An article on Simpel-Fonetik books and the writing method appeared in the main Estonian newspaper Postimees, dated 26 June 2012. The same article also appeared in the Vaba Eesti Sõna (Free Estonian Word) newspaper, 28 June 2012 issue, which is published in New York, NY, USA.
A day after the article was published on the Postimees website there were more than fifty comments listed below the article, nearly all very positive and supportive. It is obvious that Estonians support the English spelling reform based on Simpel-Fonetik.
The interviewer and the writer of the original article was Urmas Neeme. Photos were taken by Peeter Langovits. The article was translated from Estonian to English by Allan Kiisk,
Here is the translated version of the article::
A Foreign Estonian Uses the Estonian Language for Guidance in Reforming the English Spelling.
A month ago, the foreign Estonian Allan Kiisk had a second book published in which he strives to make the English spelling simpler and more logical by using the Estonian language as the example.
In his first book that was published four years ago he introduced the Simpel-Fonetik writing method which was based on the Estonian writing method. It uses 24 letters, including the letters ä and ö, for writing words the way they are pronounced. Each letter can have only one sound, and vice versa. For that reason the letters c, q, x and y were not used.
"Already in my childhood I questioned why the English people and Americans write words one way and pronounce them another way. When I retired, I thought that now I have a chance to do something about it and I started working on it. Very interestingly, I found out that the Estonian language has one of the best methods of writing. I studied how to adopt a similar method for writing in English," said Kiisk.
He considers the Estonian and Finnish writing methods to be the simplest and most logical, based on the thought expressed by Noah Webster, the American linguist and author of dictionaries, that in a perfect language every sound would be expressed by a distinct character, and every character would have only one sound. According to Kiisk, Estonians and Finns should be proud of their simple writing methods, and he usually mentions that when he introduces his new spelling method.
As a comparison with the simple Estonian writing he gave examples of English words that had the same spellings but were pronounced differently, and words that had very different spellings but were pronounced the same way. All this causes confusion and makes the learning of the language more difficult.
"As an example, the word wind can be pronounced either wind or waind depending what you are speaking of. You must know exactly which way to pronounce this word. And as I showed in the book, such different spellings as you, ewe, yew and u are all pronounced the same way," said Kiisk.
In his first book the spelling reformer wrote that as the next step someone should write a dictionary based on the proposed writing method, to prove that the proposed method works. The basic question was if the English pronunciations can be handled with only 24 letters.
Since no one else offered to compile the dictionary, Kiisk decided to do it himself, and in the month of May the Simpel-Fonetik Dictionary came out. In it are more than 18,000 words which are arranged in the dictionary's first part in accordance with the present spelling, and in the second part based on the phonetic, pronunciation-based writing method. Kiisk mentioned that in the first part of the dictionary one can find out how present spellings are pronounced, and in the second part, if you know how a word is pronounced, you can find out how it is spelled.
"When I finished the dictionary, I was pleasantly surprised, relieved and happy that I could get by very well with 24 letters. There was nothing missing," said Kiisk.
Kiisk indicated that the English writing method has become more and more complicated, and the number of spelling deviations has grown over the passage of time.
"Because the English language has a great influence in many countries, and because various foreign words are being adopted, the situation is getting worse and more confusing rather than better. For example, the letter a is now pronounced in at least 10 different ways. But this is only the letter a; there are many other letters whose pronunciations depend on their location in a word," he said.
For use in Simpel-Fonetik he had to decide which single pronunciation should be used with the letter a. For other pronunciations he had to include in the alphabet the Estonian letters ö and ä.
Kiisk speaks Estonian, English and German languages as his home languages and he has studied Latin, Spanish, Finnish and Russian languages. As a retired electrical engineer and professor, when he started to work on English spelling reform five years ago, he studied additional languages including Esperanto.
"The Esperanto language uses the letter j just like in the Estonian language. No one so far has come up with a reform solution that uses so few letters and uses double letters for long vowels. as it is done in the Estonian and Finnish languages. Even the German language is not consistent in such usage. This is the first time that the English language simplification includes the feature that if you pronounce a sound longer, then you write it down with two of the same letters. This is the rule in Estonian; just look at my name:
Allan Kiisk, " he explained.
He pointed out that one of the advantages of using phonetic writing is the improvement in the pronunciations used in everyday conversations. He has learned that native speakers of English often use vague and undefined sounds in their conversations, which results in sloppy pronunciations and makes fast talking difficult to understand.
"When people use phonetic writing method they pay attention to each letter and
pronounce them correctly. It is easier for me to understand someone who speaks
fast in Estonian than who speaks fast in English, even though I have used both
languages almost all my lifetime. When an Estonian speaker wants to make
something clearly understood, he enounces every letter," said Kiisk.
Until now, only a few hundred copies of each book have been sold. Kiisk has actively distributed additional copies in Estonia, USA and other countries. As an example of that activity, both books are present in the library of the Estonian president Ilves, as a gift from Kiisk. The spelling reformer's next activity will be to prepare and distribute primer-textbooks for Simpel-Fonetik spelling.
According to Kiisk, even the native English speakers admit that the present writing method is very bad and that makes the language difficult to learn. But the people who support a reform can not come to an agreement on what and how much should be simplified. Presently, in this world are four or five times more foreign learners and speakers of English than native speakers. Therefore, Kiisk concentrates more on them.
"Every native English speaker has his own opinion on how the writing method should be changed and what should be left the old way. This is a problem. I say that let's leave the old spelling method to those who have become very much used to it. But the foreigners who are presently learning English can do it more easily and faster by using my writing method. I am hoping that NATO, European Union or United Nations will become more involved with spelling reform. For those reasons the title of my book includes For International Version of Writing in English," he said.
Kiisk is a member of the Simplified Spelling Society that was established in London in the year 1908. He is the president of the non-profit Simpel-Fonetik Organiseishon and is active in several other groups that are involved in simplifying the English orthography.
The history of English spelling reformers includes, for example, the writers John
Milton, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, play-wright
George Bernard Shaw, the creator of the theory of evolution Charles Darwin,
American War of Independence period politician Benjamin Franklin, writer of USA
dictionaries Noah Webster and the USA president Theodore Roosevelt.
To see the original article that is in the Estonian language and includes two photos, please click on the following: