It’s time-consuming to learn a language. It’s also generally advantageous for a language to have as many speakers as possible, since more speakers means more chance of being able to use a language in a given situation. (In the extreme case, a “secret” language that only one person knew would have very minimal utility.)
Some languages have difficult features that may discourage non-native speakers from learning them: for example, Chinese and Japanese have a large set of characters in their written forms. But even alphabetical languages can be bedeviled by confusing spelling and difficult pronunciation.
Let’s make English easier for non-native speakers to learn. The motivation is simple: if more people learn English, it should increase the value of the “ability to speak English” skill.
There are two categories to fix: spelling and pronunciation. English spelling is a huge mess (which might take more than one blog post to fix), so let’s focus on fixing pronunciation instead.
English has two very common sounds that are difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce: the th in “the” / “those” and the (identically-spelled) th in “thin” / “theta” (Figure 1).
If we just remove these two “th” sounds, then it becomes, let’s say, 25% easier to learn English pronunciation.
It’s simple: we just replace all instances of the “th” sounds in English with something easier to pronounce, like “d” or “s” (Figure 2).
As it turns out, we can replace both sounds with the letter “z,” which makes it even simpler.
This will be a simple change with far-reaching effects. Here are some examples of fixed words:
- Truth -> Truze (the “e” is needed due to quirks in English spelling)
- These -> Zese
- Healthier -> Healzier
- Thing -> Zing
- Thorn -> Zorn
- With -> Wiz
There might be a couple of cases where a word is now pronounced like another word (e.g. “thing” becoming “zing,” which is already a word), but these are unlikely to actually cause confusion in context, as we can see in these complete sentences to illustrate the improvement:
- It is said zat “Every rose has its zorn”: an undeniable truze.
- Ze presenter regaled ze audience wiz his charm and wit.
- Alzough healzier foods may be hard to find, zere is a substantial payoff in quality of life.
So easy to read, and now, so easy to pronounce, too!
PROS: Should encourage more people to learn English, which raises the value of the language for existing speakers.
CONS: People are very change-averse, and may resist this incredible fix to their language.
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