Why is English spelling so hard?

Why is English spelling so hard?

Blame all those invaders from other countries who have messed about with the English language for over 2000 years.

A Brief History of English Spelling

The first inhabitants of England were the Celts who spoke a dialect from a large group of languages known as Indo European. Only a few words, mainly place names, remain from their language.

When the Romans invaded in AD43 and stayed for 400 years, they brought with them their own language, Latin, which is just one reason for the number of Latin origin words that still remain in our language.

Soon after they left, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (the Anglo-Saxons) arrived, forcing the Celts out to the north and west, establishing the area we now know as England. They brought with them a different dialect of the Indo-European language and many of our words can be traced back to that time. Why is English spelling so hard?

Try to guess the modern word from these examples:

Old English word - and a clue

Type the modern word.

faeder   (family member)
sweoster   (family member)
seofon   (number)
feower   (number)
haett   (clothing)
scyrte   (clothing)
mete   (food)
hunig   (food)
heorte   (body part)
cwen   (female ruler)
hwaet   (question)
hwy   (question)


Skip this exercise and go to the next part of this unit: The next stage in the development of English. *

* Skip link not available for logged in students.

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Unit 35: Why is English spelling so hard?

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