The long-standing debate over spelling: How can the History of English be relevant to an EFL curriculum?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A common criticism often levelled at English is that its spelling is irregular, unpredictable, if not chaotic because of a lack of consistency in the relationship between graphemes and phonemes. Such criticism voices a long-standing debate which can be traced back to 16th century scholars and schoolmasters who campaigned for spelling reforms in the interest of advancing literacy. Approaches alternative to the reform cause have emerged throughout the history of English and have intensified as English has become the global lingua franca, which has highlighted the relevance of spelling problems to ESL and EFL learners. Drawing on recent studies in History of the English Language (HEL) pedagogy, this chapter discusses the pertinence of HEL to EFL education and presents some ideas for alternative ways of integrating HEL into EFL programmes in teaching contexts where no HEL courses are offered. As Seiler (2019: 143) maintains, "a reverse chronological approach would be an excellent alternative for teaching HEL" and could also be adopted by teachers who do not have direct training in the research field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBack to the Future. English from Past to Present.
EditorsMaria Luisa Maggioni, Amanda C. Murphy
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series



  • English spelling


Dive into the research topics of 'The long-standing debate over spelling: How can the History of English be relevant to an EFL curriculum?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this