The UK schools secretary, Ed Balls, has dismissed as “nonsense” claims that tricky English spellings hinder children’s education. The literacy researcher Masha Bell said that by the age of 11 children face 800 words with difficult spellings, such as monkey, spinach, caterpillar, dwarf, soldiers, and stomach, at a recent conference of the Spelling Society (www.spellingsociety.org). The society campaigns to raise awareness of “the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling” and promotes spelling reform. “English has an unspeakably awful spelling system," she told the Observer newspaper. “It is the worst of all the alphabetical languages.” (www.guardian.co.uk, 8 Jun 2008, “English is too hard to read for children”).