In The World's Major Languages, (Bernard Comrie (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-19-520521-9, ISBN 0-19-506511-5), Edward Finegan notes that English is the native tongue, offical language, or second language of countries scattered all over the world, with principal focal points in England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, The United States, and Canada. Spoken by more people than speak any other single language (Chinese being a cluster of several languages rather than a single language), English is used internationally in business and politics more than any other language.
Estimates of the number of people who currently speak the English language range from over one billion (Robert McCrum, William Cran, Robert MacNeil. The Story of English, 1986. Elisabeth Sifton Books, Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-80467-3) to in excess of one-and-a-half billion (Wikipedia, 2011).
Three characteristics make English stand out among the major languages in current use; its grammar is simple, it has an immense vocabulary that has drawn heavily on other major languages, and the spellings of nouns and noun modifiers are not tied to gender as they are in most other languages. A fourth characteristic, that the alphabet has an overabundance of ways to represent the language's 45 speech sounds), and a fifth, that the spellings presented in English dictionaries rarely represent the actual sounds of English speech, are its sore points, keeping roughly 47% of those who speak the language from learning to read and write (data from an international Adult Learning Survey [ALS] conducted in the late '90's). That shouldn't be, and it needn't be.
The solution to the English literacy problem is surprisingly simple: Emend the alphabet by eliminating the surplus symbols, limit the speech values of each of the remaining symbols to a single speech sound, or at most two speech sounds that are distinguishable by how the symbol is used, then spell words the way they sound. Spelling words the way they sound with an alphabet in which each symbol represents a specific speech sound, lets users "hear" the sounds of words when they see them in print, and "visualize" word spellings when they hear words spoken. The literacy problem evaporates, and everyone who speaks the language can acquire whatever level of reading and writing skills they aspire to. It's that simple.
*** All pages have been checked with Firefox and Internet Explorer, and have been validated using the W3 program. ***
*** *** *** *** ***