kids find difficult. Such as:
- When 'clean' and 'gene' sound same, why do you write them differently?
- How about 'kite' and 'light'?
- Why do you pronounce 'ei' differently in 'eight' and 'height"?
- Why is their a letter 'i' in 'friend'?

And listen to this, Anglophones:
"In Finland, where words are more likely to be pronounced as they look, children learn to read fluently within three months. In the UK, academics have found that it takes three years for a child to acquire a basic level of competence."
- The Observer 8 June 2008

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