The Invisible Dragon in Literacy


There is an invisible dragon affecting all English readers, causing harm, yet nothing has been done about it.  It can’t be seen or heard, yet we are all afflicted.  This affliction is ignored, and we carry on as though nothing is wrong.  It’s been going on since buggy whip days.  Why change it now?  Because now we finally have a way not only to prove it exists, but also we have a way to slay the invisible dragon.


If the dragon can’t be seen or heard, how do we know it exists?  There is a test.  I will give it to you now.  If you fail the test you have been afflicted.  I will ask you to answer a question.  It’s so simple every native English reader should get it right, yet few will, and even those who do still suffer.  Here is the question:  Please write the phonetic symbol for each letter “o” in these six words: go, on, to, off, of, pilot as spoken in standard US accent as can be heard on thefreedictonary.com.  Note that there are six different sounds for these o’s. 


Did you pass the test?  Probably not.  I didn’t in standard linguistics.  But you may say “Who cares?” and that’s why the dragon is invisible.  It’s invisible if you’re not aware or don’t care.  We have not cared.  We’ve walked past the invisible dragon though it hurt us as we passed.  It hurts us because kids and English learners are not being helping by phonetics as they should be when learning to read.  Phonetic notation is instead cryptic,special symbols that are not keyboard or English friendly.  But things have changed.


We’ve identified the dragon.  We see where fiery breath is coming from.  We now know that reading is sound linked and that phonemic awareness is key to successful readers.  We’ve tracked the dragon and found that poor notation is blocking phonemic awareness and blocking everyone’s ability to spell the six o’s.  The dragon is apparent.  But how do we slay it, especially before it effects our kids?


Before now we had no adequate weapon or tool.  But now there is an answer, a phonetic notation based on English that will enable anyone to spell the six O’s phonetically easily and quickly.  It’s called truespel phonetics.  With truespel phonetics children can learn how to spell the 40 sounds of English after they learn their letters of the alphabet.  No special symbols are needed.  Kids can type phonetically as they learn to read, learning reading and writing skills in first grade in weeks rather than years.  This was proven with IBM’s Writing-to-Read method of the 1980’s as tested by ETS for thousands of k-1 kids.  Results were found to be excelent by teachers and parents, and transition to traditional spelling was no problem.  The method died out with it's founder, the late Dr John Henry Martin. It was before it's time, but it showed the obviouis benefits for decoding with an English based notation. 


The lack of a standard English-based notation is the invisible dragon.  Truespel phonetics is the answer.  Because it is English-based and computer friendly, it can be used in spreadsheets, filenames, cut and paste and with normal capitalization and punctuation.  Simplicity is key.  Teachers can learn it in minutes and be fairly proficient in less than an hour and use truespel phonetics for analyses. (See tutorials that explain truespel phonetics and show an analysis of letter-sound correspondence for US English.)  Teachers can form lessons using the free converter at truespel.com .  Because of the URL converter truespel phonetics is everywhere.  The entire internet is converted to truespel using the URL converter at truespel.com.  


Truespel books are now available analyzing how English is spelled phonetically.  The Voice of American (VOA) beginner’s English dictionary has a phonetic guide for the first time in the form of truespel notation.  It is the most accurate rendering of USA English accent available, in that it spells out all schwas and glottal stops typical of USA accent.  Development is ongoing.  Let me know how I can assist you with truespel.

Tom Zurinskas, creator of truespel phonetics