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It's very funny looking at this discussion from a mostly-phonetic writing system POV.

In Polish the system is regular (even the exceptions) and nobody considers trying to teach kids not to exploit that. You just remember how each letter sounds and then the dozen of so special combinations (which are still mostly regular). And you can read.

Yes you learn to read slow at first, and then you develop fast reading by yourself, it's natural and comes with reading a lot. I don't know anybody reading sound-by-sound past the age of 10, and usually kids learn to read whole words after they read their first long book (traditionally it's "Kids from Bullerbyn" here).

I wonder how much longer it takes to teach kids reading such complicated writing system like English. Here it takes about 1 year, usually when they are in the first class of school.




Now imagine having a language like Estonian (or Finnish) as your first language, basically every letter has one sound corresponding to it, the length of any vowel is signified by how many there are and stress is always on the first syllable.. Exceptions are incredibly rare, one can count them on a single hand.

The concept of a spelling bee made literally 0 sense to me until I had to actually learn English.


Imagine a spelling bee of all the European languages where you have to determine what language a word is and then spell it...

That's an English spelling bee.


That's actually very much what spelling (or pronunciation, going the other way) is like in English, because there are rules for spelling English words—it's just that there are several sets depending on which language we mugged the word from.


Not just European: a few Hebrew words and the rare Inuit loanword can also make it.


In Polish stress is always on the second-last syllable and all sounds have the same length, there's no concept of long sounds ;)

But we do have 3 sounds with multiple letters possible (ó/u, ch/h, rz/ż or sz) so we have something like a spelling bee in schools, just the other way - teacher reads a story and kids have to write it down correctly.

It's so damn close to a fully phonetic system that it frustrates me we didn't go the last few miles and made it fully phonetic when the last reform happened ;)


Thai also: there are 19+ vowels but they all sound only one way wherever they appear. Sometimes if I don't know how to pronounce a brand name, I'll try to find their Thai packaging and read it there.

Unfortunately they do have some loan words from Sanskrit that are irregular, and the system for writing tones is needlessly arcane (there are 3 arbitrary classes of consonants that you just have to memorise, and the tone markers change meaning depending on class)


Same here. This whole discussion is funny and absurd. Finnish is really phonetic in its spelling (there are about three exceptions that come to my mind right now). There's also not that much historical baggage, so reforms have been possible.

We rote-learned French spelling at and early age and I can still read French.

English, on the other hand, has one of the most difficult alphabetic spelling systems. I have used English for tens of years and I still have problems pronouncing a word now and then. One of the problems being that English doesn't indicate stress (which native speakers automatically know).


That we have spelling tests and spelling contests through secondary school is indicative that it takes roughly forever.


That's only about writing, not reading. And it's exactly because our system is only simple one-way (letters->sounds), but not the other way (1 sound can be represented with many letter combinations so you have to learn rules and exceptions to write correctly).

You never ask kids "read this word" or "how is this word pronounced" because that's always obvious.

I would prefer if we fixed our system the other way as well, it wouldn't take much, we can start by removing rz, ch and ó and replacing them as needed with ż/sz, h, and u. Suddenly we have like 1 year at school free to teach other actually useful stuff :)

It's not like it's impossible - we already had orthography reform in early 20th century and another minor one in 90s.


> You never ask kids "read this word" or "how is this word pronounced" because that's always obvious.

Except when it isn't. Colonel? Yacht? Victuals? Boatswain?

Of course, we shouldn't forget Mark Twain's proposal: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/resources/humor/spelling-in-th...


Wait, WTF? I'm 43 years old, have been reading at a college level since I was 7, scored at the 100th percentile in the language component of the GMAT, and that's how you pronounce "victuals"?!? How did I miss that?

Point well made!


Sorry I misunderstood the previous post I thought it disagreed with me about Polish. We do have spelling tests in Polish too, but only one way not both ways like in English.

We have tons of Latin, Greek, German, French, Italian, English loan words but we transcribe them consistently with the rest of the language: inżynier, wiktuały, donżon, jacht, komputer, opcja, pałac, skwer, hipermarket.

Kids don't need to know which language it came from, the pronunciation rules are the same.

You might say English is late-binding and Polish is early-binding language when it comes to phonetics - we decide how the word is pronounced and change the spelling when we adopt a word to out language, you do it each time you use the word :)


Ah - looking back up the thread, I can see it's not always clear which language was in focus. The mention of "spelling tests and spelling contests through secondary school" immediately made me think of the American tradition of "spelling bees", so I missed that you were referring to Polish... sorry!


> Except when it isn't. Colonel? Yacht? Victuals? Boatswain?

None of those are Polish words.




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